Tonight, ABC launches the first good sitcom it has aired in years with the debut of "Better Off Ted" at 8:30 p.m., right behind "Scrubs" on its new night.
"Ted" is a single-camera comedy that combines the workspace confines of "The Office" with the absurdist humor of "Arrested Development," making for a very funny half hour. The show follows Ted (Jay Harrington), a middle manager at the gigantic Veridian Dynamics, which makes such useful things as weaponized pumpkins.
Ted's boss is a soulless (and I do mean soulless) ice queen named Veronica (a perfectly cast Portia de Rossi), who is quick to volunteer her employees for questionable science experiments, then fire them after adverse physical reactions kick in.
Ted longs for his attractive, if offbeat, co-worker (Andrea Anders), and he supervises two geeky scientists (Malcolm Barrett, Jonathan Slavin) who are responsible for coming up with the company's vaguely horrible projects. Ted is also a single dad to Rose (Isabella Acres), who shines in the series' second episode.
Ted is not unlike "AD's" Michael Bluth, the supposed voice of reason but slightly offbeat himself, in a sea of absurdity. The writing and humor of "Ted" is sharp and subtle, yet also includes some great sight gags.
But the real star is the scene-stealing de Rossi, who ought to get an Emmy nomination if "Ted" makes it through the season. "Ted" is a pretty good sort of show to run with "Scrubs," another comedy that often thinks outside the box, and both could find a solid home here, especially with "American Idol" switching to 9 p.m.
SHANKS RETURNS: As reported in today's edition of The Telegraph, local sports radio talk show host Bill Shanks has found a new home on WFSM-AM 1670. Shanks is old show on WIFN-FM 105.5 was cancelled in February as part of Clear Channel budget cuts. His new show will run from 3-6 p.m. weekdays and debuts Monday.
WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: "Scrubs" and "Ted" lead into new episodes of "Lost" and "Life On Mars." I've been waiting for two weeks to see how Sawyer resolves his Kate/Juliet dilemma. We should all have to make such choices.
The ABC sitcoms provide an interesting challenge to CBS, which airs new episodes of "Old Christine" and "Gary Unmarried" beginning at 8 p.m. While "Christine" is a very solid half-hour of TV, thanks to the brilliance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I don't know anyone who watchs "Gary," as paint-by-the-numbers as they come. They are followed by "Criminal Minds" and "CSI:NY."
The aforementioned "American Idol" sends someone home at 9 p.m., following a new "Lie To Me" at 8 p.m.
Gabrielle Union guest stars as Crews' new partner on "Life" (NBC, 9 p.m.), which follows a new "Chopping Block." No offense to Ms. Union, but this better be a temporary deal, because the TV Guy needs his Sarah Shahi fix every week. (In real life, the actress is pregnant, which is why her screen time has been limited).
On cable, "Damages" (FX, 10 p.m.) airs its third-to-last episode of the season.