Better Off Ted's Jay Harrington On Finding An Audience


If you're going to commit to watching one new television series in 2010, make it Better Off Ted, ABC's critically beloved yet under-appreciated workplace comedy that has been flying under the radar since its premiere last year. The series stars Jay Harrington as the head of research at a heartless technology company, who battles his emotionally devoid boss (played magnificently by Portia de Rossi) while juggling single fatherhood and an interoffice flirtation. ABC recently announced plans to burn through the rest of Ted's second season in January by airing four episodes in two weeks, but fans and critics hold out hope that the deserving series will finally find its audience.

Last week, Movieline caught up with Harrington just before he returned to Boston for the holidays, and discussed Better Off Ted's disappointing numbers (and fantastically loyal fans), sexual harassment and cadaver clubs at Veridian, and Ted's shot after the Rose Bowl.

Congratulations on the second season of Better Off Ted! Hopefully more people will continue to find it.

Thanks, well what helps are people like you and we've had a tough time with that. And it's far from me to discuss the intricacies of viewership but you know, we're not getting the best numbers right now. The quality is there, that's the thing.

For people that have not seen Better Off Ted yet, how would you describe it? It seems like a difficult comedy to pitch to someone.

Well, you know, it's a workplace comedy at its core, without the mockumentary style of The Office. It's not that but it's also not a sitcom. So somewhere in between that. My character talks to the camera so it's more of the style of Frankie Muniz in Malcolm in the Middle. Coming off the strike of last year, I got to meet [creator] Victor [Fresco] and then come in the next day and read for him, hoping that I had done the right job for him. I really felt when I read it that it was something that I had never seen before and then I thought that I hoped people would get it or respond to it and certainly, I have got to say, no matter what happens to the show or what has happened up to this point, the people that do watch it really respond positively to it, which is a big relief because talking to the camera is something that you're either going to like or hate.


There also seem to be threads of Arrested Development's humor in Better Off Ted with the writing, and of course because Portia de Rossi also stars in this.

Right, well I've got to say that a percentage of that is because of Portia but also because of the sharpness of the humor I think. You have to pay attention when you watch both shows. You can't just come in halfway. The show is not just set-up, set-up, joke. There is a long form to it and you have to be invested in the characters. That's the key to any good comedy. The characters are so clearly defined that there is never a cheap joke. And I think that is also the parallel between those two shows.

And like Arrested Development, Better Off Ted has such a solid ensemble cast. Everyone has great chemistry, especially your character and Linda, played by Andrea Anders. I imagine you both read together but did you have any say in casting her?

No, in fact she was cast before I was. Both Portia and Andrea were cast before me but I remember reading for the role and two weeks later, reading that Portia had been cast in the role of Veronica, which I had totally pictured when I read it the first time. And Andrea I was familiar with from watching The Class and Joey, so I thought she was perfect. And that's when I got aggressive, asking, "Hey, where did that Ted" -- well actually it was still The Untitled Victor Fresco Project -- "What happened to that Victor Fresco Project?" And when I talked to Victor later, he said that I was one of the first people he had met for the role and he compared casting me to buying a house. It might be that the first house you see is the one you want but that doesn't mean you're not going to go look at a bunch of other houses. [Laughs]

Victor has been saying that "Ted and Linda make progress with their relationship" this season. Does that mean that they finally will get together?

Well this season, we've both kind of dropped our -- our timing is not quite right so we are both bating but the feelings are there. What's nice is that at the end of this season we come together, both realizing that they like each other and they miss each other.

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