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ted-unstable.jpeg

Where Are Our 'Better Off Ted' Devotees?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 7, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 7, 2023 |


ted-unstable.jpeg

Rob Lowe has a long and insanely fruitful career. He’s probably best known for his Brat Pack movies in the ’80s, Wayne’s World and Tommy Boy in the ’90s, West Wing in the aughts, and more recently 9-1-1: Lone Star. However, Lowe’s best work (aside from Behind the Candelabra) probably comes in his sitcom work on Parks and Recreation and the canceled-too-soon The Grinder.

For fans of that Lowe (and “stop pooping” Lowe, in particular), Unstable is right up your alley, although Lowe alone would not have convinced me to give the sitcom a chance. My interest largely derived from its creator, Victor Fresco, responsible for at least three excellent comedies that were cut prematurely short, Better Off Ted, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Santa Clarita Diet (I’m also a fan of the less heralded Matthew Perry sitcom, Go On).

Unstable returns to the workplace, where Fresco was most successful in Better Off Ted, and he combines that energy with Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger energy, and surrounds him with a cast that is either quirky, deadpan, or both, reminiscent of that terrific Ted cast. The entry point in the series is Jackson (John Owen Lowe, son of Rob), a flutist who returns to work in the company of his father, Ellis Dragon (Rob Lowe), after the death of his mother (and Ellis’ wife).

Ellis, the already eccentric owner of a company devoted to capturing carbon, is grieving and going off the deep end, but he’s determined to execute the Save the Planet wishes of his wife while members of his board are trying to oust him as CEO because of his increasingly erratic behavior. Anna (Sian Clifford, in basically the Portia de Rossi role) is Ellis’ right-hand who is trying to keep things together. Jackson, meanwhile, is also trying to pick up the pieces of his life after his mom’s death while juggling a love triangle involving lab scientists Luna (Rachel Marsh) and Ruby (Emma Ferreira) (clearly the Phil and Lem characters of Unstable).

The series is funny from the beginning, although it takes a few episodes to completely warm up to the characters. If there’s anything wrong with Unstable, it’s in Fresco’s irreverent off-kilter comedy, which — as in the case of his other sitcoms — will appeal to a certain demographic, but it’s unclear if that demo is large enough to support a second season. Fans of Ted, Santa Clarita, and Andy Richter know, however, that it’s enough to appreciate Fresco’s sitcoms while we can, regardless of whether they are granted long runs. The gift of the eight half-hour episodes may be all we get, but I’m glad that Fresco continues to get chances to make us laugh.