Saviour of Sunday TV


The best part of making a TV spoof about the business world?

Take your pick: the sheer abundance of comic material available or the ever diminishing line between sobering reality and gallows humour.

Better Off Ted (Sundays, C4, 8pm) plays on both to maximum advantage, making it a welcome addition to an otherwise pretty bland Sunday evening menu.

This is the office tale of a morally-bankrupt research and development company, a firm that produces everything from cyborg assassins to suicidal turkeys, while at all times fobbing off public concern and shamelessly exploiting
its employees.

It’s more Thank You For Smoking than The Office and for that we should all be thankful.

Another mockumentary we did not need.

Single father Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington) is an executive at Veridian Dynamics.

Unlike his boss Veronica (Ally McBeal star Portia de Rossi), Ted actually has an ethical bone in his body.

For example, he has a self-imposed limit of one office affair, which he has already reached.

He covers for colleague Linda, who keeps stealing the canteen coffee creamer in revenge against office politics.

Ted even refused to fire lab scientist Phil in last week’s opening episode.

True, Phil had a pretty good excuse after the company cryogenically snap-froze him during a test and then prematurely thawed him by accident, leaving him with post-traumatic disorder and an overwhelming compulsion to scream.

But still, compared with Veronica he’s a latter-day Lech Walesa.

In this Sunday’s episode, Ted invents an award for Phil, thinking it might stop the scientist from suing the company over the small matter of being frozen.

He also hopes it might encourage Phil to work harder with co-scientist Lem on an exciting new product – cowless meat grown in a lab.

The previous big hope – the ExtraFun Mac’nCheese Burger – had been found to cause blindness.

“Veridian Dynamics,” runs the promo at the start of the episode.

“We’re the future of food, developing the next generation of food and food-like products.

Tomatoes the size of human babies, lemon-flavoured fish, chickens that lay 16 eggs a day.

Organic vegetables chock-full of anti-depressants.

At Veridian Dynamics we can even make radishes so spicy that people can’t eat them. But we don’t, because people can’t eat them.”

I’ll try not to spoil the upcoming episode but, suffice to say, the cowless beef grown in a lab becomes a massive success – despite at one stage tasting like “despair”, according to company taster Jerome, who was still recovering his sight after being force-fed the ExtraFun Mac’nCheese.

Phil received his Trailblazer of the Year Award for allowing himself to be frozen, only to then discover it was a set-up.

Never mind, though – he’ll always be known at Veridian as the “Below Zero Hero”.

Better Off Ted is a single-camera comedy narrated through the fourth wall by the title character, and it proved
so successful in the United States during its initial 13-episode season earlier this year that a second series is now being filmed.