In Depth

'Better Off Ted': The Cool New Office

It's almost the Fourth of July—and that means it's time to declare your independence from subpar television.

All this week, TVWeek.com is turning the spotlight on some of the small screen's most promising new series, young shows with breakout potential. We'll tell you what the critics are saying, what episode you simply can't miss and what to expect when new episodes return.

We're calling these shows the Buzzmakers. You'll call them signs of intelligent life in a TV universe dominated by summer reruns and reality retreads.

When & Where: Currently airing fresh episodes Tuesdays at 9:30 on ABC.

betteroffted.jpgPremise: Ted (Jay Harrington) is an all-around good guy and single dad working at Veridian Dynamics, a less-than-moral corporation, which creates everything from chairs so scratchy they increase productivity to pumpkins that double as weapons of mass destruction.

Standout Star: Portia de Rossi as Ted's emotionless, human interaction-challenged boss Veronica. Walking around with her hair slicked back into a super-tight power bun, de Rossi gets some of the show's best dialogue, which she delivers with one hundred percent commitment. When she says, “Well, I'm different than other women, Ted, and by different, I mean better,” you know it's true.

But even though Veronica “is smart, driven and seemingly perfect,” de Rossi still manages “to make Veronica likable even though she slaps around her employees, fires a gun to relieve stress and feeds
her sister pudding in her sleep to make sure she stays fatter,” says creator Victor Fresco.

The Buzz: “Better Off Ted” is giving NBC's “The Office” a run for its money as TV's most so-true-it's-funny workplace comedy. The show has enjoyed critical raves and a loyal viewer following stemming from Fresco's previous cult comedy “Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” giving the network that inexplicably kept renewing “According to Jim” some major credibility in the comedy department. Alan Sepinwall of the New Jersey Star-Ledger called it “one of the funniest shows on TV right now,” while Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker raved that a recent installment had “more good jokes per minute than on any other sitcom this year.”

Despite so-so ratings, ABC gave “Ted” a vote of faith, renewing it for a second season. The network has also given the show some extra exposure, scheduling six new episodes leftover from last season to air during the summer.

“I'm very happy to be back on the air,” Fresco says. “It keeps the show in the public consciousness. Plus, it gives America something to do. You're welcome, America.”

The summer move suggests ABC believes there's a bigger audience out there for “Ted” and hopes that some new samplers will come back for season two. Fresco is optimistic about the show's growth potential.

“It takes time for a new comedy to build an audience,” he says. “But I think 'Better Off Ted' has broad appeal and will be huge. In fact, I'm already designing lunch boxes and have written several songs for an ice show.”

Must-See Episode: “Racial Sensitivity.” The company learns that its new light-sensitive security system doesn't detect African American employees. What's a company to do? Hire white people to follow the African American staff, of course! And celebrate “the fact that it sees Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Jews.”

What We Like: The fake promotional ads for Veridian Dynamics, which extol the virtues of bosses (“Without bosses, we'd be like these worms—disgusting.”) and claim to be working on giving people a third hand. Fresco even created a Veridian commercial for the Web when President Obama preempted an episode of the show.

What's Ahead: The summer episodes bring a half-human computer and a hair growth formula that won't stop growing. Viewers will also get a peek at a scantily clad Veronica and her wild life away from work. Meanwhile, will-they-or-won't-they lovebirds Linda and Ted try living together.

In season two, slated for midseason, “The company encourages their employees to date based on
their genetic compatibility.” But don't worry, Veridian Dynamics will remain “relentlessly indifferent to their happiness,” says Fresco.

Previously: Starz's Party Down

Filed under: ABC, Better Off Ted, The Buzzmakers, Victor Fresco