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Seth MacFarlane’s ‘TED’ Review: A Raucous TV Return to the ’90s

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Where nostalgia is often the currency of choice, Peacock’s “TED” arrives like an old friend donning a new outfit. This prequel series, a brainchild of Seth MacFarlane, retraces the roots of the infamous teddy bear, Ted, in a ’90s setting, a stark contrast to the original movie’s contemporary frame. Set in 1993, the show revolves around a younger John Bennett, played by Max Burkholder, embodying the spirit of Mark Wahlberg’s original portrayal, alongside the titular character, Ted, voiced by MacFarlane himself.

“TED” is not just a trip down memory lane; it’s an exploration into the dynamics of friendship, tested through the fires of adolescent mischief and familial pressures. The show, at its core, is an ode to brotherly camaraderie, with Ted and John’s endless banter and shenanigans offering a charming if not at times awkward, narrative thread. Burkholder, as John, brings a blend of innocence and charisma, making his rapport with Ted both believable and endearing.

The series, however, suffers a bit in the transition from film to a sitcom format, feeling more like a retread of MacFarlane’s earlier works, particularly “Family Guy,” with similar humor and character dynamics but lacking the spontaneity and sharpness of its predecessor. While retaining its raunchiness, the humor sometimes crosses into the realm of trying too hard, losing the effortless wit that made the original film a hit. At times, the show’s attempts at edginess feel more forced than organic.

Moreover, the show seems to grapple with its identity, wavering between a nostalgic sitcom and a raunchy comedy. The absence of nonsensical musical moments and cutaway jokes, staples of MacFarlane’s style, leaves a noticeable void. This shift in style is apparent in the narrative, with a heavy reliance on ’90s references and a certain cynicism that might not resonate with everyone.

Supporting characters add depth to the series. Giorgia Whigham as Blaire, John’s cousin, brings a grounded and charismatic presence, balancing the male leads’ antics. Alanna Ubach, portraying John’s mother Susan, delivers a performance that is both earnest and comical, albeit occasionally veering towards caricature. In contrast, Scott Grimes’ portrayal of John’s father Matty leans heavily into the realm of over-the-top comedy, which can be jarring in the context of the show’s overall tone.

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The series also makes notable efforts to avoid the typical MacFarlane template. Less reliant on random cutaway gags and non sequitur humor, “TED” leans into the sitcom genre, drawing parallels with shows like “Roseanne” and “The Goldbergs,” but with a distinctively MacFarlane twist. While maintaining its edge, the humor shows a certain restraint, focusing more on the dynamics between John and Ted and their absurd yet hilarious conversations on trivial topics.

While “TED” retains the core appeal of the original film – the unique bond between a boy and his talking teddy bear – it struggles to find its footing in the new format. The series fluctuates between nostalgia and novelty, delivering something enjoyable but not necessarily groundbreaking or a must-watch contender.

RATING: 3.0 out of 5.0

TED season one is now streaming on Peacock.

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