Stars Seth MacFarlane, Max Burkholder, Alanna Ubach, Scott Grimes, Giorgia Whigham, Penny Johnson Jerald, Ian McKellen.
Seth MacFarlane’s 2012 film Ted introduced the world to the foul-mouthed teddy bear of the title, a CGI character voiced by MacFarlane himself.
The premise involved a child named John Bennett who is so desperate for a best friend he wishes the toy would come to life, but the film’s story centered mostly on John and Ted’s relationship as adults 30 years later. Their raunchy exploits would continue in a 2015 sequel, but its lackluster box office performance didn’t yield much hope for further adventures.
The seven-episode “Ted” series serves as a prequel to the films, taking place after the 10-minute prologue of the first film that shows Ted coming to life and achieving a bit of instant fame due to being a magical living teddy bear.
Set in 1993, the show features MacFarlane reprising his role as the voice of Ted, with Max Burkholder as 16-year-old John, the character played as an adult by Mark Wahlberg in the films. The series depicts Ted’s life with the Bennett family following his celebrity days, as he’s forced to join John in attending high school.
The show has some fun depicting the origins of some hallmarks of the John/Ted friendship from the movies, such as their introduction to smoking weed. Ted is as foul-mouthed as ever, with the show’s setting providing plenty of fodder for 1990s pop culture references.
However, the presence of Ted is a bit of a red herring for what seems to be MacFarlane’s true intention for the series, which is to make an “All in the Family”-style family sitcom in which John’s conservative parents (who have been reinvented a bit for the show compared to their brief portrayal in the movies), constantly butt heads with John’s politically correct cousin Blaire (Giorgia Whigham). While this formula has served MacFarlane well on “Family Guy” as an equal opportunity offender, the shtick starts to wear thin on “Ted” when the jokes mostly involve John’s blowhard caricature of a father (Scott Grimes) earning sincerely indignant responses from Blaire at every turn, as if in MacFarlane’s world the progressive college student must be correct by default despite the lack of life experience. At least on “Family Guy” all sides would get their comeuppance once in a while.
The other big drawback to the show is that the episodes are unusually long for a comedy series. Rather than the typical 20-30 minute sitcom episode length, most episodes of “Ted” are about twice that, and more is not often merrier. The cinematic pacing doesn’t make for a very tight comedic experience, and some gags take so long to pay off it’s easy to forget you’re still watching the same episode in which they were set up earlier.
Still, the show is quite effective when it manages to focus on the strengths of its premise — Ted’s hilarious conversations with John about random observations and pop culture appreciation — and should satisfy anyone who enjoys MacFarlane’s brand of humor. Some of the best moments involve the real-world and religious implications of Ted being alive to begin with, leading to the show’s best moment conceptually when John’s dad decides to make a little wish of his own.