Better Off Ted Cast (Links Updated 8/6/18) (2024)

Poster: Mr. Television (see this users gallery)

Better Off Ted aired from March 2009 to January 2010 on ABC.

From turning co-workers into human popsicles to converting ordinary fruit into a military weapon, nothing was off limits at the company depicted in this satire. Better Off Ted gave us a bird's-eye view into the clockworks of a soulless corporation, Veridian Dynamics. As the corporation made technological advancements, morals and human rights were heavily neglected. You wouldn't drop your kids off at the Veridian daycare, unless you didn't mind them doubling as janitors!

Every episode came with a humorous-yet-bizarre advertisem*nt from Veridian that was based around a given topic. The show focused on a successful good guy named Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington) who headed the research-and-development department. At the office, Ted struggled with his one office affair rule. You see, Ted had an office crush on Linda Zwordling (Andrea Anders), a rebellious and energetic co-worker who loved to challenge management, but already had a onetime run-in with his automaton-like boss, Veronica Palmer (Portia de Rossi). Veronica was friendless, heartless, and would let nothing stand in her way of serving Veridian's unscrupulous needs. Veronica's idea of fun usually involved demeaning those around her, especially the two lab nerds Phil Mymen (Jonathan Slavin) and Lem Hewitt (Malcolm Barrett) who were the mad scientists behind every new Veridian contraption. These two geniuses had spent way too much time together and their relationship was closer to that of a married couple than co-workers.

You wouldn't believe the insanity and daily goofs that would take place at this corporate conglomerate. Why would anyone want to work there? There was no consideration for the employees (all budget cuts were at their expense), upper management was run by tyrants and the cafeteria food stank . Hmmm, on second thought, maybe Veridian wasn't that farfetched after all.

A Review from Thew New York Times

Television Review
March 18, 2009
Omnivorous Company Has Its Staff for Lunch
Published: March 18, 2009

It's not a great time for sitcoms, but there is no more apt moment to pillory big business. Better Off Ted, which begins on ABC on Wednesday, is a charmingly offbeat comedy that brings some of the inspired lunacy of Arrested Development and 30 Rock to the offices of a giant multinational corporation.

Ted (Jay Harrington) is the head of R&D for Veridian Dynamics, a highly diversified company with a hand in everything from baby food and office chairs to weapons systems, cryogenics and cloning. And perhaps the most amusing parts of the show are the introductory mock ads for Veridian Dynamics, parodies of the warm, fuzzy we bring good things to life campaigns for General Electric. In one, a montage of Kodak moments accompanies a soft, soothing voice-over: Veridian works for every member of your family, even the dead ones. And we are working to bring them back, and copy them, in case you lose them again.

Portia de Rossi, who played Lindsay, a spendthrift social climber, on Arrested Development, here rules the workplace as Ted's driven, robotic boss, Veronica, a woman who when asked to keep an eye on Ted's visiting 7-year-old daughter, Rose, hands her a leather-bound copy of Sun Tzu's Art of War. When Rose pushes it back at her, saying she doesn't want to read it, Veronica replies, Trust me, your enemies are reading it.

Victor Fresco, whose previous credits include My Name Is Earl and Andy Richter Controls the Universe, is the creator of Better Off Ted. It is a contemporary sitcom, taped with a single camera and without a laugh track. Ted is the show's narrator, wryly describing his so-called office life. And it's a workplace comedy well suited to bad economic times and paranoia around the water cooler.

The American version of The Office began on NBC in 2005, when the Dow Jones was over 10,000 and real-estate prices seemed unshakable; even at the slow-poke, low-tech offices of Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, Pa., employees are ill-supervised slackers who waste company time and money with little fear of consequences. Veridian Dynamics is an amoral, tyrannical corporation that forces employees to work nights, weekends and major holidays and keeps vigilant track of their personal phone calls and coffee-creamer quotas. The personnel office is in India.

Sometimes, employees are even expected to take dangerous risks. Phil (Jonathan Slavin), a meek if brilliant scientist, is tapped by the company to be frozen for a year to test a breakthrough technology that worked on lab animals. Assured by Ted that he will be paid throughout ( Technically, it's work ), Phil agrees. But later, Ted, who is a decent man, has second thoughts and tells Phil he has the right to refuse. They can't force employees to participate in human experiments, Ted explains. They lost the court case.

Phil's lab partner is Lem (Malcolm Barrett), who is just as brilliant but slightly, and only slightly, more socially adept. Ted, who is a divorced single father, also supervises Linda (Andrea Anders), a free-spirited but slightly neurotic manager in the testing department who is not as brainwashed by the corporate ethos as the others. (She doesn't think that the prototype for an uncomfortable office chair should be marketed as the focus master. )

Linda and Ted share a mutual attraction, but Ted resists getting involved with Linda since he has already used up his official allotment of office affairs one.

At its best, Better Off Ted is like some of the better new comedies on NBC and CBS, shows that blend mordant satire with odd, endearing characters that viewers want to keep watching. Ms. Anders in particular is a very funny, appealing actress who makes even dull patches of dialogue amusing; Mr. Slavin and Mr. Barrett bring comic heft to their small roles.

The corporate setting is new, but Better Off Ted is not really an original work; it's very much of the same comic bent and structure as 30 Rock, The Office and Scrubs.

It takes awhile for comedies to succeed, and success can be determined only partly by ratings. If ABC gives Better Off Ted a chance to develop its voice and build an audience, then viewers will be better off.


ABC, Wednesday night at 8:30, Eastern and Pacific Times; 7:30 Central time.

Created by Victor Fresco; writer and executive producer, Mr. Fresco; Skip Beaudine, producer; Marc Solakian, co-producer; and Lisa Iannone, associate producer.

WITH: Jay Harrington (Ted Crisp), Portia de Rossi (Veronica Palmer), Andrea Anders (Linda Zwordling), Jonathan Slavin (Phil Mymen) Malcolm Barrett (Lem Hewitt) and Isabella Acres (Rose Crisp).

A Review from the LA Times


The well-crafted workplace sitcom has the potential to be something special -- it's just not quite there yet.

March 18, 2009|

It's hard not to root for "Better Off Ted," which premieres tonight on ABC. Lord knows the networks could use a nice big hit right about now, and someone has to breathe life back into the comedy genre before the last quirky detective or doctor idea is scraped up.

Certainly the premise of "Better Off Ted" is rock-solid, if not wrenched from today's headlines -- a take-down not only of those multinational corporations-without-borders but also of our consumer-based obsession with research and development no doubt seemed timely and unassailable back when it was greenlighted. Now, of course, the most odious job is better than no job. But the bloodsucking quality of corporate America is an evergreen, and creator Victor Fresco has brought his own mad-scientist twist to things.

Close your eyes and imagine the love-child of "The Office" and "Fringe" and you'll have Veridian Dynamics, the setting for "Better Off Ted" and possibly the best company name ever invented. Here, among those now-iconic bleached-out, soul-free cubicles and ill-lighted conference rooms, attempts are made to turn pumpkins into weaponry (the country in question has a pumpkin surplus), rubber into diet food and humans into Popsicles.

Here too the Ted in question (Jay Harrington) must cope with Veronica (Portia de Rossi), who rules Veridian with an icy absurdity and a bun pulled so tight it may constitute cosmetic surgery. He must also navigate the codependent swamp of the top research team (played by Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett), the attractions of the rebellious yet anxiety-fueled Linda (Andrea Anders) and the ethical dilemmas of single parenthood.

Oh, and he also provides the voice-over. Go Ted!

Everyone involved in "Better Off Ted" is smart and funny and exactly the sort of person you root for -- Fresco was behind the short-lived but much beloved "Andy Richter Controls the Universe." "Desperate Housewives" and "Private Practice" alum Harrington is handsome and sexy in a deadpan, user-friendly way. Anders is not only hilarious, but she also did time on "Joey," so she's definitely owed. And who doesn't love De Rossi, here taking her role as Lindsay on "Arrested Development" and ratcheting it up a leggy notch or seven?

If it sounds like there's an "and yet" coming, there is. "Better Off Ted" is funny, it's just not as funny as it might be, or should be, or, with any luck, will be. Absurdity-satire is difficult to establish and takes time to find its rhythm, especially when it only has a half-hour to work with. In the first two episodes, there is a self-consciousness about the various setups and relationships that even the lightest comedic touch cannot smooth away. While Anders' Laura is hilarious when caught with a drawer full of stolen coffee creamer, the stolen creamer itself is not. When Slavin's researcher allows himself to be frozen because Veronica wants to see "if it's possible," the actors carry out their various tasks of outrage, complacency and nerviness perfectly, but still the freezing, even with its nods to "Sleeper," isn't funny.

The banter, however, is terrific, with a nail-gun-staccato precision that brings to mind the exalted "His Girl Friday," and both De Rossi and Harrington are masters of the modern micro-double take, that slight pause (hitched eyebrow optional) mid-joke that acknowledges the absurdity of the situation, the audience's awareness of it and the actor's awareness of the audience. It's a dangerous stunt to pull on TV, but De Rossi in particular elevates it to an art form.

Which is why watching these early episodes puts a strain on certain back muscles, the ones a person might use while watching a child's first big performance or a film made by a very dear and talented friend -- you want it to be Really Great, you know it could be Really Great, and if only you can hold yourself completely still and focus all your best thoughts onto that stage or screen, maybe it will be.

'Better Off Ted'

Where: ABC

When: 8:30 tonight

Rating: TV-PG-DL (may be unsuitable for young children, with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)

A Review from The San Francisco Chronicle

TV review: 'Better Off Ted' develops laughs
March 18, 2009|
By Tim Goodman

POLITE APPLAUSE Better Off Ted: Comedy. 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC.

Your first instinct upon seeing ABC's newest sitcom, "Better Off Ted," is that its creator has great taste in other sitcoms, since the series seems to be partly inspired by "30 Rock," "The Office" and "Arrested Development." But that doesn't give enough credit to that creator, Victor Fresco, who put "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" on the air before all of them.

Fans of "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" - and they are rabid, plus still partly mad at Fox for canceling the series - will undoubtedly take to "Better Off Ted" because many of Fresco's zany antics are in play here.

This is a workplace comedy (like "30 Rock" and "The Office") with generous touches of absurdity ("Arrested Development") that essentially remakes the universe without Andy Richter.

The series is told through the character of Ted (Jay Harrington), head of research and development for a conglomerate called Veridian Dynamics, where no idea is a bad idea if it's going to turn a profit. Ted talks directly into the camera, the same trick Fresco employed on "Andy Richter," and it's a little bit jarring at first. But it allows Fresco to quicken the pace and get to the visual punch lines that litter the show nonstop. Imagine "Family Guy" in three dimensions and you get the idea.

None of this should be considered a drawback because "Better Off Ted" is more funny than not, rushing into absurdity with abandon and playing at stylized comedy in a completely fearless way. The pacing doesn't allow for regret.

Besides, we're living in a country that needs a good laugh right now, and the television industry's efforts in the field of comedy have been woeful. At least "Better Off Ted" - though it may feel a bit recycled in origin and forced at times with its ridiculousness - busts its backside in pursuit of laughs. You have to admire the effort and the show improves with every episode - always a good sign.

Ted's boss is Veronica (Portia de Rossi, "Arrested Development"), whose blind pursuit of whatever will make the company money and complete lack of morality, sensitivity or patience with her own employees make her frightening to those who work around her - though Ted had an affair with her, so he's not too worried about his job.

It takes a bit to appreciate de Rossi's portrayal of Veronica because, in the pilot at least, she says every line the same way - with a cold, calculated hiss and a squint.
Two key nerds

Soon, however, de Rossi's ability to give the character more range begins to show and, despite a kinship to Alec Baldwin's character on "30 Rock," it works.

Veridian Dynamics (a mock ad for the company appears before each episode) also employs two key nerds in the research department. There's Phil (Jonathan Slavin, who was on "Andy Richter Controls the Universe"), and Lem (Malcolm Barrett) who manage to overcome the rote constraints of nerd humor and broaden their characters as well.

Also in the workplace is Linda (Andrea Anders) who appears to be the only one who thinks that what Veridian Dynamics does - cryogenically freeze employees, grow cowless meat in a test tube, make super-itchy chairs that increase productivity, grow weaponized pumpkins, etc. - might not be normal.

One aspect of "Better Off Ted" that bears watching is whether giving it the inkling of a heart will help or hurt. We find out that Ted is a single dad because his wife went off to save the world (so much for that, he says), leaving him with an adorable daughter who adds about the only ounce of a conscience he has.
Softening of Ted

Ted is also attracted to Linda. Will this softening of the machine-gun-like high-concept humor dull the edges? So far, no. Both the daughter and the matchmaking have been fruitful leaping-off points for the writers. Ted tells Linda that he can't get involved with her because he's already used his one allotted office affair. "You only get one and then you're just that guy who sleeps around." And the daughter's inherent sweetness will play off Veronica's soulless boss, who notes the company motto: "Money before people. It's engraved right there in the lobby floor. It just looks more heroic in Latin."

But you have to wonder if ABC insisted on these softening elements just in case "Better Off Ted" ended up too weird, too mean or too male. There's also the worry that ABC doesn't typically do well with quirky comedy (R.I.P. "Pushing Daisies.")

In the meantime, Fresco is allowed to unveil his stream-of-consciousness humor in many of the same ways he did with Richter and company. The only difference this time is that his manic visuals are sometimes stretched over longer periods, like when Lem discovers the company's money-saving motion-activated lighting system doesn't detect black people. As Veronica tries to fix the situation without actually fixing it, the joke becomes increasingly funnier - Veridian ends up hiring minimum-wage white people to follow around the black employees so the lights go on and the elevators work, which Ted dubs "Operation White Shadow." As Lem - who doesn't like confrontation - works with fellow geek Phil to remedy the issue, he finds resistance from the other black employees. "We all got free white guys!" they say, as the temps get them coffee, etc.

A Review from the SF Gate

TV review: 'Better Off Ted' is best on ABC

There is a lot of good news to go around now that the critically acclaimed workplace sitcom "Better Off Ted" returns to ABC on Tuesday.

It means that last year's best new comedy is back on the air - adding to a minor embarrassment of comedic riches at ABC, which also has this season's best new comedy in "Modern Family."

It means you can watch the entire first season at through Wednesday in order to catch up on what you missed out on last season (based on the low ratings for "Better Off Ted," pretty much everybody missed out). Or you can buy the DVD, which is also available.

It means there's finally something good (and funny) on Tuesday nights.

And, last, it means that ABC gets a do-over.

The network needs to cash that chip because after toiling to make a smart, funny, fearless sitcom for ages - and failing - it finally had something in "Better Off Ted," which premiered in late March at the tail end of the TV season and promptly got lost, despite the critical praise. Even though ABC stepped up and renewed the series - a smart move - it followed with a bit of counterintuitive mystery-making in the decision department. After airing six straight episodes and a seventh two weeks later (good consistency by network standards), ABC pulled the series off the air and then, with almost no fanfare, began airing original episodes in the summer.

So a show struggling for attention was essentially dumped in the desert - and suffered predictably steep ratings declines. Why? Other than "Aren't you guys always complaining about no original programming in the summer?," there has been no good answer.

Consider Tuesday a reason to forgive the network. It would be helpful if ABC ran some kind of handy recap of the characters beforehand, but barring that, you'd do yourself a favor by watching some Season 1 episodes on Hulu before Tuesday.

"Better Off Ted" takes place at the fictional Veridian Dynamics, a soulless conglomerate that will make anything that will make a profit (regardless of how toxic or who gets hurt in the making or using of said product). The series is narrated through Ted (Jay Harrington), head of research and development. His boss is Veronica (Portia de Rossi), who "doesn't let silly things like feelings or the lives of innocents stand in the way of success." She's the perfect Veridian upper-management type - cold, ruthless and often forgetting the names of her employees, whom she hates to mingle with.

There's also Linda (Andrea Anders) a "product assurance" tester who is troubled by working for an unscrupulous company and thus complains constantly. Plus two nerdy scientists: Lem (Malcolm Barrett) and Phil (Jonathan Slavin), who are routinely abused but find comfort in their shared dysfunction.

This is a series (with no laugh track) that likes its comedy delivered quickly and with the utmost archness, which might take some getting used to for new viewers. Once you get the comedic patois, the laughs follow (and knowing the characters, who were fleshed out better in Season 1), also helps. But it's great news that series creator Victor Fresco (who also dreamt up the brilliant "Andy Richter Controls the Universe") gets a second chance from ABC. The revamped "Scrubs" doesn't provide the best lead-in, but at least now ABC has found sitcom success with other series and finally seems to know what it's doing.

It's so un-Veridian - a company getting it right.

To watch some clips from Better Off Ted go to

For Tim's TV Showcase go to

For a Website dedicated to Portia de Rossi go to

To hear from Better Off Ted Creator Victor Fresco on Why His Cult-Favorite Show Likely Got Canceled go to

For some Reviews of Better Off Ted go to

To listen to the theme song of Better Off Ted go to

Better Off Ted Cast (Links Updated 8/6/18) (2024)
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