Ted Deserves A Cuter Vehicle Than ‘Ted’

Boston’s public image takes another L in Peacock’s new prequel series
Ted Deserves A Cuter Vehicle Than ‘Ted’

Studies have proven what we all instinctively know: physical attractiveness confers a lot of advantages. If you’re easy on the eyes, you’re likely to excel in job interviewsearn more, have stronger social skills and even be more captivating to babies — who, to be fair, lack the ability to appreciate you for your sparkling personality. When looking good nets people so many benefits, it’s wrong for me to wish even more for one noteworthy TV star, or it would be if I were talking about a person. But I’m not: I’m saying that Ted, the titular teddy bear who headlines Peacock’s new comedy series Ted, is too cute for such a sour show.

Ted, as a franchise, started out as a 2012 film. After a boy named John, living a lonely life in the suburbs of Boston, wishes on a shooting star that his teddy bear could be his best friend for real, the toy comes to life as Ted, and remains best friends with John (Mark Wahlberg) well into John’s adulthood, the two goofing around aimlessly just like they did in John’s youth. Seth MacFarlane — best known as both the creator of Family Guy and the voice performer who plays its characters Peter and Stewie Griffin — made this his feature film début. He co-wrote the script (with two Family Guy producers), directed the movie and voiced Ted. A sequel followed in 2015, and while its lower grosses would seem to indicate that America was all set, Ted-wise, Peacock’s new limited series — which drops all seven episodes today — is set in 1993, eight years after John’s wish. At this point, John (Max Burkholder) is a naïve high school student just starting to investigate girls, and weed, and his old friend Ted is rarely very helpful with any of John’s pursuits.

I get that the inherent dissonance of Ted’s existence — the soul of an obnoxious, ignorant man residing in the soft, furry body of a stuffed toy — is pretty much the whole gag of this property. Even so, the Ted TV show feels engineered to cram in as many offensive jokes as possible. Yes, the Ted movie leaned heavily on edgelord material — “rape” is a go-to for punchlines, as are abortion and anal sex; one scene revolves around Ted and John’s plans to open a restaurant that will not serve Mexican patrons — but setting the show in the Boston area in 1993 means that everyone’s standards of decency are lower. (Sorry Boston, but all I really have to go on is pop culture’s unflattering portrait of you.) 

For John to make mistakes due to his lack of life experience is one thing; he’s supposed to be in his mid-teens. But one of the show’s other series regulars is Matty (Scott Grimes), John’s father, a full adult who’s just as big a bonehead, if not more so since he generally shows less potential for educability. One of the first things we hear him say is that loving Rocky proves he isn’t racist because it’s about a Black guy beating a white guy, if you consider Italians white, which he generally doesn’t. In a later episode, he’s paranoid about a scheduled colonoscopy out of fear for what he might say when he’s under anesthesia. (His niece Blaire, played by Giorgia Whigham: “Jesus, there’s things you’re not saying?!”) John’s bully Clive (Jack Seavor McDonald) reflexively makes gay jokes about him.

But ultimately, no character in the show crosses the line of good taste more than Ted does: trying to get John’s mother Susan (Alanna Ubach) to say “Polack” at the dinner table, claiming the Challenger explosion was a movie studio distraction to forestall the production of a bad movie Ted was supposed to appear in and announcing that he can make Anne Frank jokes because he and John “donate to Jew causes” are all Ted bits in the very first episode. And since I know that even reading these summaries is probably enough to warn you off the show unless you were a passionate fan of the movies, I must reiterate that Ted himself is unreasonably cute. 

He’s got a backpack!

He’s got a suit! And glasses!!!

I fear that if I try to tell anyone how cute Ted (the bear) is, anyone who knows anything about the show will think I mean Ted (the show) and assume that means I’m a bigot, when in actuality…

…I’m just powerless to resist a teddy bear dressed up like an Ewok! A character this physically appealing deserves a star vehicle one can recommend unreservedly. Ted is not it.

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