When Ricky Gervais brought The Office to BBC, who knew what he was really doing? Sure, the show was funny, but who would think it would usher in a new era of office-based comedy? It went on to spawn an American version that really took off after a slightly rocky start and is currently one of my favorite sitcoms. Now there is Better Off Ted, which seems to combine elements of The Office and perhaps a little bit of Arrested Development and Sports Night. While those flavors are there, the show does have its own voice and it is a voice that will make you laugh.
The series debuted in March of 2009 and proved to be a modest success. Fortunately, it was successful enough to garner a second season, although I am not sure it will make it to a third. One can always hope. If not, at least we have two seasons of episodes to revisit and enjoy. That right there is something special that not every comedy can claim to have — re-watchability. These season one episodes are funny and actually make me laugh each time I watch. In fact, if I happen to have it on as background entertainment I am liable to forget what I am doing and get caught up in any random episode.
Better Off Ted is set in a think tank called Veridian Dynamics. They research and develop all manner of oddball items, hair growing formula, cow-less beef, and bio-computers (be careful if they get sick), among others. It is not a terribly realistic world, but I find it easy to believe that there are companies out there that work on strange things like this. I mean, our technological advances must come from somewhere, right?
Our focus is on a division run by Veronica Palmer (Portia De Rossi), a by-the-book corporate mouthpiece. Working directly under her is Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington), a corporate suit, super organized, extremely nice, and our star. He is our entry into the show and bridges the gap between Veronica's corporate mentality and that of the cast of characters working under him. He also has a habit of speaking directly to the camera, like The Office, although this show isn't done documentary style. Who is he talking to? I have no idea, but I like to think he is really doing it within the reality of the show's universe. Just picture him walking around talking to himself. Everyone must think he's losing his mind.
Beneath Ted is a pair of scientists, said to be the tops in the company. They also may be my favorites on the show. Phil (Jonathan Slavin) and Lem (Malcolm Barrett) are the brightest minds in the company. What they have in scientific know-how they make up for in utter lack of social skills. They are always causing some sort of issue with their projects. Besides the comedic projects, the two actors bring great personas to the role. Their delivery and chemistry is great. Joining these two is Linda (Andrea Anders), a product tester who is constantly perky and seems to enjoy flirting with Ted.
Audio/Video. The transfer looks beautiful. The series is shot on the Panavision Genesis HD camera and has an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. There is nary a speck to be found. The action is smooth and there is always good detail. Granted, it is not a big budget feature film, but no one is expecting the show to look like that. The colors are all nicely rendered and have good depth. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds fine. It is not exactly an active surround mix, most of it is centered in the front as the show relies pretty heavily on dialogue. When it comes right down to it, this television show looks very good on DVD.
Extras. This is where the release receives a failing grade. It has nothing. No featurettes, interviews, deleted scenes, gag reels, or commentaries. Very sad. At least the show makes it a must own.
Bottom line. I really like this show. It is smart, memorable, has great characters, and is just a lot of fun. This is a show you will want to get your hands on. I have already watched every episode multiple times and will surely watch them many times into the future. So, do yourself a favor, if you like the show already, get this set. If you are curious, get it, you will like it.