Beginning as an animator on Cartoon Network’s Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Laboratory, Seth MacFarlane has been a prominent figure in television for over 25 years now. His first original animated series, Family Guy, is still as popular as it’s ever been today – going on 22 seasons strong. His further success in animation, from American Dad! to The Cleveland Show, allowed MacFarlane to venture into the world of film with his 2012 feature debut, Ted. The film centers around a raunchy Teddy Bear who came to life after his owner Johnny (Mark Wahlberg) wished upon a shooting star when he was only eight years old. Ted is, of course, voiced by MacFarlane himself, making way for his signature brand of dry humor. The R-rated comedy grossed over $500 million and earned MacFarlane an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song along with a sequel in 2015.
Now, nearly 9 years later, Seth MacFarlane is bringing the Ted franchise back to audiences, but this time on the small screens at home on Peacock. This new show, also simply titled Ted, is a prequel set in the early ’90s rather than a direct continuation of the films. Viewers get to follow a 16-year-old John Bennett, who’s still in High School, and a younger Ted, who’s past his days of Hollywood fame. The series explores the early days of their lifelong friendship as they maneuver the hardships of adolescence, girls, and so much more in their hometown of Framingham, Massachusetts. The main duo is accompanied by a supporting cast that includes John’s parents Matty (Scott Grimes), Susan (Alanna Ubach), and cousin Blaire (Giorgia Whigham). Each of them adds a unique element to the show and gets moments to shine throughout the first season.
Ted (2024) follows a traditional sitcom structure, plot lines and characters from previous episodes are referenced but each episode has an individual storyline, made up of A and B plots respectively. Unlike other modern sitcoms, Ted is able to push its limits without the restrictions of cable TV. The Ted show doesn’t shy away from excessive language as characters use all manner of curse words which otherwise wouldn’t be allowed on cable. It’s not just the language either, instances like characters buying and using drugs on screen also push how mature or provocative the subject matter can be.
Yes, streaming allows MacFarlane and his executive producers/co-showrunners Brad Walsh and Paul Corrigan (Modern Family) more flexibility with what they are allowed to depict and say. However, this doesn’t come without its setbacks. All episodes are directed by MacFarlane and premiere on the same day. While this is the usual model for streaming shows, Ted (2024) is only made up of 7 episodes, the premiere itself being a two-parter. This means it won’t take long for anyone to binge season one. A week-to-week release schedule could have benefited this sitcom’s longevity and engagement. The humor in McFarlane’s Ted series is strong enough to carry conversations weekly, which would have done more to make sure it stays alive beyond one season and won’t be easily forgotten.
Seth MacFarlane’s portrayal of the title character is exactly what you would expect if you’ve seen the two Ted movies. Much hasn’t changed with his performance except this version of Ted is just past his 15 minutes of fame. But it’s not something the show tackles with any sort of drama. Ted’s Hollywood career is instead the butt of some jokes and only mentioned in passing. Overall, he’s the same raunchy teddy bear that curses, abuses drugs, and causes hijinks that he must eventually fix. Ted still has a soft side, though, as there are some surprising moments where he gets to show how much of a true loyal pal he is to Johnny and his family.
The visual effects for Ted himself look pretty good for television, and there aren’t many moments where it comes off as distracting. This comes with the help of MacFarlane’s Fuzzy Door Productions, whose tech division developed new VFX software to help visualize Ted. The show’s young John Bennett, played by Max Burkholder, is the second biggest highlight. Burkholder holds his own next to MacFarlane’s Ted, as their chemistry is the heart and center of the show. Their dynamic in the series provides context to the strength of their bond in the movies. You get a real understanding of why they are still close best friends 20 years later in the Ted films. Choosing to make the series a prequel proves to be a good choice as this first season explores a lot of new ground for their relationship, and this can only be further expanded upon in future seasons.
The show’s family dynamics provide great humor and heart as well. Johnny’s father Matty and his cousin Blaire have hilarious back-and-forth arguments over politics and family roles. Thankfully, these topics don’t come off as forced but natural for these characters. You can really appreciate the writing in these instances. Ted (2024) spotlights its entire cast, letting them learn how to appreciate one another throughout the season. This leads to some fantastic jokes, but not all land as intended as with any comedy series.
Johnny’s mother played by Alanna Ubach is a real scene-stealer. Fans of HBO’s Euphoria will recognize her as Cassie and Lexi’s mom. Ubach may be playing a mother again here, but MacFarlane’s scripts let her show off her acting range and comedic chops. She has plenty of hilarious moments where she steals the spotlight and when the jokes calm down, she’s also able to extend motherly to Johnny and everyone else. Ubach is one of the strongest elements of Ted (2024), along with some fun side characters who appear in this first season.
If you enjoy creator Seth MacFarlane’s other projects, then there’s a good chance you’ll like the Ted prequel series. It’s a sitcom that pushes your average expectations of the format with some classic MacFarlane humor. Not every joke lands, but that’s the case for most TV comedies. This first season swings by like a breeze, leaving you wanting more. So, hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of Ted real soon.