While cruising around Hulu to avoid studying for my Molecular Anthropology final tomorrow — my apologies, Brenda Bradley — I came across “Better off Ted,” a new ABC comedy whose second season premiered on December 8. I tuned in solely because the show’s page featured a picture of Portia de Rossi, a woman who embodies that rare but treasured combination of looks, brains, and laughs.
The show’s protagonist is Ted (Jay Harrington), an employee of corporate mega giant Veridian Dynamics, a company whose goal is to better the world with its backwards innovations. Ted is a contrarian and a cynic. From what I could tell, the central narrative seems to be that Veridian unveils new projects that embody the excesses of the modern era, and Ted thwarts them.
It goes without saying that de Rossi, who plays Ted’s coldhearted boss, is brilliant (and hot…and hilarious). The rest of the ensemble, which includes Andrea Anders, Jonathan Slavin, and Malcolm Barrett, is good, but could be a lot better.
The humor is dry, racy and absurdist, and even evokes “Arrested Development” at times, but the show as a whole seems to be teetering on the brink of “Scrubs” status — and contrary to what “Scrubs” fans will tell you, you don’t want to be there. “Scrubs” started off good, but the show quickly fell in love with its own brand of quirky zaniness. Then it got unfunny and stupid. I just hope that “Better off Ted” develops in a different direction, because Harrington and Anders have too much going for them to fall into the J.D. and Elliot archetype.
I was hoping for laughs on the scale of “Arrested Development” (I won’t dwell on that; I’m as upset as anybody else that the show was cancelled, but it’s over so can we please stop bitching about it?). Still, keep an eye on “Better off Ted.” It didn’t quite deliver, but it’s not bad either. It’s very funny, at times bordering on hilarious. If its writers prove themselves to be brave enough to make their humor a little edgier, we could have a new cult hit on our hands.
“Better off Ted” airs Tuesdays at 8:30 on ABC.