Throughout the geek-years (gears?) a number of shows have become favorites of geeks even if they weren’t necessarily overly geeky themselves. Shows like Seinfeld (You know, the friends rip-off? HA), Bob Newhart (For older geeks who remember it), South Park, and the Simpsons (The original Geek-toon). These shows, however, have something a lot of geek-cult classics do not, which is the ratings and ravings from the main-stream audience to keep the show on the air.
Yes, us geeks have had to deal with some large amount of
idiocy ignorance when it comes to great shows not being understood by the rest of the world, causing us to endure short-lived shows ending abruptly and leaving us wanting OH so much more. Why should we endure tacked on seasons of Lost when Dollhouse ends after 2? Why do we only get one season of ‘My So Called Life’ while Saved By The Bell goes to college and gets married? (Note, MSCL is not really a geek status show in my eyes, but just a left over empty hole from my teenage Angst years.) And finally, why do we get more Parks and Recreation when a great and fairly original sitcom like Better Off Ted goes unnoticed and cancelled after 2 seasons.
Better Off Ted followed the working life of Ted Crisp who would narrate through the business life of the R&D department of one of the largest (fictitious) companies in the world, Veridian Dynamics. One of the ‘cutting edge’ portions of the show was that rather than just narrate the entire time, Ted would often break the ‘4th wall’ of television and talk directly to its audience. (Think Malcom in the Middle) Rather than coming off as cheesy it worked seamlessly into the satirical theme of the shows look at corporate America.
The episodes often tackled some of the over-the-top things that a corporation in America does to maintain itself as always on top, correct no matter what, and cutting edge; up to and including that whatever memo’s come out of HR, even if a typo and not what was originally intended, were correct and could not be contested. Anyone who has worked in a big company office setting will relate to some of the shenanigans that occurs during the course of the show.
The real draw of any show is its cast and characters and BoT was no exception. 4 people stand out in every episode as some of the funniest players and characters I have ever enjoyed watching on TV. Besides the aforementioned shows namesake Ted, they include:
Veronica – Teds boss was played by talented actress Portia de Rossi and is one of the best ‘power females’ in any show you can name. Move over Roseanne, get out of the way Lois (Wilkerson, not Griffin) a modern day woman is the new face of Power in TV America. She tells her employees what they think, admits when everyone else is wrong, and draws you into her world whether you want to be or not.
Phil and Lem – Every R&D department needs a great scientific team, and Veridians comes in the classic Duo of Phil (Jonathan Slavin of Andy Richter Controls the Universe) and Lem (Malcom Barrett). While some of the personality traits of Phil and Lem are typical cliche, (nerds, socially inept, over think everything) these two actors take the roles to a level not seen in nerds on almost any other show.
I would like to say that while these 4 people steal the scenes they are in, that is not to undermine the two other main actresses in the show. Teds assistant and underling, Linda played by Andrea Anders, is always solid and quite funny. And even more amazing still is Teds daughter Rose, the incredibly funny and talented Isabella Acres. She could almost be considered Teds conscious as he often discusses with her what is going on at work (Her mother left the family while she went off to go ‘save the world’) and she often points out the evil side of the company that makes Ted reconsider what he is going to do. (Like a good father should, he’s always trying to teach AND act out the differences between right and wrong.) While I did mention the 4 ‘scene thieves’ earlier, Rose definitely does her best to steal them back.
Of 2 seasons, 26 episodes, there is really not a ‘bad’ episode. I have re-watched the 2 seasons about 6 times so far and still laugh at jokes I remember, and some I don’t. One episode shows HR having messed up Teds name, showing it as Ted Chips, and insist that they did not make the mistake, maybe he doesn’t know his own name. Another episode touches on some of the issues with Sexual Harassment in the work place. However one of the best episodes is when the company installs new motion sensors on everything (I mean everything, even the water fountains). The only problem? The new high tech system doesn’t sense Black people. While black employees like Lem try to get the company to acknowledge and fix the problem, hilarity ensues as the company tries to save face. A must see episode.
This show does one other thing, a little out of the ordinary, that really catapults it to geek status and that is ‘Corporate Promos’. In each episode you will be treated to short Veridian Promo’s that talk about how great the company is and often tie-in to the theme of the episode. Using the classic ‘Corporate’ theme of using stock footage with narration, it takes the ‘narration script’ to sarcastic, satirical over-the-top hilarity and are a gem in and of themselves.
Overall, this show is a must-see for anyone who claims to enjoy great sitcoms. You can currently catch the entire series on Netflix.. Tell ’em the Geek sent you.