Better Off Ted: Season One

Better Off Ted: Season One
Better Off Ted, a single-camera sitcom set in the mushy middle tier of American corporate life, is a brilliantly funny joke factory in the vein of 30 Rock, where realism, sense and even occasionally character truth are all sacrificed on the altar of the punch line. Or, in the case of some of the show's more elaborate set-ups, the pile-up of corporate shenanigans, individual powerlessness and absurd situations create a cascade of funny that runs throughout an episode. Case in point: "Racial Sensitivity," in which Veridian Dynamics installs motion sensors that can't detect the company's black employees. The so wrong premise soon gives way to absurd images like a phalanx of outraged African Americans trapped in an elevator that won't budge, because the sensors don't see them, to the company saving face over its blunder by hiring white folks to simply follow black employees around, activating doors and water fountains for them. As straight man Ted, Jay Harrington narrates and keeps his level, middle-management head while his hilariously uptight boss (Arrested Development's Portia de Rossi) downsizes, berates and coldly exploits those around her, and Ted's crush, the lovely Andrea Anders (who survived horrible Friends spin-off Joey), squirms under the corporate thumb by stealing coffee creamers and committing other small acts of independence. Episodes are peppered with hilariously deadpan corporate ads for Veridian Dynamics that are indistinguishable from, say, a Viagra ad, and it's this balance of truth and utter insanity that Better Off Ted walks almost always successfully. It's also the kind of thing that works great for Veridian's real-life corporate cousins in the land of television, which is why this sort of thing gets made occasionally. Unfortunately, they rarely have the courage of their convictions (much like their fictional counterpoints, researchers Lem and Phil), which is why it's a surprise that Better Off Ted got renewed for a second season, now airing. The chances of a third are nearly nil, so enjoy this rare burst of corporate/comedic synergy while it lasts. Alas, there's not a single extra on this two-disc, 13-episode set. (Fox)