Noel is on the road this evening, which gives me a golden opportunity to explore my love for Better Off Ted with you. It took me several episodes to get into the groove of this show. If it had been canceled after two outings, I wouldn't have mourned. But now I think it's among the most sharply written and snappily performed comedies on television. And as you might know, I'm a big fan of the sharply written and snappily performed televised comedy.
Tonight's episode is a good example of what makes the series special. Even though it's not water-cooler material, it's packed with great dialogue and solid pacing. Veridian Dynamics is in trouble because one of their perfume products has been shown to attract hornets in full mating frenzy for some women who wear it. Veronica ascertains that everyone can convincingly claim that they didn't know about this "feature" of the scent, and the depositions are going great until Linda says under oath that she not only knew about it, but sent Ted an e-mail with the details.
Ted denies receiving the e-mail, but Linda doesn't believe him. She remembers sending it because it was her first day and she was overawed with Ted and still uncertain about what laugh she was going to use. Ted remembers that day because he had sex with Veronica on his desk immediately after the conversation — but he's not about to tell Linda that.
Meanwhile the pressure of being under oath causes Phil to reveal his own deep dark secret: he didn't really go to MIT, as his resume claims, but to the University of Aruba — where knowledge is king and clothing is optional, and where he played rugby with the Syphilitic Conquistadors. Lem feels betrayed by all the MIT-centric closeness they've shared over the years.
"Trust and Consequence" may not do much to advance the Ted/Linda dynamic — and I know many viewers could care less about the love interest, but I tend to like those ongoing relationship touches in a sitcom — but it has all the leads clicking along with that inimitable BoT rhythm. I think the secret to the show's comedic feel is that it goes ahead and makes the clever jokes you are forming in your head when you watch it, then keeps going one or two more steps beyond where you stopped. After Ted assures Linda that he's going to stop the project that will destroy all Australian aborigines' sense of smell because that's too high a price to pay for fabric softener, Linda responds, "If those aborigines were here, they'd smell a good man." When the attractive blonde lawyer feels out Ted's relationship status during the deposition by asking if he has a wife or girlfriend, her male colleague writes something down and calls her attention to it. "Boyfriend?" she inquires, and Ted's negative gets a positive reaction from the male lawyer. Later when Linda reveals what she believes to be Ted's complicity in the perfume debacle, he speaks up in horror: "Our Ted?!"
But maybe the most classic BoT moment comes in the third flashback. Flashback #1: Linda's first day (her perspective). Flashback #2: Ted's quickie with Veronica (his perspective). Now they've got us thinking that the flashbacks are pretty trustworthy. Flashback #3: Phil's first day, captioned "so long ago." Everyone has hippie hair and psychedelic music is playing. So long ago indeed, we're thinking. Then Lem says, "It's too bad your first day had to be in Sixties Week."
Trust. That's how they get you.
- Ted sounds like a commercial in his first voiceover. "At Veridian Dynamics …"
- "Is it that number the accounting deparment invented for tax purposes? Then on a scale of one to zerplex, how bad is it?"
- This episodes is the battle of the steely blondes: Veronica vs. that lawyer. Linda's not a steely blonde by any stretch of the imagination, even less so after she gives Veronica her hairstyle.
- Possible explanations floated by the legal department for the hornet attacks: Their pockets were stuffed with Hornet Chow; bee hive hairdos?; ladies had it coming.
- "Should have guessed I'd run into another MIT grad out here in the world of science."
- "Why should I be the scapegoat? I'm the only person who did the right thing!" "You know what we call that? Irony."
- Veridian weaponized pumpkins. But the scapegoat did drugs with a mouse. With a mouse, people! Now that's rock bottom.
- "And I don't mean an ideal compromiser, one whom all the other compromisers look up to."