I’ve only ever had one “office romance,” unless you count the two times I’ve worked alongside women I was already dating (which I don’t), so I can speak from experience when I say that these kinds of dalliances tend to happen more out of boredom and convenience than any real passion. When I was waiting tables in my first year after college, I hooked up with a very nice young lady with whom I had nothing in common other than that we were both unattached and we didn’t find each other repugnant. When she moved away at the end of the summer, I sent her a valedictory “thanks for the memories” note and she sent me back a surprisingly pissy response. Apparently, even though we hadn’t spoken in weeks and hadn’t had anything approaching a romantic moment in the days before she left, she hadn’t realized that her leaving meant we were broken up. And I hadn’t realized that anyone would expect an idle workplace fling to convert into a long-term long-distance relationship.
Tonight’s Season Two premiere of Better Off Ted is all about the cynicism behind office romances and how they can be undone by divergent expectations, so even though it wasn’t one of the best BoTs, I found “Love Blurts” pretty relatable beyond the usual rapid-fire one-liners. (And I liked the rapid-fire one-liners too.) The action commences when Veridian Dynamics announces a new initiative to pair off genetically compatible employees so that they’ll produce offspring who aren’t a drag on the company’s health care plan. Cheap, durable children. Or as Veridian titles the program: “Wheee!… Love Is In The Air!” (a name that would have more impact if it weren’t coming in the wake of “Wheee!… Pension Rollbacks!”).
In typical BoT fashion, the plan affects each character, uniquely and in turn. (Though in atypical BoT fashion, the mate-matching storyline takes up the whole half-hour, aside from a minimal subplot about Lem’s “edible moss” experiment.) Phil is annoyed because Veridian hasn’t tried to find him a suitable partner, rejecting him not because he’s married—and thus returns home every night to a “cold, not-empty bed”—but because his sperm is unsuitable. Veridian won’t release Phil’s medical records (though they do offer him a complimentary windbreaker), so he’s forced to research the matter on his own, which leads him to discover that his family has a long history of being shunned, despised, and even hunted for sport.
Lem, meanwhile, has been matched up with Veronica, who has no desire to actually copulate with him but would like him to put his sperm on ice for her future use. It turns out that Lem’s the son of a scientist mother and a supermodel father, which makes his semen just about the awesomest semen in the entire history of goo. And lately, Veronica’s been feeling some maternal pangs—that is when she doesn’t have the urge to “rip out the whole works and sail around the world.” In the end though, Veronica has to ease off Lem since his panic over sperm-donation is causing him to botch the moss project. And Veronica has to intercede on behalf of Phil and get her hands on his medical records, so he can learn that he’s been rejected from the program for being too virile. Scientists placated. Boss normalized. Just another day at Veridian.
Which leaves the two semi-romantic-leads of the show to work through their business. While Ted’s not entirely convinced that Veridian’s genetic-matching plan isn’t a scheme to breed “someone tall enough to change that lightbulb in the lobby,” he changes his tune when he meets his “perfect mate,” Danielle (played by Virginia Williams), who like Ted enjoys chili dogs and Caddyshack. Their first date goes so well that after they have sex, Ted reflexively, says “I love you,” before hurriedly modifying that to “I love Utah.” (As Veronica later notes, this is why “you should always limit what you say during sex to moaning and helpful tips.”) The slip of the tongue leads to Ted pretending to be a member of an Indian tribe, a lie that he can’t correct in time to avoid driving Danielle away.
As for Linda, she resents being asked to breed like a golden retriever—“We’re all going to have weak hips and kennel cough”—and she believes that the whole reason we drove out the British in the 1700s was so we’d have the right to boff, and not to shag, whomever we choose. But then she meets her match, Greg, a dreamy sensitive soul played by Taye Diggs. The two seem bound for a happy life together, until she learns that when Greg gets frustrated with Veridian, he doesn’t steal creamer as she does, but instead puts on a bear costume and hangs out in the park, being bear-y. So she drops him. Office worker relationships normalized. Just another day at Veridian.
As previously noted, this wasn’t exactly a crackerjack start to the second season, though it was plenty funny in my book, and even contained some kernels of truth. The abiding weakness in Better Off Ted is that each week it sends its characters scrambling just to bring them right back home, and unless that scrambling reveals something about the characters (or about corporate culture), the stakes of the plot can seem far too low. But in this particular episode, I felt like the “nothing changes” nature of Ted worked in favor of what “Love Blurts” is about. It’s because “nothing changes” at work itself that we screw around—figuratively and literally. We work long, soul-crushing days as part of a long, soul-crushing life. No wonder we look for any opportunity not to be so “alonely.”
-Lem makes his edible moss too aggressive. It’s supposed to feed astronauts, not feed on astronauts.
- Genetic engineering is so romantic. That’s why it’s so often a prom theme.
-What’s the deal with airline food? Why don’t they serve it any more?
-“That’s why it wasn’t called Romeo and Juliet and Lem and Phil.”
- Veridian employee medical records may be released to the RNC.
-Technically, Mr. Cyncial can’t be happy. It’s his power and his curse.
-“He must never know about AquaTed.”
-Lem once abandoned his sperm at a bus stop.
-Balls-out crazy is Veronica’s favorite kind of crazy.
- Veronica, being mock-encouraging: “Maybe yours will be the one Indian story that ends happily.”
-According to the ABC site, “Love Blurts” is the actually sixth episode written and shot for this season. I hate when they do that.
-I viewed an online screener for this episode and I’ll have another one next week. After that, I can’t promise such timeliness.