Review – Ted – Season 1

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Overview

Directing Seth MacFarlane

Producing Aimee Carlson, Alana Kleiman, Erica Huggins, Jason Clark, Seth MacFarlane, Paul Corrigan, Brad Walsh, John Jacobs

Writing Seth MacFarlane, Paul Corrigan, Brad Walsh, Dana Gould, Jon Pollack, Julius Sharpe

Starring Seth MacFarlane, Max Burkholder, Alanna Ubach, Scott Grimes, Giorgia Whigham

Genre Comedy/Sitcom

Platforms Peacock

Release Date January 11, 2024

When Ted was first released in 2012, it marked the beginning of a new stage in the career of animator and comedian Seth MacFarlane. The creator of Family Guy had already made success launching new series like American Dad, but the clout he’d made as one of the most successor showrunners in Hollywood gave him the freedom to launch almost any project he wanted, including a Star Trek parody called The Orville. Now at the height of his power, MacFarlane has launched his fourth sitcom series based on the nine-year-old film that changed the direction of his career.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Limited to none
Language/Crude Humor: Extremely profane language, with the word f*** being used 392 times
Drug/Alcohol References: Frequent alcohol consumption and drug use, usually as a joke
Sexual Content: The plots of several episodes explore pornography, masturbation, bestiality, and sexual activity among high schoolers, although no nudity is shown. Two 17-year-olds almost have sex in one scene.
Spiritual Content: The characters are implicitly Catholic, but the series makes frequent religious jokes, with one episode having a subplot about Ted believing he might be Jesus because his existence is a miracle
Other Negative Content: Frequent offensive and edgy content that may be intense for audiences sensitive to sexual humor, addiction humor, or religious humor
Positive Content: Themes of family, friendship, coming of age, and overcoming family struggles

Review

Seth MacFarlane’s career has been very strange the watch. Few creatives in the television industry have developed a voice so distinct and recognizable, yet his juvenile low-brow approach to comedy has hardly changed in decades. Somehow he’s launched four successful sitcoms, three original movies, and three seasons of The Orville and is still making the same jokes he wrote for Family Guy in 1999. He constantly feels the need to retreat into absurdism, pot jokes, sex jokes, and edgy atheist humor.

Even so, few artists have had such a huge reevaluation. Family Guy has gained a second (third?) lease on life thanks to YouTube reuploads, The Orville is widely considered comparable or better than modern Star Trek, and MacFarlane’s approach to comedy has aged better than a lot of modern Hollywood. His works feel tremendously more authentic and funny than most of Hollywood’s attempts at comedy and satire.

It is in this strange status quo that MacFarlane’s newest project has dropped, that being a prequel mini-series to his Ted movies. The two Mark Wahlberg stoner movies have largely sat on the shelf for a decade with little inclination that anybody involved intended to make more of it. Yet, the series is here and it’s surprisingly funny! It was released on January 11 and has already become the most popular original series in Peacock’s history, with multiple clips from the show going viral for being surprisingly clever.

The series is set in 1993, with Ted the teddy bear having gained sentience from a wishing star and already becoming a washed-up movie star, while his owner, John, is still in high school. After Ted causes an incident at home, he’s shipped off to school where he and John cause hijinks, seek out marijuana, and go on adventures with their chaotic live-in cousin Blaire.

MacFarlane’s vision of Boston in 1993 is an artifact of his upbringing, with many of the jokes and eccentricities seemingly coming from his Irish Catholic upbringing. John’s mother is a timid saintly woman with little ability to comprehend the world, while his father is an angry, racist, working-class drunk who feels perpetually put upon by the world. His cousin is a troubled rebel with feminist leanings, and Ted plays the role of the obligatory chaotic sentient animal archetype MacFarlane uses in all of his shows.

Blaire is the show’s most well-rounded character, likely serving as Seth’s stand-in figure similar to Brian from Family Guy; playing the role of the impulsive progressive outsider who thinks she knows better than everyone around her. Actress Giorgio Whigham does an excellent job creating a character that’s worldly and empathetic at once, playing one of the best versions of this kind of character since Britta in Community. Max Burkholder also gives an excellent performance, doing his best version of a Mark Wahlberg impersonation with the thickest Boston accent humanly possible.

Ted is at its best when it’s just trying to be absurd and funny. It’s a bizarre show peddling some extremely edgy and transgressive humor, but it’s usually doing so without much purpose. It marks the first time in a while that I can remember a mainstream comedy series that’s embraced the South Park ethos of walking right up to the line and tap dancing on it just for the sake of a joke, which is a bold choice in this current year when both sides of the political aisle are extremely touchy about underaged masturbation jokes and jokes at the expense of oppressed groups.

The show does make some concessions to modern-day political issues, and unfortunately, they do largely mark the weakest parts of the series. The sixth episode, in particular, swings for the fences with a big All In The Family-style moral message about accepting gay people and overcoming prejudice, but it’s the clunkiest episode and feels hollow in comparison to the more irreverent tone of the show. MacFarlane is many things, among them being an aggressive prostilizyer, but he isn’t much of a sentimentalist. This kind of heavy-handed storytelling in a series that’s already purposely offensive comes off as awkward and bizarrely reverent for a series where a teddy bear is running around in the background smoking pot.

That style of humor is also going to be a problem for most audiences. The show’s offensive comedy pushes a lot of taboos, with consistent sex jokes and references to incest, molestation, pedophilia, masturbation, and underage sexual activity, which are particularly unwelcome topics in modern discourse. Its constant swearing and crudity alone would turn off many Christian audiences, let alone an entire episode where Ted has convinced himself he is Jesus and attempts to perform wizard spells.

Regardless, I did find Ted to be a mostly charming and funny show, despite my best efforts. My horrible sense of humor was on the right wavelength for this show’s best moments, which had me consistently cackling at their absurdity. Some moments are cringeworthy and uncomfortable, but it was a show that felt like it was swinging for the fences and occasionally hitting it out of the park.

In parts, the show feels like MacFarlane’s returning to the safety of the sitcom formula he used to launch Family Guy, American Dad, and Cleveland Show, but it works here. Ted being realized as a prequel to the Ted movies works in the style of one of MacFarlane’s sitcoms, with baffoonish parents and a talking animal sidekick. Ted is a live-action Family Guy, with jazzy cutaway shots and a similar flight-of-fancy approach to storytelling. That style of humor works well at a time when the cultural consensus on Family Guy has returned to being overwhelmingly positive.

The Bottom Line

 

Ted is deliberately offensive, gross, and edgy but it is also one of the funniest shows on streaming, even if its style of humor is understandably not for everyone.

 

8.2

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Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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