Why Was Better Off Ted Canceled?

The ABC Comedy "Better Off Ted" — an underrated feel-good show — starred Jay Harrington as Ted Crisp, a research and development executive at the morally dubious Veridian Corporation, which holds fast to its motto of "money before people" and produces everything from lab-grown beef to killer robots. Portia de Rossi played Ted's no-nonsense boss Veronica Palmer, and Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett starred as Phil and Lem, Veridian's top research scientists. 

The series lasted two seasons at 26 episodes — two of which never made it to air — despite an 89% approval score from critics and a stellar 95% from audiences at Rotten Tomatoes. Series creator Victor Fresco told Vulture that while the series built up a small base of loyal fans over its two seasons, "Better off Ted" never accumulated a large enough audience to keep it on the air longer than that. 

"I think not enough people knew about it," Fresco said. "It wasn't like we had a lot of people watch it, and they didn't come back to it. If anything, I think we were building slowly."

Better off Ted had unsustainable viewership numbers

While the critical reception and audience reaction to "Better off Ted" are overwhelmingly positive, Victor Fresco's assessment that the show didn't have enough viewers to keep it on the air is accurate. After the show was renewed for a second season, ABC kept airing Season 1 episodes during the summer break, but those episodes averaged just a little more than two million viewers and an abysmal 0.74 rating among viewers ages 18-49.

The Season 2 premiere showed a promising improvement to a respectable 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demographic, just shy of four million viewers per episode. Those numbers, however, dropped back to Season 1 levels, and the fate of "Better off Ted" was sealed. 

Yair Rosenberg of The Atlantic pointed out that "Better Off Ted" may have been too far ahead of its time to be appreciated. Rosenberg outlined how the show predicted how facial recognition technology would fail to properly register the faces of people of color and how corporations have come to cut more ethical corners in the name of innovation and profit. Victor Fresco, who also created "Santa Clarita Diet," said this large-scale corporate disconnect is what inspired him to create "Better off Ted." 

"At the time," Fresco said, "companies would talk about 'team members' and how 'we're all family,' but they would slit your throat and leave you by the side of the road without health care if they could save 20 bucks."