Most of the original scripted programming ABC is putting on the air this summer consists of shows that have already been canceled and are burning off their remaining episodes. There is one notable exception, however: “Better Off Ted.”
The critically hailed comedy returns to ABC’s schedule Tuesday (June 23) with the first of six new episodes — and it will also be back for a second season in late fall. (ABC will also mix in some repeats to give the series a presence on the air for most of the summer.
Tuesday’s episode weighs the idea of whether a boss can also be a friend when Veronica (Portia de Rossi) starts sharing way too much about her personal live with Linda (Andrea Anders) and Ted (Jay Harrington) horns in on Phil (Jonathan Slavin) and Lem’s (Malcolm Barrett) Medieval Fight Club. Take a look:
Fortunately, the first rule of Medieval Fight Club is not “Don’t talk about Medieval Fight Club,” so Harrington was able to discuss it and lots of other things in a phone interview last week.
Zap2it: What sorts of things will we be seeing in the six new episodes?
Harrington: We get a chance to see a little bit of Portia’s dual life. We develop a technology that scans photos — instead of finding text like Google does, it’s more of facial recognition. So anything that’s been on the Internet forever comes up. We use her as an example in the meeting and we find a peculiar position, sort of a moonlighting gig that she’s been doing. [Laughs] It’s not as nefarious as it sounds. It’s more of a relationship she may or may not have had with a magician. So we get to see a different side of Portia’s character, which is nice.
Zap2it: Are there any particularly strong moments that stick out in your mind?
Harrington: I haven’t seen them. … I’m just really looking forward to the stuff that Portia did, because it gave us an opportunity to interact as Ted and Veronica outside the office, and we see her vulnerability a little bit. I think that will play really funny. I think I’m looking forward to that the most.
Zap2it: I know some of the episodes have aired out of order, so will we get a proper finale?
Harrington: I think they are going a little out of order, but the 12th episode [that airs] will be the true 12th. … The nature of the show, though, for those who haven’t watched yet, they won’t feel like they missed something and they can’t tune in. They can be out of order, because the storylines don’t necessarily stream from week to week.
Zap2it: Watching the Medieval Fight Club episode made me wonder — is there anything Ted isn’t good at? Marriage, maybe?
Harrington: Yeah, I think that. I think Ted has a lot of ideals, and unfortunately the world he’s been presented doesn’t always mesh with his intentions. We’ve talked [on the show] about his ex-wife who left to go save the world. I think there was a lot of Ted that was probably like that as well. Now he’s found himself in a very conservative corporate world as opposed to what are probably his real ideals and values. And he’s certainly not good at new love either — look at him with Linda.
Zap2it: As often as not you’re sort of the straight man. Does the structure of the show sort of require that of you?
Harrington: I think so. If everyone was cuckoo, I don’t know — that’s not the kind of comedy I really respond to. I like having there be a foil to the madness that goes on. Without it, I think it would just be a lot of weird things happening. So if there is someone who’s centered in reality, I think all that does is help.
Zap2it: The show seemed to find a good rhythm pretty quickly. Is that something that just happens, or did you work to establish it?
Harrington: I think it just happened the way it’s written. There was something [that] when I first read it, I didn’t quite even understand it, because I was so accustomed to reading pilots that were multi-camera. But they all fall into a niche, and this one immediately [established] that it’s a fast-moving world. When we saw the first cut of it as a group, we were all so pleasantly surprised with the tone — from the music to the editing to the camera style. … And we really trusted in [creator] Victor [Fresco] and his brother Michael, who directed the pilot and a bunch of other episodes just to go with it.
Zap2it: Is everyone pretty good at keeping a straight face?
Harrington: Yes, we all are, except for Andrea Anders. She’s the guilty party, she’d be the first to tell you.
Zap2it: Do you know anything about season two yet?
Harrington: I really don’t. I went by the offices and met a couple of new writers. I don’t know what they have in store.
Zap2it: Could you ever see Ted getting so fed up by what Veridian Dynamics does that he just wants out, or is he too loyal to do that?
Harrington: I think it’s loyalty, but also the factor of raising a child on his own. To use the corporate term, “at the end of the day” he has to do right by her, and he can’t just pick up and leave. Who knows, though — we could see a competitive-type corporation come in and give me a better offer. So we’ll see.
“Better Off Ted” returns to ABC at 9:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.