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 signs 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 go-getter 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 that occasionally turn the series into stealth sci-fi); 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.
This show provides examples of:
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.
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.
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.
Also Phil himself, as after he's been cryogenically frozen he for a time makes strange screaming noises at random times.
The Cast Showoff: Portia de Rossi's real-life singing skills are spotlighted for laughs when a recording of Veronica performing "Never Gonna Give You Up" is played in an elevator, and later in a more straightforward manner when she duets with Ted on "I Got You Babe". Malcolm Barrett, who is also a rapper, gets one of his songs played in an episode, too.
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, and even becomes a mentor to Linda, which is addressed in several subplots.
The Dividual (Syndividual variant): Phil and Lem. Oh so much.
Dumb Blonde: Generally, Veronica falls more into Cloud Cuckoo Lander territory, but the trope is lightly invoked (if not lampshaded altogether) whenever she (literally) lets her hair down.
Linda whenever science is involved.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The pilot episode seems like it was supposed to have a laugh track, as a lot of conversations are full of empty pauses.
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.
Eureka Moment: Ted's antacid addiction keys Phil in to the problem with the biocomputer in "Bioshuffle".
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. She's intimidating enough that the victim doesn't question her.
Fanservice: The aforementioned scene with Linda dressing up as Xena, and also Veronica's stint as a magician's assistant. And Ted's 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).
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."
Phil: "Usually, I hold perfectly still until she goes away."
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). On the other hand, she doesn't like it when people take her toys (and her employees count) and losing them makes her look weak, so many examples are debatable. Saving Ted's job, definitely isn't though.
Hollywood Silencer: Veronica keeps a silenced pistol in her office for stress relief (shooting the furniture) that when fired makes a light *Thwip* sound. It is implied that she does this frequently without anyone noticing.
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.
Ignored Aesop: Phil helps Linda think of an ending for a children's story she's writing about a lemur who feels stuck in his tree. He suggests that the lemur should learn to take pleasure in the friendships he has where he is rather than dreaming of bigger things elsewhere. Linda thinks that's the perfect ending... and her book will sell millions and she can finally get out of Veridian!
I Know You Know I Know: Veronica has a conversation like this with her father, who controls a rival company. He comments that "conversations like this are why your mother left us."
I Want My Jetpack: Phil and Lem reflect that the jetpack is "the greatest dream of all scientists".
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.
Inverted: "I declare Ted the victor... and Victor, the loser."
Meaningless Meaningful Words: Ted and Veronica's non-presentation for a non-existent product involves flashing a lot of these up on a screen while they utter equally-meaningless platitudes to the audience. Also, fireworks.
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).
"Mister Sandman" Sequence: Subverted when the flashback to Phil's first day on the job turns out to take place not in the sixties, but during the company's Sixties Week.
Morality Pet: Rose is Ted's pet, while Ted himself serves as a pet for the orders-of-magnitude more immoral Veronica.
My Eyes Are Up Here: When Linda and Ted are forced to share an office, she catches him staring at her bottom on more than one occasion.
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 Implements: Several are mentioned, usually in relation to something Phil and Lem shouldn't have done.
Noodle Incident: Veridian evidently turned a panda into an assassin, among many, many others mentioned in passing.
Office: The main setting, often with a fairly surreal bent.
Office Sports: Lindabagel from the episode "Lust in Translation".
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.
"I'm thinking I might need new breasts. These are covered in sadness."
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.
Lem (the black guy) asks why he's the pepper, and then immediately turns to Phil (the white guy) and says, "Probably because I'm so spicy." Phil: "And I'm salt, because I'm salty—like a sea captain."
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.
Reset Button: The episode where Linda sells her children's book to a big publisher ends with her sabotaging the deal herself when she learns they're using her creation to sell beer to children in Asia.
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. ABC had planned to air them as filler programming if the NBA Finals ended early, but the series went the full seven games.
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.
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.
A number of critics have noted that the show's title was meaningless and didn't help the show gain awareness; the network could have had the title changed, but chose not to.
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 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.
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!"
Snowball Lie: "Jabberwocky," which starts as an attempt to hide a money transfer to Linda for a personal project and, due to nobody in the company who hears about it wanting to appear "out of the loop", is soon a Shrouded in Myth confidential super-project.
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.
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.
Ted: I gave the money to Linda to build a roof garden.
Veronica: A roof garden? Will you two just bang, already?
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 several times, one time interrupted by Veronica and one 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.
Would Hit a Girl: Veronica slaps Ted across the face. He immediately slaps her in return. Both of them are completely deadpan about the whole thing.