Not to have a Bones-heavy week, but it says something slightly depressing to me about how Fox sees Bones that the guy they’ve cast to anchor a spin-off of the show is not another great nerd, functional adult nerd but…the hot guy from Wedding Crashers. And the hot-but-dumb Ultimate Hetero Boyfriend in D.E.B.S.:
And She’s Out of My League:
And I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell:
This is not promising. The reason David Boreanaz’s character works is that secretly, his character’s kind of a dork, what with the “Cocky” belt buckle, and the matching socks. He’s a dude-bro who actually values being part of a nerd co-fraternity more than he values his dude-bro cred. Unless Stults has more than his glint and his chin, the spin-off could be disastrous, and worse, entirely ordinary.
My sister and I were hanging out this weekend, and she suggested that we check out Better Off Ted. I’d always the show sort of moderately on the list, but when it was cancelled, I dropped it down in the order on the grounds that I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to about it. And what a mistake. It’s the show NBC should have been developing and building an audience for so that when Steve Carrell left The Office, they’d have an amazing corporate comedy to take its place.
Where The Office is a heightened version of reality, Better Off Ted is a muted surreality, much in the vein of 30 Rock. These are the ads that Jack Donaghy’s GE would make:
And Portia di Rossi is a straight-up deadpan genius. Jay Harrington’s Ted goes to talk to di Rossi’s Veronica about a personnel issue. “We’ve created a monster!” He declares. “It’s not a monster,” she tells him, referring to another project. “It’s a cyborg that can kill without remorse.” The jokes are conceptual and funny, and very sharp, as in the fourth episode, “Racial Sensitivity,” where it turns out the company’s automated systems, ranging from the lights to automatic doors, can’t recognize black employees. The company’s response? Hiring white people to follow the black employees around, and hiring black people to follow those white people until Ted and two of his employees prove that within two years everyone on earth will work for the company.
It also helps that the gender dynamic is reversed: Veronica is the hard-charging boss, and Ted is her subordinate. And as a result, there’s no suggestion that Ted is pathetic and in need of help. Because he’s a guy in a position of power whose character isn’t meant to be inherently ridiculous, he can’t be freakish, and no one implies that he’s ugly or incompetent when he’s clearly not. They’re equally awesome, it’s just that Veronica is just off enough to start using Ted’s daughter Rose to start firing company employees on the grounds that she’s too adorable to resist.
It’s of a piece with NBC’s brand, and I wonder if, with an appropriate lead-in, it might have done better than the 3.82 million viewers it pulled at the beginning of the second season. As viewers increasingly have options that don’t require them to spend nights before the television, it’s going to be increasingly important for networks to develop consistent brands and consistent nights. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more show-swapping among networks. I wish that had happened for Better Off Ted.
I got all excited at the beginning of Nicki Minaj’s “Moment 4 Life” video when I read through the fairy-tale embossed text and saw that Nicki’d labeled herself a king, rather than a queen or princess, when I saw her acting as her own goofy fairy god-mother:
Then, of course, she had to go bring Drake into it. I’m on record as finding the guy dull, but I found it particularly depressing to see Nicki dancing awkwardly in the background of his verse, and then retreating into her white dress. I suppose I get Drake as a dull Prince Charming—he looks fine, even if he isn’t as technically talented a rapper as Nicki is. It just made me a little sad to see a video that started out as the story of a coronation come down to a story about a wedding. I think I might have actually found the whole thing less disheartening if it had been presented from the beginning as a very straight fairy tale rather as a fractured one. If the expectations are just pretty girl, white dress, I can enjoy the prettiness of both and leave wanting something more for a larger conversation. But promise me something more, and I’m going to be disappointed when all anyone does is live happily ever after.
Alyssa Rosenberg is the Features Editor for ThinkProgress.org. She is a columnist for the XX Factor at Slate, and a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com Alyssa grew up in Massachusetts and holds a B.A. in humanities from Yale University. Before joining ThinkProgress, she was editor of Washingtonian.com and a staff correspondent at Government Executive. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Daily Beast,The New Republic, Esquire.com, The Daily, The American Prospect, and National Journal. Read more.