Friday, January 18, 2013

Day Eighteen - Better Off Ted: Pilot, or "Only the good die young."

Every once in a while, a show that I actually really, truly enjoy manages to sneak through the pilot season and make it on the air.

Examples of this would be: Pushing Daisies, Community, and... of course... Better Off Ted.

There was just something about the casual irreverence of BOT that really appealed to me. Even though it followed quite a few standard sitcom tropes, the way it broke the fourth wall, mocked both corporate culture and political correctness, and still managed to be both pessimistic and optimistic depending on which moment it was felt, well, brilliant (a good example of a show that did the same would be Scrubs).

I particularly enjoyed all of the commercials for Veridian Dynamics, the show's omnipresent multinational corporation. Clean, soothing, yet unsettling all at once, they managed to be steeped in an irony that was both depressing and amusing.

It's that duality that brought BOT all of it's charm.

You can see I'm using past tense a lot in this post. That's mainly due to the fact that, sadly, Better Off Ted didn't make it past its second season. For that, I mourn, but acknowledge that even if the ratings had been better, they really didn't have anywhere to go.

Unlike Pushing Daisies, which still had plenty of personal mystery and drama to keep it going for quite some time, and Community, which is less about the characters and more about deconstruction of story and genre using said characters and is sustainable so long as there are tropes to explore, BOT became stuck in its self-made relationship drama. The constant need to will-they/won't-they with the series' natural couple was unsustainable.

But... that has nothing to do with the pilot which, upon watching it again years later, still rings true.

The corporation is a monster, but it's just run by people. Regular people. Well, most of them are regular people. Alright, some of them are regular people. The rest are crazy. Otherwise, why would they (as a collective) even consider freezing a man alive? Especially one of their most valued researchers?

It's funny. It's ridiculous. It's just so over the top that you think it's impossible, even as that little voice in the back of your head tries to tell you that "yes, giant corporations would probably do just that."

It's both a cautionary tale of corporate culture unchecked and a beacon of hope that in said giant, grotesque monster we call a corporation, there are still kind and generous people who are keeping it in check.

We hope.

Still, I love Portia de Rossi in this episode (and the series, at large). I much prefer her take on this character to her Arrested Development persona (blasphemy, I know). She, along with Slavin and Barrett (who play Phil and Lem), do a great job creating the chaos that contrasts the mating dance of Jay Harrington and Andrea Anders' characters.

Fun stuff that is well worth the watch, even at only two seasons.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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