Better Off Ted opens with a commercial. It’s got lots of dramatic photography of dams, satellites, and cows, and a calm, confident-sounding voiceover explaining Veridian Dynamics. It sounds like Veridian does some serious stuff, except there are some incongruous details. “Everything we make, makes your life better,” the calm woman says. And then we see a bomb destroy a building. It’s sort of a heavy-handed way to bring in the audience, but they insert these “commercials” into a lot of their later episodes. It sets the stage for a wacky, slightly disturbing comedy skewering corporate America. And that’s what you get with Better Off Ted.
We get right to the point. “I have the best job in the world,” Ted (Jay Harrington) tells the camera. He explains what he does, how long he’s been doing it, and who helps him get it done. Ted is the head of Research and Development, Veronica (Portia DiRossi) is his boss, Lem and Phil are scientists, and Linda manages product testing. We also find out early on how the company messes with its employees; they’ve placed the toilet paper in the stalls just out of reach, to encourage people to use less of it.
So we get all those back story details out of the way, and we’re on to Ted’s conflict for this episode. He has to talk Phil into being frozen for an experimental procedure.
Ted has a precocious daughter, Rose, who serves as his conscience. The kid, in effect, winds up saving Phil’s job.
Linda is somewhat new at the company, but it almost seems as if she’s never had a job before, saying things like, “All companies do stuff like this, right?” Nonetheless, she is the normal one in the office, the one easiest for the audience to connect with.
Ted and Linda kinda like each other, but Ted has had a fling with Veronica, and he has a one-time limit on intra-office boot-knocking. His scruples rear their heads at the strangest moments.
The really twisted part about this show, which comes on strong in the pilot and doesn’t let up in subsequent episodes, is the employees’ loyalty to Veridian. They know they’re being treated like pawns, yet they revel in the lab rat race. Phil goes willingly to the cryogenic chamber; Veronica is practically orgasmic at the thought of abusing people in the company’s name. The pilot leaves one wanting to sympathize with Ted and Linda, maybe even hoping for them to get together, but then they’re not exactly role models either.