Check out “Better Off Ted,” an ABC sitcom with a terrible title whose first season is now available on DVD. I didn’t believe it, either. Then I watched it. Now I’m a convert. This under-the-radar series deserves several million more pairs of eyes than it’s currently attracting, which I’m assuming isn’t much, considering I know exactly one person who’s ever seen it.
Despite frat-boy good looks, Jay Harrington makes for a completely likable protagonist as Ted Crisp, a Veridian Dynamics executive who occasionally talks to the camera, Ferris Bueller-style, to comment on all the office shenanigans.
And there are shenanigans. Ice-queen boss Veronica (Portia de Rossi) is always demanding strange new things be invented “ like unbreakable dinnerware or cowless meat “ and hapless scientists Phil and Lem (Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett) try to do it, most often failing. Giving Ted a distraction “ and more than a little heartburn “ is Linda (Andrea Anders), a beautiful but goofy cube drone who rebels against inane corporate policies by hoarding creamer.
Highlights include Linda getting accidentally dosed with an experimental energy drug; and Lem, who is African-American, finding out that the new automated lights and locks in the lab don’t recognize his race. The five-person ensemble is great, but the heart of the show belongs to Harrington and Anders. Both gifted comic actors, their will-they-or-won’t-they attraction follows similar quirky sitcom relationships, from Sam and Diane to Jim and Pam.
“Better Off Ted” is smarter than your average network series, no doubt because it was created by Victor Fresco, whose short-lived “Andy Richter Controls the Universe” was one of this decade’s greats. This one clearly has the potential to join that club.