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Brain Toilet: An Advance Review of the Return of ABC's "Better Off Ted"

I can't tell you how incredibly excited I am about the return of ABC's fantastic comedy series Better Off Ted this summer.

It's especially true this summer when the season seems to be positively overflowing with network castoffs as the broadcasters burn off remaining unaired installments of their sadly canceled series. (Just take a look at Saturday nights to see what I mean.)

But despite its place on the schedule this summer, ABC's winsome Better Off Ted isn't canceled; in fact, it earned a slot on the network's midseason lineup thanks to some goodwill from Steve McPherson and the programmers at the Alphabet. But there's still a handful of unaired episodes from the series' first season, which means that Ted fans will be getting a fresh batch of Veridian goodness over the next few weeks.

Tonight's episode ("You Are the Boss of Me"), written by Dan O'Shannon, is a fantastic reminder of just how quirky and lovable this series is. I had the opportunity to watch it last week and I am still scratching my head as to why ABC didn't just air this hysterical installment during the regular season.

While I don't want to spoil any major plot points (though, granted, this is a comedy series so there aren't too many O'Henry-style surprise twists), I will say that "You Are the Boss of Me" is already one of my very favorite installments of the series to date. It also features some fantastic character development, especially regarding the relationships between our core cast, pushing them into unexpected and interesting territory as they cross the one boundary that shouldn't ever be crossed: that between boss and employee.

Ted is reeling from the unexpected return (off-screen, of course) of his ex-wife from Botswana and has sent daughter Rose to New York to spend some time with her. Lonely and stressed, he turns to Phil and Lem for companionship... only to learn that they have plans that don't include him or other bosses. Namely: Medieval Fight Club, an underground stress-relieving medieval tournament that's literally underground in the Veridian sub-basements.

Meanwhile, Linda's offer of a ride home to Veronica--whose driver has died that week--leads to an unexpected friendship between the two. Or at least as close to friendship as is possible with the icy Veronica, which means Veronica spilling her guts about her deepest, darkest deeds to an incredulous Linda. (One such secret involves feeding her sister in her sleep so she can never be thinner than Veronica.) Naturally, this leads to some, er, strain between Linda and Veronica, one with hysterical consequences.

While the Ted/Phil/Lem and Linda/Veronica storylines are separate, they dovetail nicely at the end of the episode and share similar themes about workplace boundaries. It's hard to come back from emotional intimacy with your boss once it's been established and you might wish to have never crossed that frontier in the first place, as both Linda and Phil and Lem discover to their chagrin.

It's episodes like this that demonstrate why Better Off Ted has such fun with the workplace comedy milieu. In establishing an absurd, off-kilter world where nearly anything is possible and setting it in the heart of a, well, heartless multi-national corporation, creator Victor Fresco has turned the workplace comedy on its head, creating almost an anti-Office, where the mundane experiences of worker drones are juxtaposed with cyborg creations, cow-less meat, and scream-inducing itchy chairs.

All in all, it might be summer time, but there's no better place to be Tuesday nights than back in this office.

Better Off Ted returns with new episodes beginning tonight at 9:30 pm ET/PT on ABC.


Veronica said…
Woo hoo! I'm thrilled that Better Off Ted will be coming back next season and even more thrilled that we will be treated to some new episodes this summer. Definitely looking forward to Medieval Fight Club. Just reading your review about it made me laugh!
Unknown said…
Definitely a bright spot in the lackluster summer schedule.

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