“Veridian Dynamics: every day something we make, makes your life better. Power? We make that. Technology? We make that. Cows? Well, no, we don’t make cows. Although we have made a sheep, and medicine, and airplane engines and whatever this is and all sorts of things. Veridian Dynamics: every day we make something that makes your life better … usually.”
Ted Crisp (Harrington) works as the head of research and development for Veridian Dynamics. They’re a global technology company with the motto: “Money before people”. Inside their labs they make cowless beef, experiment in cryogenics, and turn pumpkins into military grade weaponry. With a “We can do that” attitude, there isn’t any idea too small or too large for Veridian Dynamics. Ted’s boss and liaison with the company board is Veronica (de Rossi). Veronica is pretty much an ice queen. She wears her hair painfully tight against her head to look authoritative. Ted’s a moneymaker for the team, so she somewhat likes him, but she’s cold and calculated toward the rest of the staff. That staff includes the bickering lead scientists team of Phil (Slavin) and Lem (Barrett). Both are incredibly bright and come up with amazing new scientific breakthroughs. But they are extremely socially awkward and timid when it comes to standing up to Veronica. Linda (Anders) is the potential love interest for Ted if it weren’t for the fact that he used up his one allowed office affair on Veronica. She steals office creamer as a stress relief whenever the company gets one over on her. Needless to say, she has a lot of coffee creamers at home. Ted has a very young daughter he sometimes brings to the office and often bounces moral dilemmas off of. Together the cast is an Office clone, but with much more wit and a certain harder edge to it.
The combination of technology jokes and office humor makes this a pretty dynamic show, pun intended. All of the cast play their parts extremely well. It’s an easy show to get caught up with. That’s rare these days when situation comedies go for the easy joke and innuendo before trying anything original or clever. Better Off Ted does go for the clever. That means that some of the humor does fall a bit flat, but when it is funny, which is most of the time, it is very funny. I haven’t laughed at a new sitcom in years. If you’ve suffered that particular malady, then this one has the cure. Each episode features a satiric company commercial. Terminator fans will see a lighter Cyberdyne, to be sure, here.
Better Off Ted is presented in a pretty impressive 1.78:1 widescreen format. This looks great. Colors are dynamic and black levels are rock solid. I have seldom encountered a sit-com with this kind of image quality. Sadly, I never watched the show when it aired, so I’m not sure if it was broadcast in this form, but either way this is, I hope, a precedent-setting video presentation.
Even though the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not ambitious or aggressive at all, it is again laudable that a sit-com be given such serious treatment. Dialog pretty much dominates this mix, meaning it all lives in the center speaker with the rest in your front mains. Again, this is trend setting stuff that I hope is carried forward from here.
I never saw an episode of this on television before. Somehow this show completely missed showing up anywhere on my radar. I’ve never been a fan of The Office. Yes, I know, I’m the only one. I’ve never been a part of the corporate machine, so I suppose most of that humor goes over my head. I find Dilbert somewhat amusing, but again, often over my head. The beauty of this show is that you don’t have to have been there to get it. Even the company jokes are just natural and obviously themed that it’s easy for anyone to get them. How hard is it to understand a company that freezes one of its employees in an experiment and then wants to fire them for an annoying tic the experiment caused? I get it. And, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never been cryogenically frozen. The show is sophisticated but altogether accessible. Talk about a can do attitude. Just ask creator Victor Fresco if he can write a sitcom with clever wit, no heavy reliance on innuendo, and make it funny for everybody. His answer was simple: “We can do that”.