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Better Off Ted-The Lawyer, the Lemur and the Listener- I recently discovered there were a couple of episodes of this wonderful show I never watched, so I checked this show and it reminded me of how a show can still find a niche in TV’s golden age using the conventions of 90’s workplace sitcoms cranked up to absurdity. Where Better off Ted fits on the pantheon of great TV is hard to say, but it deserves to be in the discussion of greatest workplace comedies ever (and I’d like us to have a discussion about that question down below!).
The series has The Company (represented by Portia de Rossi’s Veronica who is both a willing accomplice and an enthusiastic cheerleader) as its main antagonist and one of the sources of comic depth on the show is that the full extent of The Company’s evil is never really known. For all we know, Veridian is just as likely to be responsible for fueling some dictator’s genocidal fever dream as it is to develop legitimate scientific progress, and the employees just have to grin and bear it because, hey it’s a job. It’s more a extreme dystopic version of the questions those who work in large companies often ask about their corporate overlord’s intentions. On the whole, however, the show generally splits the difference between kooky bureaucracy a la Mike Judge and serious 1984-ish noodle horror.
The show’s main plot features Veronica and Ted decide to exploiting Rose’s friendship with the daughter of an HR employee to get advanced intel on company firings. The site of SWAT teams rushing into take out newly fired employees while two men gently carry the firee while he’s still sitting at the desk is the kind of incongruent humor the show thrives off. It’s an unusual plot in that Ted and Veronica, ordinarily on opposite ends of the spectrum, find a mutual goal they’re both equally invested in (at least for a while). It’s equally interesting that Ted seems to pay a price (in the form of being tasered) for temporarily joining Team Veronica.
The B-plots are pretty thematically disparate and it’s not really a distraction since they’re both strong and take up the appropriate amount of screen time. Linda writes a children’s book with a lemur (a fancy word for monkey) that is accidentally based on Phil and while trying to clear the legal hurdle, she discovers she has a larger problem: The company owns everything she makes on company property.
The third plot shows Lem (funny in retrospect watching Malcolm Barrett playing a nerd, huh?) starts a tryst with a lawyer. Apparently the company is ok with this, but he gets billed for it since the lovemaking is on company time. This is another bureaucracy gone haywire situation that’s largely played for an absurdist laugh.
Coherence is kind of weak here, but it’s still a memorable episode