Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Better Off Ted, "Mess of a Salesman": Deal with it!

A quick review of tonight's "Better Off Ted" - at the moment, the last episode of this hysterical comedy currently scheduled to air - coming up just as soon as I say goodbye to common sense...

God, I'm going to miss this very weird, very funny show, and if "Mess of a Salesman" wasn't this season's strongest entry, it still offered us an appropriately silly note for the show to end on(*).

(*) For now, at least. Steve McPherson didn't sound like he wanted to try the show on Wednesdays, and based on the ratings neither "Ted" nor "Scrubs" deserve any additional chances - but whoever would have thought we'd get a second season based on how the first one did? I don't want to instill false hope - and anyone thinking of petitioning another network to pick it up shouldn't waste their time (again, the ratings were beyond awful) - but more surprising things have happened.

We got to see the recklessness of Lem (in leather pants!) and Phil breaking rules, buying corpses (with "new dead guy smell"), and subjecting a family of robots (albeit not the whole extended family) to a wind tunnel. We got Veronica and Linda playing an unconventional but effective few rounds of Good Cop/Bad Cop. We got Eddie McClintock (from "Warehouse 13") as Ted's brother, suggesting an alternate universe version of the show in which McClintock (more innately funny than Jay Harrington, but still workable as a straight man) had been cast as Ted. And we got another Veridian ad, even though this season has been unfortunately scarce with those.

In a fairer, more hopeful world, "Ted" might have had a better chance to succeed. (If nothing else, ABC could have plugged it in on Wednesdays for a week or two once "Hank" was mercifully killed.) But if I try to look at this situation like Linda and not Veronica, I see that we got 24 episodes (with two still to go) of hilarity, got reassurance that Portia de Rossi's work on "Arrested Development" wasn't a fluke, discovered that Andrea Anders could be funny when given better material than she received on either "Joey" or "The Class," got the wonderful comedy duo of Malcolm Barrett and Jonathan Slavin, and got time capsule episodes like "Racial Sensitivity" and "Beating a Dead Workforce."

And, again, as I linked to a couple of weeks ago (and which I remind you is very NSFW), we got this.

Sigh... what did everybody else think?


Mike said...

Good episode. Great series. I am baffled that this didn't catch on. I know it is wishful thinking, but I would think another network might try it. It has some loyal fans and its reasons for failing in the ratings are totally explicable. It would cost the same as commissioning a new series, no?

The show works as satire, farce, surreal comedy, but more than anything I laugh at nearly anything Veronica, Phil and Lem say.

We'll always have Phil's translated foreplay.


forg/jecoup said...

Better Off Ted is produced by FOX and the only possible way for it to be saved is if FOX picks it up or FX but to be realistic it highly unlikely that it will happen given the ratings.

Such a shame that the ratings are really bad for this show.

Kudos to Allan for not encouraging fans to do petitions and stuff, it's really useless, I used to signed those stuff.

I still hope ABC will still air the remaining episodes, it still has two episodes left

Karen said...

Linda head-butting Page (played by the marvellously odious Rick Hoffman) will be a moment I treasure always.

I would not have liked to have seen McClintock instead of Harrington. I thought Harrington was a revelation. I've now seen two veterans of the wretched US "Coupling" go on to glory--Harrington, and Colin Ferguson from "Eureka" which reinforces that the problem with that show wasn't the actors.

I will miss "Better Off Ted" more than I can say. More than Lem will miss his leather pants.


Andrew said...
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Andrew said...

I'm going to miss this show-- especially after this episode had another (sorely missed) Veridian commercial. I'm not sure if there's another show on TV right now that's as much silly fun.

Was this episode chock-full of "as soon as I..." lines?

as soon as I squeeze 10 cubes of cheese into a ball and eat them like an apple

as soon as the forest runs red with the blood of doubting woodland creatures

as soon as I find out how long it takes to drive robots crazy with wind

J said...

Aw, man, I was worried that this was the last one. And it seems like the show just figured out, since the insults episode, how great Veronica and Linda are together. Portia de Rossi doing sound effects with a straight face? Gold.

I would trade a billion hours of Chuck for another half season of Ted. Show was as refreshing as wind on a robot's face, I will miss it so.

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand how after all of ABC's attempts to burn off this show and Scrubs there are still two episodes of each sitting on the shelf now. They really couldn't have found a way to get them onto the schedule? I just have a feeling that with both shows most likely not coming back we'll probably get stuck waiting a long time (possibly until DVD) to ever see them.

amyp3 said...

Nothing to add except that I laughed so hard for so long during one portion of this episode. To the point my chest hurt.

Quick somebody give me a zillion bucks so that I can buy ABC and keep this on the air for several years. (Or better yet, I'll buy NBC and this show - two birds/ one stone - and put it on in its rightful place, Thursday nights.)

arrabbiata said...

Considering that this network gave us 8 seasons of According to Jim, you'd think that they could make up for that by giving us a few more seasons of Better Off Ted.

But if that's not to be, maybe Fox could move Phil and Lem over to Fringe. I could see them being Walter Bishop's version of the Lone Gunmen.

Tom Farley said...

I'm happy that we got a Veridian commercial for (what is likely) the road. Those were too scarce this season.

Since it was a surprise renewal to begin with, I've taken each new episode as a gift. Yeah, it sucks that one of the funniest shows on TV, if not the funniest, is about to be off TV. But give me a Season 2 DVD set and I'll choose to be glad this many episodes were made.

Damn, Portia de Rossi is funny.

Viva Lem. Viva Better Off Ted.

GabbyD said...

this show cannot end. it simply cant. grr...

Lorrie said...

I couldn't stop laughing. I was still laughing during the commercials. I can't believe it's over. Better Off Ted deserves to live!

Will said...

So Ted's brother's name is Billy. Bill and Ted... excellent!

Margaret said...

My husband and I had to rewatch several scenes ... I especially loved the ladies in the head-butt and then-telling-Ted scenes. Oh my gosh. And Phil and Lem (who my husband affectionately calls "Glasses and Mustache" thanks to an earlier episode) were on fire!

Thank you so much, Alan, for bringing this gem to our attention. We will miss it much.

Mo Ryan said...

I would like to second everything arrabbiata said.

I love this show so so much. I mean, something as simple as Phil or Lem saying "Deal with it!" was funny in a different way every time. Phil in leather pants. The image of Veronica as a gun-toting fawn.

Just so spot-on in every way.

I would like to make myself be OK with what we've gotten of this show but i can't help it, I want more. More than the 2 that ABC will burn off someday.

annie said...

the nut-punch at the beginning had me laughing out loud, and I hardly stopped the whole episode.

Losing Ted? I can't deal with it!

Henry said...

I laughed consecutively at the message left by Ted to his brother, chastising him about his use of "doody" in his voicemail, then the whole episode with Veronica, Linda, and the Veridian Foundation dude ("His head made a 'boop' sound").

I'm still laughing at the sight of Lem... in leather pants.

anita7601 said...

I absolutely adored this show. I was another person who was thrilled to receive the gift of a second season. I just can't believe it's over already. If the networks aired more quality shows like BYOT, then perhaps I'd watch more than two hours of television a week. Correction, now it's 90 minutes.

I'll just patiently wait for the DVD release to have the pleasure of seeing the final two episodes.

Brian said...


Wait, no, I don't want to deal with it, if "it" means the cancellation of this hilarious show. As many jokes per minute as 30 Rock, with an arguably higher hit ratio too. Shameful that ABC didn't support it better and help it find an audience.

Anonymous said...

Well after a few uneven episodes I finally begin to see why this is a pretty solid comedy and why there was good critical buzz. Nice find here Alan.

However, it is not surprising this show didn't find a wider audience. I am not sure a show set in a heartless corporation appeals to many people, especially in these times when 10% + of us are out or work, no matter how well executed it was.

Thank God for Hulu so I can catch up on the episodes I missed.

ryan said...

Anyone who can't make money off Better Off Ted should get out of the money making business.

Jen said...

The idea that we may never see Phil and Lem again is absolutely depressing. I've already said "Deal with it!" at least 5 times today to my coworkers (though I'm shying away from actually using it on my boss...)

Mo Ryan said...

Lem and Phil -- I'll also miss them most of all.

I can't Deal With It!

dez said...

"Crack that egg!"

"Either you don't care at all, or you care one-hundred-and-crazy percent."

"And while I'm gone, I want you two to think about what you'd rather have for Christmas: a family of robots, a wind tunnel, or a corpse."

Losing this show? I also can't deal with it. A pox on ABC for not supporting BOT!

Anonymous said...

here's my quiestion:

where are all the people that get shows on FX like SOA and SUNNY a 1.9? if this show consistently got that number I assume ABC would be more likely to invest. My question is where are the viewers? To the best of my knowledge it's not big on HULU or Itunes either. Why arent people watching this?

I still think ABC should invest in this, but why are people happy to watch these kind of shows on cable but not on ABC?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Basic cable shows cost much less than a network show. The original Always Sunny pilot was famously shot for a few hundred bucks, and while the production values for the series are much better and more expensive, it's still a bargain compared to a 30 Rock or even BoT.

Alan Sepinwall said...

And (hit publish too soon), because they cost less, channels like FX and AMC can afford to air shows that draw numbers even below what Ted was getting on ABC.

Devin McCullen said...

Really good episode.

Other "as soon as"es:

...as soon as I get 200 ml of coffee

...as soon as I get hissed at by a jealous opossum

Oaktown Girl said...

Loved this show. Totally sux that this is the end. I guess I'm just happy we got another mini-season so at least (hopefully) there will be a DVD set to look forward to.

Love the idea of Lem and Phil as guest stars on another show. It'd be great seeing them on House, having them alternately drive House crazy and help him come up with the genius diagnosis.

Jen said...

This bugged me, but as it was likely something cut out for time, I'll forgive it. But it seemed like such a point was made of the Foundation jerk calling Veronica and Linda "girls" and "sweetheart" or whatever and then nothing happened. I kept waiting for Linda to just go nuts on the guy and call him out. But I guess I'll have to settle for the headbutt and the boop noise it made.

Anonymous said...

i dont think i made myself understandable, Alan. I know basic cable makes shows cheaper. My point was that SUNNY and SOA are gtting a point higher on basic cable then TED is getting on ABC. Ted got a 1.0 last night. SOA gets a 2.0 and SUNNY if I am not mistaken gets close to that. So I was just wondering since this is the same type of show that that audience will watch is where are those people. They wont watch this show cause its on ABC?

Anonymous said...

Am I wrong that "Better Off Ted"'s failure makes me boycott "Modern Family"? I've seen a few episodes of it and it is funny, but I find "Better Off Ted" funnier. Also, did the people at ABC ever give a reason why this show wouldn't work on Wednesday other than "we don't think it would work on Wednesday"?

Buzz and Bunny Krumhunger said...

My secret is, I watch BOT alone during the day, and then at night I pretend to my husband I've never seen it before, so I can laugh all over again.

What in the name of machine gun-bearing fawns is WRONG with these *%(@*) networks. I couldn't agree more with whoever said we get 17 seasons of Accdg to Jim, and they yank such gold as this. They should be Lembasted and Philibustered. Then Tedicated.

rosengje said...

"Anyone who can't make money off Better Off Ted should get out of the money making business."

Oh Sports Night, another ABC comedy canceled before its time.

I laughed hysterically through this entire episode. It will be a true shame if this is the last we see if Phil and Lem. I almost did a real-life spit-take when Veronica and Linda did their "His head made a 'boop' sound." "Boop." routine.

srpad said...

A head butt never made me laugh so much. This show will be missed. Please someone pick it up!

ghoti said...

Why did this show never catch on?

Was it marketing, the (iffy) title, scheduling, lack of a big name star, what?

As far as total jokes and laughs per episode, it's been #1 since the second it went on the air.

It's as "quotable" as any show on TV. It's had episodes that could have penetrated mainstream society on a Seinfeldian level.

It's not even an inside baseball show like "30 Rock". Basically anyone who has worked anywhere can understand and appreciate the premise of the show.

It has attractive, talented stars. It has iconic characters. Everyone is likable and no one is annoying or cloying.

This show is nothing like "Sports Night", which I loved but could see clearly wasn't for everyone. Heck, even Arrested Development didn't have this show's accessibility. BoT is offbeat, but in a totally straightforward and easy to understand way. It never mistakes quirkiness for humor.

So why did it fail?? I'm at a complete loss. I fully expected to see Veridian coffee mugs and T-Shirts everywhere by now. This should have been the ultimate water cooler show everywhere there is a water cooler.

Ally said...

I love this show just as much as I loved Arrested Development. ANd just like AD, the episodes just get better the more you watch them. I just watched Racial Sensitivity again the other night and laught hysterically though the whole thing. At least we got 24 episodes.

I will miss Lem and Phil most of all :(.

Anne said...

I'm sick today, and said, "Self, why don't I watch Better of Ted on Hulu? That clip Alan posted was hilarious." So now five episodes later I come here and realize the show is going to be cancelled. And I can't help but believe, somehow, that I did it.

I always do it.

Anne said...

p.s. I'd never heard of this show before reading Alan's blog. So, good marketing.