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Veridian Dynamics: Right and Wrong. It means something. We just don't know what.
—Veridian Dynamics commercial
Better Off Ted was a quirky, cartoonish ABC series about a man with a conscience who works for a mysterious corporation without any sign of one. The series lasted from March, 2009 to January, 2010. A total of 26 episodes in two seasons.
Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington) is the head of Research and Development for Veridian Dynamics, a company that manufactures anything and everything that could make them a profit (weaponizing pumpkins and cryogenically freezing employees is just the tip of the iceberg - no pun intended). His boss is Veronica Palmer (Portia de Rossi), a terrifyingly together executive always looking to cut costs and seem intimidating so that employees do not feel encouraged to talk to her. Although Ted and Veronica had a brief affair, neither seems to be holding a torch for the other in the first season, though in the second season their friendship deepens. On the other end of Verdian Dynamics' employee list is Linda Zwordling (Andrea Anders), a sweet, if off-beat member of Ted's team, who often provides the voice of humanity when the team gets carried away with science.
There is a definite attraction between Linda and Ted, which is hampered by his "one office affair" rule (his quota having been filled with Veronica), her returning boyfriend, and his fear of the effect his dating will have on his young daughter, Rose (Isabella Acres). Ted uses Rose as a moral compass when he must decide how immoral the mandates he receives from Veridian are (as the series progresses Veronica and Linda also bond). Actually developing the cutting edge inventions is the crack scientific team of Phil and Lem (Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett), two hilariously left-brain geniuses rarely seen without each other who provide some of the best comedy in the series.
Better Off Ted is a 30 minute Work Com with a twist (besides the insane and hilarious inventions that are produced by Veridian Dynamics); Ted often uses the camera as a confessional, breaking the fourth wall and offering commentary on the strange events constantly unfolding around him. Unlike in The Office, Ted is the only one who speaks to the camera and does it while going about his business (as opposed to The Office which takes the form of a documentary). Most (but not all) episodes also feature a faux commercial from Veridian Dynamics reflecting the theme of the episode. For example: "Man and Machines. Best Friends Forever (We Hope)."
In May of 2010, ABC announced it was pulling the plug on the show. The final two episodes produced for ABC were never broadcast by the network, receiving their broadcast premiere months later in Australia.
- Absent-Minded Professor: Phil and Lem. For example, they engage in a philosophical debate about hypothetical murderer babies instead of stopping a drugged co-worker from kidnapping an actual baby. A drugged co-worker... that they drugged. And were tasked with watching.
- Accidental Kidnapping:
- In "Win Some, Dose Some", Linda is inadvertently drugged and, in a misguided fit of appreciation, steals a baby so she can claim it as her own by writing her name on it.
- In another episode, Ted regales the demographic he's unpopular with with a tale of how, in his youth, he once accidentally kidnapped a random pig rather than another school's mascot.
- Acme Products: A small sampling of things made by Veridian Dynamics:
- exploding pumpkins
- solar-powered ovens
- killer androids
- weight loss toothpaste
- horribly uncomfortable office chairs
- the Octo-chicken
- fabric softener with a high chance of causing deafness
- plates that light on fire when smacked against a hard surface
- Action Girl: Linda appears in The Tag of "You Are the Boss Of Me" in full Xena: Warrior Princess regalia, complete with sword.
- Acquired Situational Narcissism: Phil, "Trailblazer of the Year"
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Played with and possibly averted. According to Ted in "The Great Repression, "I work full time and I have an eight-year-old daughter. I don't even have the energy for a onesome!"
- Ad Bumpers: In every episode of the first season and some in the second, there will be a fake ad for Veridian Dynamics before the first commercial break.
"Veridian Dynamics: Don't Cross Us. Ever. Seriously. Just Don't."
—"The Lawyer, The Lemur, and the Little Listener"
- The ads even exist in their universe as Linda mentions having seen one.
- Aerith and Bob: Lem and Phil. Even moreso with their competition Ritchie and Fuzzle.
- Altum Videtur: Apparently the company has a Pretentious Latin Motto that translates as "Money Before People" (according to Veronica "it sounds more heroic in Latin").
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: Veronica implies this about Ted a few times.
Veronica: Wow, you should have a license for that thing.
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: The entire science team is mentioned to be terribly awkward socially, but are still employed due to their incredible scientific skill.
- Black Best Friend: Although Lem is definitely Phil's best friend, and as was proved by "Racial Sensitivity" is in fact black, he is decidedly Black and Nerdy.
- Blatant Lies: Veronica frequently uses these to achieve her means.
- Came Back Wrong: Phil says the name of the trope verbatim, referencing Lem and his attempts to rebuild Cholmondeley, a scrapped spill-technician robot.
- Chick Magnet: Ted
- Cloudcuckoolander: Phil and Lem are almost always in their own universe, but sometimes save the day.
- Comedic Sociopath: While not the violent sort, Veronica's total lack of empathy for anybody else is hilarious.
- Which is why the rare occasion in which she lets her guard down (learning her father is dying; dating a colleague out of guilt) is so striking.
- The Comically Serious: Veronica so much.
- Consummate Liar: Veronica is a good enough liar that, when Phil and Lem develop a lie-detecting black box, they need to recalibrate it specifically for her.
- Cutting the Knot: Dr. Bamba's method for deactivating the security cameras. He explains in detail how advanced their technical specs are... Gilligan Cut to him knocking the camera aside with a broom handle.
- Dance Party Ending: The series closes as Phil, Lem and Linda happily dance badly in the lab, while playing the game "Bowling at Nachos", which appears to involve cheese sauce and lab equipment.
- Deadpan Snarker: Veronica is the queen of this, but Ted, Linda and even Rose get good shots in.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Veronica, while still quite chilly, has had a prior affair with the protagonist, and broke the rules to get him his job back in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips".
- She defrosts further in season 2 as she increasingly treats Ted as a confidant, discussing the appeal of having a child in one episode, expressing how much she'd miss him if he spent more time with Veridian's CEO in another, and closing one episode by singing a duet of "I Got You Babe" with a reluctant Ted. She also bonds with both Rose and Linda as the series progresses.
- The Dividual (Syndividual variant): Phil and Lem. Oh so much.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Theodore Margaret Crisp. It's pronounced "MargaRAY". It's a family name. It means "Lamb of God"...
- Epunymous Title: A play on "better off dead" with the main character, Ted.
- Also sometimes played with in other areas of the show. The above episode "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" uses the fact that 'crisp(s)' and 'chips' are both terms used to reference potato chips/crisps or similar snacks.
- An odd aversion, and probably an unintentional one: "It's My Party and I'll Life if I Want To" features lying as a plot point. "It's My Party (and I'll Cry if I Want To)" is the name of a song. One gets the distinct impression that 20th Century Fox Television is not using their best and brightest to type
- The above item might be an error as a check of episode lists for this episode does not show this error, only "It's My Party and I'll LIE if I Want To".
- Fake American: Portia de Rossi is actually Australian. Like a certain actually-British doctor most people never figure this out (it should be noted that in interviews de Rossi uses an American accent as well). Though you can still hear it in the "y" when she says "anything".
- Fake Static: Veronica uses this to end a conversation with a subordinate... in person.
- Fan Service: The aforementioned scene with Linda dressing up as Xena, and also Veronica's stint as a magician's assistant. And Ted brothers' non-brotherly love, which is "all about the sex".
- Also the episode in which Linda and Ted must share an office and he's caught staring at her butt. Also the rare occasion in which Veronica is allowed to let her hair down (literally).
- Veronica in the magician episode - big time.
- Flashback to Catchphrase: In "Trust and Consequences", we see Linda's first day at the company. Veronica notes that she likes her powerful hairdo, and asks if she can wear her hair pulled back like that. After being told she can, Veronica informs Linda that she is now the only one who can wear her hair this way.
- Gratuitous German: Subverted, kind of. The Germans appearing in one episode might not be real Germans but they do a pretty good job at faking it. As does Phil.
- This doesn't apply to the episode's female guest star, Stefanie von Pfetten who, though Canadian born, is in real life the daughter of a German baron, so her German impersonation is a cut above most.
- Green-Eyed Epiphany: Subverted in "Racial Sensitivity". Linda gets Ted to play racquetball with her new boyfriend Don in the hopes that he'll have a terrible time because he's not over her. This backfires when Ted and Don have a great time and become friends. After Veronica explains this to him, Ted pretends to hate Don to make Linda feel better.
- Henpecked Husband: Although his wife never appears in the series, Phil seems almost completely whipped by his worse half, who is so completely indifferent to him that she encourages him to cryogenically freeze himself.
Lem: "Sometimes, I don't know how you put up with that woman."
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Phil and Lem fit this trope to a T (even though Phil is described as being married).
- Even though they are opposite genders and have - in fact - slept with each other, Ted and Veronica have this type of relationship.
- High Heel Face Turn: Veronica often uses her position to undermine company efforts when they negatively impact her underlings (as she likes to call them; except for Ted the use of the word "friends" is alien to her).
- Human Popsicle: Veridian attempts to freeze Phil for a year. It only lasts a day before the machine that froze him malfunctions (thanks to clumsy workmen knocking the pod over). Phil ends up suffering the side effect of screaming uncontrollably at inopportune moments.
Ted: We didn't allegedly freeze Phil; we froze him. Like a human leftover.
- I Banged Your Mom: Lem's mom has sex with Dr. Bomba.
- I Know You Know I Know: Veronica has a conversation like this with her father, who controls a rival company.
- I Want My Jetpack: Phil and Lem reflect that the jetpack is "the greatest dream of all scientists".
- Internal Reformist: Ted tends to play this role, thanks to Rose acting as a surrogate conscience.
- Linda is also described outright as being the conscience of the office.
- Kindhearted Cat Lover: One of the four possible identities assigned by the company to its workers when decorating their cubicles to express their individuality, along with "Green Bay Packers Fan", "Space", and "Classic Cars". But inverted when the workers in the cat clique begin exhibiting gang-like behavior.
- Large Ham: While technically not a character, the Jabberwocky presentation fits like a glove.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Potentially referenced in Beating a Dead Workforce who turns into an Memetic Badass.
- Line-of-Sight Name: After rejecting "Boots" and "Sandals" to name her new pet kitten, Linda takes a move away from footwear:
Linda: Stapler! Neh... now I'm just looking at things on my desk.
- This is also how Ted came up with the name Jabberwocky.
- Logic Bomb: The plan to reboot the mainframe is to feed it data that would lead to a diagnosis that it was malfunctioning.
- Mad Scientist: Lem and Phil claim not to be, despite what their bowling shirts say. For consideration, here's this quote:
Phil: You're using science for no good... we took an oath we would try to do that less.
- However, there is a second season episode in which Lem and Phil are horrified to come to the realization that they are, indeed, mad scientists.
- Meaningful Name: Mordor The Unforgiving. "And I just hope he understands."
- Inverted: "I declare Ted the victor... and Victor, the loser."
- Mega Corp: Veridian Dynamics is a multi-national corporation that fears only governments more powerful than itself- and, at this point, there's only 3 of them left.
- Metaphorgotten: "I gotta go meet Don at the Who-Cares-What-people-Think Cafe. Where when people see something they want, they just have it. And it's the best thing they've ever had. Because that meal has been practising yoga for the last seven years. In case you missed it, by "that meal" I mean me. I'm... bad at metaphors. But I'm great at sex."
- Missing Mom: Ted's wife ran off on him and their eight-year-old daughter, Rose, to help the world, which Ted has more problems with than Rose.
- It hasn't been easy on the world either.
- Ted's mom is also never seen in the series, although a photograph of her is briefly shown (his dad, however, appears in one episode).
- Morality Pet: Rose is Ted's pet, while Ted himself serves as a pet for the orders-of-magnitude more immoral Veronica.
- Never Trust a Hair Tonic: In "Father Can You Hair Me?", Ted tests an experimental hair tonic (packaged as an aerosol) on his arm, causing massive amounts of hair to grow not only on Ted's arm, but also on his desk.
- No Fourth Wall: Ted always explains plot points directly to the viewer.
- Noodle Incident: Veridian evidently turned a panda into an assassin, among many, many others mentioned in passing.
- Noodle Implement: Several are mentioned, usually in relation to something Phil and Lem shouldn't have done.
- Office: No explanation necessary.
- Office Sports: Lindabagel from the episode "Lust in Translation".
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Is there anything Lem and Phil can't do?
- The real question is there anything they can't fail at.
- Only Sane Employee: Ted, and to a less focal extent, Linda.
- Only Sane Man: See above.
- Played with: Linda is definitely the voice of reason when it comes to product testing, but is also trying to teach a fish to talk and has a merciless pranking streak.
- Pity Sex: When Veronica was promoted to management, there was another employee with the same last name up for the same promotion, and a typo in the memo made it unclear which of them had been promoted. A few years later she meets the other employee again and finds out that his life since then had gone completely down the toilet, so she starts dating him out of guilt. She finally brings herself to dump him when Ted finds another memo proving that the promotion really was meant for her, though she even feels guilty about dumping him, so she gives him an office with a window view.
- Planning with Props: In "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," Ted and the gang form a plan to hack into Veridian's mainframe, which they illustrate with household objects and Rose's toys. And a Salt and Pepper set for Phil and Lem.
- Pretentious Latin Motto: We are told that one of these is engraved in the lobby floor, as a more attractive translation for "money before people."
- Prim and Proper Bun: Veronica is a powerful, cold hearted executive; also, when Ted takes his daughter to work, Veronica teaches her to put her hair in this kind of bun. Apparently if you're doing it right it should hurt, but that goes away after a couple of years.
- And the three or so episodes in which Veronica is shown letting her hair down also coincide with the character being allowed to, well, let her hair down.
- It turns out she stole this hairstyle from Linda on her first day, who presumably wanted to be sure to be taken professionally at her new job.
- Pun-Based Title
- The Resolution Will Not Be Televised: As a sitcom without ongoing story arcs, this trope does not strictly apply, however the final two episodes did not air on the original network, ABC, and the second of these episodes, the series finale, resolves the "will they or won't they" plot element involving Ted and Linda by having them finally start a relationship.
- The last two episodes ultimately aired in Australia and the UK.
- In the US, the Resolution ended up as a digital download, although there wasn't that much resolution (besides Ted and Linda kissing and Veronica admitting that her friendship with Ted is valuable).
- Rickroll: The elevator music in 2x06, "Beating a Dead Workforce", is a cover of this sung by Veronica. Ted even dances to it later in the episode. Lampshaded by the fact Veronica "boop-de-boops" most of the lyrics because she doesn't actually know the words beyond the chorus (which is all most people hear when they're rickrolled).
- Salt and Pepper: Phil and Lem, lampshaded in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips." When outlining who should be where in the plan with various household objects, Ted gets nervous when Phil and Lem ask which one of them is the salt and which one the pepper. Lem then proceed to sidestep the obvious racial implications by declaring that he must be pepper because "[he's] spicy." Phil decides that he's "salty, like a sea captain," and they move on from there.
- The Schlub Pub Seduction Deduction : Veronica flirts with Phil in "Get Happpy" to get him to sign a waiver promising not to sue the company.
- Screwed by the Network: Between terrible promotion and shifting time slots it's not too surprising they decided to get the trifecta and pre-empt its final two episodes.
- Possible further screwing action by the decision not to release Season 2 on DVD.
- In ABC's defence it should be noted that the network did announce plans to air the final two episode in June 2010, contingent on that year's NBA Finals not needing a 7th game. The inconsiderate basketball players went overtime, however, and the broadcast was cancelled and not rescheduled.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules: Linda could've allowed the Asian beer company to keep using her Phil inspired lemur character to sell beer to children and made a mint that would've gotten her out from under Veridan's thumb but instead she decided to have the company claim it as their intellectual property to stop the ads from running.
- Both Ted and Veronica have also followed this trope for various reasons.
- Sex Dressed
- Sex Equals Love: Averted as Ted and Veronica, who have slept together, have a seemingly less confusing relationship than Ted and Linda, who didn't even kiss until the second-to-last episode of the series. This is lampshaded in "Racial Sensitivity". Ted and Veronica, in fact, are depicted as growing closer as friends as the series progresses.
- Shout-Out: "Where's the frakking aspirin?"
- In "The Great Repression" episode a Dalek is shown in the background of a robot storage area.
- Ted refers to the sexual harassment group as a "league of extraordinarily perverted gentlemen" in this episode as well.
- In "Beating a Dead Workforce", Veronica is able to convince everyone at eulogy to get back to work with a long speech that ends with "Now let's go upstairs and get back to work, for tonight, we dine in Hell!"
- In "The Great Repression" episode a Dalek is shown in the background of a robot storage area.
- So Beautiful It's a Curse: Parodied in "Racial Sensitivity." Veronica, handling a complaint from a group of black employees, tell them that she, too, knows what it's like to deal with discrimination... and then proceeds to talk about how no one liked her in high school because she was so pretty.
Veronica: If it wasn't for the modeling contracts and the comfort of college boys, I don't know how I would have made it.
- Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: In "Get Happy," Ted finds that he is not as popular with males over 50 in the company as he is with all the other demographics. He discovers after a series of surprising and unpleasant encounters with the males over 50 in an effort to win them over that he doesn't really care.
- Spiritual Successor : To Andy Richter Controls the Universe
- Spoof Aesop: The end of "The Long and Winding High Road", where Veronica delivers the moral "if you're taking the low road, you need to coordinate".
- Sure, Let's Go with That: Ted's reaction to Medieval Fight Club:
Ted: Guys, this all seems really-
- Tastes Like Purple: The beef made without cows "tastes like despair."
- Title-Only Opening
- The Unseen: Phil's wife, the Octo-Chicken, and the ever-present "They" Veronica answers to. The show drops a few hints that nobody is really sure who "they" are.
- Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: The Octo-chicken.
- Also, Ted and Veronica are mentioned to have lost a three-legged race to "something Phil and Lem made".
- Unperson: Ted, when the IT network accidentally deletes his employee records.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Ted, whose father wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a plumber, and is unimpressed by Ted's success.
- Why Don't You Marry It?: Linda claims Ted loves the rules so much he wants to marry one and have little rule babies.
- Will They or Won't They?: Ted and Linda. They kiss at the end of the second unaired (in America) episode and both clearly, without needing to say it, have decided to finally start a relationship and not caring what anyone else thinks.
- Also, although the pilot reveals they already have, there are several charged moments during the series in which one wonders if Ted and Veronica might do it again (and they come close once, only to be interrupted by Rose).
- And, let's be fair, the bromance between Lem and Phil gets so intense that, even though the series goes out of its way to indicate they're heterosexual, this trope comes close to being applied.
- Window Love: Ted and Linda "kiss" while both wearing plexiglass-visored Hazmat suits.