Veridian Dynamics, the ethically impaired conglomerate at the heart of ABC's Better Off Ted (premiering Wednesday at 8:30 pm/ET), can weaponize a pumpkin, develop a desk chair that improves job performance and freeze-dry a staffer just for sport. But can the new comedy produce big laughs? Jay Harrington, fresh off playing doctor with Private Practice's Addison, gave TVGuide.com a look at the workplace wackiness to come.
TVGuide.com: I was saying to Tim Daly recently that extended guest arcs, like the ones you and Jayne Brooks both had on Private Practice, almost seem like a "proving ground" for actors. Like ABC is wondering, "Hmm, let's see if we want this actor to front our new series...."
Jay Harrington: Yeah, there's some comparison to a Triple-A farm system, if you will. [Laughs] In addition to that and Desperate Housewives [Harrington played Susan's beau, Dr. Ron], I had done a pilot for ABC two years ago that didn't go anywhere. It was good; it just wasn't good enough.
TVGuide.com: I enjoyed the Better Off Ted pilot. It has a dry, Scrubs-like humor.
Harrington: It does, thank you. I'm a fan of myself. [Laughs] And since the pilot, we've done a bunch of episodes that are really good.
TVGuide.com: In addition to the well-promoted "weaponized pumpkins," what other wild products are in Veridian Dynamics' pipeline?
Harrington: Well, we're working on a beef grown without cows. We find a way to grown hair on anything, except we can't seem to find a way to stop that process. We develop a search engine that can match a photo to anywhere it exists on the Internet — and that reveals to us what Veronica [played by Portia de Rossi] does with her weekends....
TVGuide.com: Speaking of Portia, please assure us that she's cuddlier in real life.
Harrington: She absolutely is. Funny, I watched her on Ellen the other day and [de Rossi's wife] Ellen asked her the same question. She does tend to get cast as these cold characters, and I think it's because she really is nothing like that, and it's fun to spread her wings and act. It's a lot of fun watching her turn that on and off.
TVGuide.com: Will we find out why and how Ted's onetime affair with Veronica got cut short?
Harrington: Yes, there's an episode which flashes back to what happened throughout that day.
TVGuide.com: Will we ever meet Veridian's top execs, who are only and rather ominously referred to as "them"?
Harrington: There's the occasional group shot in a meeting of these fiftysomething businessmen. There are also two episodes in which we meet a higher up, but he's just a higher up. He also refers to "them." I think "them" will always be the Vera-from-Cheers.
TVGuide.com: This is the point in the interview where I invite you to rave about Isabella Acres, the young actress who plays Ted's daughter, Rose.
Harrington: Oh, she's adorable - and she always knows all my lines, which is very helpful. She's done a lot of voice work on films and stuff, a total pro. We talk about kid actors and what's amazing is if you give them a note or a line change, their filter is really clean. So if you say, "Be happy," they don't say, "Oh, 'happy.' I remember when I was happy years ago...." There's no inner monologue that goes on.
TVGuide.com: In one of Ted's early voiceovers, he says that Rose's mother left them years ago to "save the world." Will the show be elaborating on that?
Harrington: Yes. A few episodes later, Rose visits her mom in New York, when she flies in for two weeks from Africa. Basically she went off to do Greenpeace or whatever.
TVGuide.com: OK, so it's something real and earthy and not....
Harrington: No, she's not Kal-El's sister from Krypton. She's not going to fly off to save the universe.