Seth MacFarlane’s new prequel series based on his hit comedy film “Ted” premiered on Peacock last week, garnering much attention and a wide range of reviews from critics and fans. While some have praised the show’s humor and talented cast, others argue it lacks the edge and novelty of the original film.
Premise Explores Origins of Infamous Foul-Mouthed Teddy Bear
The show focuses on the life of a young John Bennett (played by Max Burkholder) and his teddy bear Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) in 1980s Boston. It explores the origins of their friendship and Ted’s eventual fame and infamy.
According to The Hollywood Reporter:
The series functions as an origin story for Ted, the magical, profane, foul-mouthed, weed-smoking, beer-guzzling teddy bear…We meet John and Ted as kids back in the 1980s, pulling pranks, navigating junior high crushes, getting drunk for the first time, and just generally causing problems around the working-class Boston suburb where they live.
By focusing on Ted’s early days, the show provides backstory and context for the popular character that fans have come to love.
Reviews Praise Talented Young Cast, MacFarlane’s Wit
Many reviewers complimented Burkholder’s performance as the young John Bennett, as well as MacFarlane’s reliably sharp comedic instincts.
IGN’s review states:
Anchored by Max Burkholder’s affable lead performance, Ted maintains much of the humor and heart that made its big-screen counterpart a success thanks to MacFarlane’s witty writing and vocal performance.
Meanwhile, a piece in The AV Club reads:
As John, Max Burkholder makes for an appealing adolescent lead, his timing with MacFarlane indicating real comic chemistry.
Additional cast members such as Scott Grimes, Giorgia Whigham, and Alanna Ubach were also singled out for praise.
However, Many Argue Prequel Format Limits Scope
Despite the positive feedback regarding the cast and humor, a frequent criticism is that the prequel format hinders the show’s potential.
The Hollywood Reporter review states:
Seth MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed childhood teddy shtick was amusing enough for one hit movie, but for a weekly prequel series? The concept feels extraordinarily limited even with a game cast doing their best to maximize the narrow premise.
And a piece in the Chicago Sun-Times argues:
“Ted” loses much of its escapist adult humor by turning back the clock to the lead character’s adolescence. The new contextualization of this character ends up diminishing his appeal.
Clearly some feel the freedom and adult humor that defined “Ted” is lacking in a toned-down, younger-skewing prequel storyline.
MacFarlane Had Envisioned Very Different Original Concept
MacFarlane’s initial pitch for Ted the series was a more family-friendly animated show that would focus on Ted getting into misadventures with young John, who was initially pitched as a four-year-old boy.
Clearly the final live-action prequel series took things in a very different direction. It remains to be seen whether MacFarlane’s original concept could still have potential if re-developed in the future.
Mixed Response Reflects Challenge of Expanding Film’s Appeal
In the end, the lukewarm critical response seems to stem from the difficulty of expanding the appeal of an edgy, R-rated film concept into a more mainstream serialized format.
Collider’s review observes:
At its best, Ted is a funny show that recaptures some of the magic of the first movie. At its worst, though, it’s the textbook definition of an inessential spin-off series that exists mostly to wring a recognizable IP dry for content.
And an analysis in The Daily Beast states:
Whether the series can sustain the winning mix of sweetness and vulgarity that made the movie such an enduring hit remains to be seen…But for now, color me shocked at just how charming this teddy bear can still be.
If the show wants to succeed long-term, it may need to push boundaries and take more risks in its humor while still retaining its heart.
Show Has Potential Given Loyal Fanbase, Talented Creative Team
Though the reviews are mixed, the show does seem to have attracted a loyal audience excited to spend more time in the outrageous “Ted” universe.
As Vulture’s initial report on the series order stated last year:
Ted was a big hit for Universal, grossing $549 million worldwide off a $50 million budget. Fans have been clamoring for a sequel, so while they await that, this series will have to tide them over.
And producers Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh told ScreenRant they’ve made efforts to replicate elements fans loved:
We just wanted to match the humor. That was goal number one…We also spent a lot of time making sure we gave the fans things that they would remember from the movie that they loved.
If the creative team can focus on growing the fanbase and upping the ante on storylines and humor, “Ted” may still have a future on the small screen. Its performance over the first season should be an important litmus test.
How Will Series Perform Going Forward?
The latest reviews may be mixed, but “Ted” still shows promise as an expandable franchise. The critical consensus seems to be that the talented cast and MacFarlane’s trademark wit provide enough humor and heart to sustain, even if the series needs some re-calibration.
Much will hinge on viewership data, which has not yet been released by Peacock. But some insights from Deadline Hollywood indicate that initial sampling has been relatively strong:
Early indications are that Peacock Originals such as Ted and Paris Hilton’s Royal Treatment have had promising starts, attracting new subscribers to the platform. While detailed viewership is not released, sources indicate Ted’s launch day last week was Peacock’s biggest so far for a comedy debut.
If strong sampling continues across the first season, a renewal seems probable. There also remains the possibility of eventually expanding into additional seasons, holiday specials, or even reviving MacFarlane’s original animated series concept. For now, the profane teddy bear’s exploits seem likely to continue – even if in more family-friendly directions.
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