Fox's Fringe gets all the buzz for its mad scientist, Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), but it's not the only series on the air with deranged guys in white coats. ABC's unlikely wacky workplace comedy Better Off Ted features two supporting characters whose work includes creating beef without cows and killer pumpkins for the heartless corporation Veridian Dynamics, with the motto "Money before people."
It's all about the bromance for Malcolm Barrett and Jonathan Slavin, who play mad scientists Lem and Phil. That and the weird science.
"Yeah, I mean, look, we froze a dude. We fought a bio-computer. I've been up in a jet-pack. I'm really just excited because my actual life is not that interesting. So to be able to go to a set where I'm in midair, and I get to pretend to be a genius ... it's pretty awesome," said Barrett, who along with Slavin talked to SCI FI Wire in an exclusive interview last week.
The dude they froze was actually Slavin's character, Phil. And that was in the pilot. "It was very exciting," Slavin said. "Like, 'OK, you got the job. Now you have to come in and start doing makeup tests on how we're going to freeze you, and you have to go get your head cast in latex.' And then it was just, ... there's like super-fun stuff. ... Anything where you start off the first episode with being frozen and having to come up with an eagle screech, you can only be in awe of the writers' imagination from there."
The writers, led by series creator Victor Fresco, have been hard at work when it comes to the first season's six remaining episodes, which premiere tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT. In the first episode back, "You Are the Boss of Me," Lem and Phil discover why you should never invite your boss to join you in Medieval Fight Club.
As the season plays out, "there's a lot of more crazy experiments," Barrett said. "There's a bio-machine that goes haywire. We learn a little something about Veronica's [Portia de Rossi] personal life. We learn about stuff between Ted [Jay Harrington] and his dad. There's a show with an office thing where everyone is trying to work on this project, but nobody knows what it is. They just basically want in on the hot project, and that causes some craziness. ... We find out some secrets about Linda and Ted's relationship, which gets tested through some things that happen at the office."
"Phil discovers he has an identical twin who leads this very exciting, very confident life, and so he tries to do that," Slavin added with a laugh. "Which watching Phil try to be confident is totally going to be tragic. Trying to pick up girls, just, it's not pretty. ... We splice firefly DNA with plant DNA and create a rooftop garden that can illuminate itself, but we accidentally create a fire squirrel."
And "we find out how Lem and Phil met, actually," Barrett said.
Slavin admitted that the two characters are "sort of married" in a way. "They would be lost without each other," he said, adding: "Phil and Lem definitely have a lot of love for each other, and at the end of the day there is nothing they wouldn't do for each other. They're very committed to each other, but they do like to bicker, for sure."
"Yeah, we definitely have what's popularly referred to as a bromance nowadays," Barrett said. "It's weird, because me and Johnny actually are in real life obtuse nerds and geeks in our own way, and so we're sort of quirky guys. And I think we made a career out of playing non-standard characters and quirky guys. And so once we got together, it's very much this complementary relationship. It's very much a Frick and Frack, Dumb and Dumber, crazy little relationship. ... We're like the real-life Beaker and Honeydew. That's what I consider ourselves. We're like Beaker and Honeydew meets the two dudes from Mythbusters."
Beyond the six episodes that have yet to air, Better Off Ted has been renewed by ABC for midseason next year.