Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Better Off Ted, "Love Blurts": I'm Taye Diggs!(*)

I talked about my general disappointment with the "Better Off Ted" premiere (and next week's episode) in today's column, so go read that and then I'll have some brief, more spoiler-y thoughts coming up just as soon as I make sure it's the right man...

Look, so long as Lem, Phil and Veronica are around, "BoT" is never going to be not funny. But I felt let down by "Love Blurts" for these reasons:

1)No Veridian Dynamics commercial. There's one next week, but not till the very end.

2)Too much Ted as the center of his own storyline (as opposed to trying to fix the other characters' problems), and a storyline built around one of my least favorite sitcom devices: the lie that spirals out of control.

3)I didn't like that Veronica was bluffing with the records lady. Veronica should never, ever bluff, certainly not to someone that far below her own station.

4)While the idea that Taye Diggs' character likes to dress up in a "totally realistic bear costume" is very funny (it's the "totally realistic" part), they didn't know where to take the joke from there, I thought.

So while "Love Blurts" wasn't as useless as a stack of Mymans, it wasn't the triumph most of the episodes last spring were, either.

What did everybody else think?

(*) For those wondering about the subject line, it is a reference to one of the great press tour quotes of all time, which Rick Porter recapped here.

35 comments:

Byron Hauck said...

I disagree with you about the followup on the bear joke; I think they pulled it off the only way possible. A little bit of Taye Diggs being quietly charismatic as only he can, to emphasize the disconnect with his extracurricular activities, and then him getting shot with a tranquilizer dart. That was the only way it could go, but the guest star casting and the amount of time given to it was absolutely perfect.

Phil Freeman said...

I thought it was very funny. Agree that the lie-spiraling-out-of-control bit was semi-lame, but only because the lie itself was lame. And I like the fact that Veronica is "all bluff" - that, plus the magician's assistant double life from last season, make the character multi-dimensional. Plus, every line she had about babies and motherhood this episode was gold, so all else is forgiven, from my vantage point.

amysusanne said...

I think the so-so review earlier combined with my boredom with tonight's ep of "Scrubs" made me like this one a lot more than I might have otherwise. I'd just come off of rewatching on Hulu, so I definitely feel the "something's not right" gripe, but there was enough funny to make me not worry so much about the things that didn't quite work. I should also mention that I saw "Accidentally on Purpose" for the first time last night and...wow. All sitcoms are looking better after that.

The main thing that saved the Ted-heavy wacky misunderstanding storyline is that Harrington can totally sell it. I enjoyed his whole Utah downward spiral because he made it funny, not because it really was that funny.

opticwalrus said...

I agree that the downward spiraling lie was a dumb device, but as a proud Utahn, I was pleased that a television show was able to reference our fair state without resorting to the usual lazy stereotypes or cheap potshots. Between Ted and Flash Forward, Utah is feeling the love from ABC.

newtoast said...

I'm less troubled by the weak jokes than I am by the characters' voices and behaviors being way off. The reliable dynamics (Phil/Lem, Ted/Veronica, Ted/Linda) were weirdly wrong too. If the writers want to tune the show differently then that's their call, but if its unintentional then I think they're in the weeds.

Tom said...

Wasn't "Seinfeld" satire? Anyway, it sure wasn't warm 'n' fuzzy...unlike Taye Diggs in a bear suit.

Guess I'm getting soft, but this show made me smile. Glad it's back.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 1-3, but I thought it was still a good episode. What was really odd about complaint 2 is that there were plenty of ways to end that scene that didn't require Veronica to be bluffing. The Veronica who considered stealing her sister's baby isn't backing down on some records lady.

Anonymous said...

What is it with guys named Ted saying "I love you" on the first date?

Mel T said...

Overall, I liked it. I laughed out loud a couple of times ('balls out crazy' i think was my favorite line). Not a good as last year, but I think you were a bit harsh.

Also, when I saw "I'm Taye Diggs," I thought you were referring to an episode of "Ed" where everyone meets Taye Diggs in a dream and refers to him by his full name.

J said...

The situations might have been sub-surreal, and some jokes drained too quickly, but the characters and rhythm were there. And boy, was I happy to see everyone. It's not like it was full of dead lines. "Maybe yours will be the one Indian story that ends happily." Yes.

I missed the first couple minutes and was pissed I'd missed the VD commercial; now I'm even more pissed they didn't have one.

toonsterwu said...

honestly, i thought it was a solid episode. Had me cracking up the whole time. Do I see some of the complaints? Yeah, I guess. Maybe my standards are lower now than they were before - admittedly, there aren't that many great comedies on.

I think Jay Harrington is solid, and Andrea Anders has a good rapport with him, much better than she ever had with Matt LeBlanc. And Portia de Rossi is awesome in that role.

I know the chances for this show aren't high, so I'm going to enjoy every episode.

annie said...

I haven't even finished the episode, but I had to pop over and see if you mentioned a guy named Ted saying I love you on a first date. Looks like a certain anonymous had the same idea. :)

I definitely agree about the web of lies storylines being annoying. I'm just glad to have BOT back!!

drbluman said...

Lem had a filthy throwaway line tonight that slayed me: "But, once when I was a teenager, I did abandon them at a bus stop."

Almost -- but not quite -- as good as last season's "goo coming out of Dr. Bhamba's 'Johnny.'"

annie said...

My previous comment was when I paused during the moment of deepest cringe while the lie was building, but after that point I think they handled it really well, and I got several great laughs out of it.

Veronica slays me, especially because I'm re-watching Arrested Development for dinner entertainment these days.

BigTed said...

I didn't even notice this while watching the episode, but it's interesting that two of the three results we saw of the company's "genetic compatibility" experiment were interracial pairings. I don't know if that demonstrates how far mainstream TV culture has come, or if it's just something you'd expect from a show that could do a hilarious "Racial Sensitivity" episode without being offensive.

Tyroc said...

While not their best, still one of the funnier shows on the air. And yes, very lacking in heart compared to other series, but it makes me laugh. A lot. Even tonight.

And certainly made me laugh a lot more than tonight's Scrubs.

Mike said...

Check out the new EW segment 30 Second Plea in which they are devoting a flat 30 seconds to stars to promote their shows that should be watched but haven't been...

A great idea (if tough to pull of in 30s) and they start with Jay Harrington here:

Jay Harrington 30 Seconds Or You're Ted.

Karl Ruben said...

"...air vent". That was awkward and hilarious. Thanks, Mike!

After a couple of my favourite crickets had hinted that the first episodes of this season weren't that good, I had my expectations turned way down. Although I agree with Alan's list of letdowns, I still enjoyed the heck out of "Love Blurts". The tone and acting of the show is so pitch perfect to me that it's easy to look past the bum notes of an episode like this. It's sad that we won't get more than half a season's worth of episodes (if that) before it's cancelled, but hey, at least we get half a seasons worth of episodes before it's cancelled!

Rinaldo said...

I agree about the-lie-that-gets-out-of-control being an old TV trope (as is, in fact, the involuntary and quickly rescinded "I love you" after sex). And also, maybe, the softening of Veronica's invincibility (could this, following on last season's magician plot, be part of of a Ted-Knight-esque demand for character rounding by de Rossi?). But otherwise I have few complaints, and I positively like some of the stories to be about Ted.

I'm also recalling thinking early last season that the series was funny-but-not-quite-there until the utter brilliance of "Racial Sensitivity," several episodes along. (For the record, the final shutdown in that one was based on parking, not insurance.)

Anonymous said...

It seemed like "The Graduate" after watching that lame episode of Scrubs.

jcpbmg said...

apparently this was actually the 6th episode that was shot of season 2 (according to tv squad)

Alan-- any idea why ABC switched things up (especially considering this episode wasn't overly strong?

amysusanne said...

One guess: Taye Diggs.

@MelT: I had completely forgotten about that episode of "Ed". I remember, for whatever reason, thinking that Tom Cavanagh saying "Little Taye Diggs is right..." was hilarious.

On the subject of wonky episode orders, I looked back at the epguides listing for last season and it was pretty random then as well. I don't remember it feeling off then, but now that we know the characters and their relationships (and potential relationships)a little better, making season two random could be a little weird.

Anonymous said...

Even after assuming this wouldn't be very funny after reading Alan's review, I still laughed a ton. It probably helped that i was watching with my husband who was giggling like crazy at Ted's made-up language...

Wholi said...

My favorite non-line was the blurred sign in the medical clinic over Phil's shoulder: "Drugs! They take the edge off!"

Also loved Phil's, "Sorry Ted. I'm actively disappointing you!"

I was actively disappointed there was no VD commercial! Certainly not the best episode but not horrible.

dez said...

I definitely feel the "something's not right" gripe, but there was enough funny to make me not worry so much about the things that didn't quite work.

ITA. I enjoyed the ep, even if a little of it wasn't quite there yet. And I bought that Veronica would be bluffing about her physical prowess; I think she's more comfortable with a gun than her fists :-)

I remember, for whatever reason, thinking that Tom Cavanagh saying "Little Taye Diggs is right..." was hilarious.


He is kind of short for a dude (seen him up close before). Definitely a very charismatic, great-looking guy, too.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I didn't realize about the episode order shuffle, but I would also assume that the Taye Diggs factor - giving ABC a hook to promote the season premiere - got this one pushed up.

7s Tim said...

two of my favorite things in the episode were sight gags, and only one was intentional: during the argument as Phil Lem and Veronica try getting the medical records (just before the "bluff" cop out) there is an out of focus poster in the back ground that says "Drugs: They take the edge off". Can't remember if that's a call back to a first season joke, which means it was new to me, and I laughed.

The other was when Ted rolls off of Danielle right after sex and, as just as he blurts the love bit, you see that his shaved chest has a five o'clock shadow just around his right nipple, kinda a Spuds McKenzie looking thing, and I laughed very much. Go check it out, you will too.

Taye Diggs' "You know, bear stuff" line was pretty good too.

7s Tim said...

...and as I read the review, and the link to Taye Diggs informing us he is Taye Diggs, Wholi beat me to it. Well played sir, well played.

Anonymous said...

toonsterwu said...

I think Jay Harrington is solid, and Andrea Anders has a good rapport with him, much better than she ever had with Matt LeBlanc. And Portia de Rossi is awesome in that role.

It's funny you should say that, considering Andrea Anders is actually romantically involved with Matt LeBlanc in real life.Her and Matt's chemistry on "Joey" was OK,but I still think they were better than Linda/Ted.I personally think her and Harrington are kinda cringe-worthy and very awkward to watch most of the time.But each to his/her own.

Chazz Goodtimes said...

So glad I found this show last year, albeit only a few episodes before the finale. I agree with the comments about the use of some hackneyed comedy plot-lines (early I love you, escalating lie) but overall I found myself laughing at multiple times during the episode.

I was also dissapointed by the "I'm all bluff" line. Why are writers, and presumably audience members, so keyed in on showing the softer side of their edgier characters?

Karen said...

I'm with @toonsterwu. Yeah, I guess I see the complaints, but they just seem nitpicky (except for the absence of a Veridian Dynamic commercial--that has got to STOP).

I laughed throughout the entire show. There were so many great lines I can't even remember them all. Worked for me.

Oaktown Girl said...

The made-up language thing was weak. They certainly could have come up with something a lot better than that for Ted to get himself into trouble with. But overall I thought that there were so many funny lines that the positives far outweighed the negatives. Still must see TV for me.

Joseph said...

Supposedly, they were using an actual Native American language called Lakota in the episode, and in the scene where Ted is in bed he says "I'm actually wearing pants right now".

Anonymous said...

Re: 7s Tim's comment about Ted's shaved chest--I could swear they showed him with hair last season. Also, I didn't think it was 5 o'clock shadow--my first thought was a tattoo that they covered up poorly.

Angus said...

Absolutely correct about the nipple shadow. It was unintentional, and I am positive that it was a poorly covered tattoo. It's actually how I found this blog, trying to find a photo of him shirtless. It was clear that the tattoo was rather large, and that it circled his nipple. I actually imagine that it is one of those oh-so-dated sunburst tattoos like this one: http://www.bme.com/tattoo/A51102/high/bmepb159579.jpg It makes me curious about Jay Harrington's personal life.