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'Better Off Ted' review: 'baby ingredients,' bear costumes, and vanishing pensions

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So Better Off Ted returned last night in all its daffy glory. The episode’s premise — that Veridian Dynamics wanted to test its genetic engineering techniques via compatible dating matchmaking — was at once typically outlandish and rich in possibilities. We got Portia de Rossi’s Veronica requesting genetic material from Malcolm Barrett’s Lem (well, his term for it was “my baby ingredients”). We got Ted making up words in another language to cover the fact that he said “I love you” to a woman he’d barely met. And we got Linda (glowing Andrea Anders) sharing this awkward moment over dinner with a nice but peculiar fellow played by a very sporting Taye Diggs:

“I put on a totally realistic bear costume and hang out at the park”: It still makes me laugh.

The subtext of Ted is as humane as its humor is briskly efficient: Corporations are not merely soulless, but are active meddlers in people’s lives, and not in a benevolent way. This week’s furrowed-brow discussions of “rolled-back pensions” may have been raised to construct a joke or two, but the half-hour took note of the real economy. So does next week’s episode about company downsizing. Not many shows as assiduously flighty as Better Off Ted can get away with such pointed critiques.

Of course, Ted is waging a battle for its own downsizing… unto cancellation. The series is already fighting for its life, wedged as it is between two shows that aren’t doing well in the ratings (Scrubs; The Forgotten). In the overnight ratings, Ted placed a dismaying fourth, aligning with Scrubs’ fourth-place finish.

I have a sinking feeling ABC is just going to let these episodes burn brightly and then snuff it out. But while Ted still thrives creatively, let’s just enjoy it, shall we?

Did you watch?

UPDATE: I’d like to chime in with some of the astute commenters below and petition ABC to move Ted to Wednesday night as part of its two-hour comedy bloc. This show should be rubbing shoulders with the terrific Modern Family!

(You can follow me on Twitter.)

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