Chances are you remember that giant teddy bear causing all kinds of R-rated trouble back in 2012. Ted was the outrageous comedy that introduced us to a magical, potty-mouthed teddy come to life – and it somehow became one of the biggest box office hits of the year. Nearly a decade later, Seth MacFarlane is inviting fans back into his warped teddy bear universe with a surprisingly charming prequel series that aired on Peacock last year.
For those who missed the original Ted insanity, here’s a quick refresher. It centered around John Bennett, an aimless 30-something slacker played by Mark Wahlberg whose childhood wish upon a star had brought his teddy bear to life. As you can imagine, that adorable teddy bear named Ted grew up to be a rather inappropriate furry creature with a fondness for weed, porn, and four-letter words. While the humor wasn’t exactly sophisticated, the odd couple pairing of Wahlberg and MacFarlane (as the voice of Ted) made for some hilariously outrageous summer entertainment back in 2012.
Naturally a sequel followed in 2015, but the Ted franchise has laid dormant since then – until now. This new series lands us back with John and Ted during John’s awkward teenage years in 1993. With Wahlberg not reprising his role, we instead get a delightful newcomer in Max Burkholder as the young, Zima-drinking incarnation of John. And MacFarlane is still hilarious as ever voicing Ted, meaning fans worried about a Ted without Wahlberg can finally bear down and relax. We’re in good paws here.
Hanging with the Hilarious Bennett Bunch
While a talking teddy bear spewing nonstop profanity will always be the star attraction of any Ted project, MacFarlane makes sure to flesh out an equally entertaining human cast of characters orbiting around our furry little potty-mouth. Set during John Bennett’s awkward phase as a high schooler in 1993 Massachusetts, we get to meet a younger incarnation of John’s family, with John himself played winningly by Max Burkholder.
It’s an eclectic household that provides a lively backdrop for adolescent John and Ted’s crude shenanigans. John’s beleaguered mother Susan, brought to life by Alanna Ubach, tries her best to provide a nurturing environment while enduring the idiocy of her husband Matty. The loud, racist, ultra-macho Matty, who memorably draws our laughs and groans thanks to Scott Grimes’ over-the-top performance, has an ongoing feud with his liberal college student niece Blaire (Giorgia Whigham). Their clashing worldviews lead to some major verbal fireworks.
Much like Peter Griffin and his friends in Family Guy, the group dynamic is loose, chaotic, and combative, but you always feel the underlying love – and that goes for John’s relationship with Ted too. In fact, Burkholder does an admirable job channeling Mark Wahlberg’s man-child energy in his scenes with Ted. And Ted…well Ted just continues to be Ted no matter what decade he’s in, dishing out gleefully inappropriate life advice to his human BFF while not giving an F about anyone’s feelings.
While Ted stands out from its two film predecessors by rewinding us back to John’s youth, the heart of the story remains the same: it’s a coming-of-age buddy comedy about an insecure teenage boy and the loud, crass, magical buddy who helps bring him out of his shell. The general narrative beats should feel pleasantly familiar to fans of the franchise as John and Ted get high together for the first time, deal with bullies at school, try to help John lose his virginity, and get into all sorts of chaotic scrapes with his equally dysfunctional family.
This trip back in time to the 90s also allows the writers to explore fresh comedic territory by satirizing past decades. You’ll get references galore to 90s pop culture icons like the Olsen twins, Baywatch, and beloved family sitcom Full House (young John is nursing quite the crush on Lori Loughlin’s character Aunt Becky). While the Ted films honed in more on spoofing modern man-child comedies, this episodic romp through John’s past draws its inspiration from classic family sitcoms of the 80s and 90s like Roseanne, The Simpsons, and Married With Children. Just with, you know, a whole lot more cursing and debauchery thanks to Ted!
Yep, Ted’s Still Raunchy As Hell
Given Seth MacFarlane’s track record, Ted fans should know precisely what they’re signing up for with his foul-mouthed teddy bear. MacFarlane basically has one speed when it comes to comedy – and that speed is “push it to the absolute limit then keep flooring the gas pedal.” If you couldn’t handle Ted’s crude, deliberately offensive brand of humor on the big screen, his series won’t win you over either. This is still the same pot and sex-obsessed Ted who drops F-bombs like he gets a bonus check for hitting an hourly quota.
And frankly, that’s exactly how it should be. Ted simply wouldn’t feel like Ted if he was suddenly PG. MacFarlane clearly knows his core audience and what they find funny, so he gleefully packs each episode with Ted’s signature mix of sex jokes, profanity, drug references and occasional racial stereotypes. It’s the kind of anything-goes signature humor MacFarlane perfected across projects like Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and American Dad. Fans of those shows know what to expect – if it’s shocking or taboo, you can bet money Ted will find a way to turn it into a punchline.
Like Family Guy, you also get liberal use of cutaway gags transporting us into some utterly random tangent momentarily. And on the nostalgia front, Ted can’t resist dropping in a steady stream of pop culture references and jokes aimed at iconic 90s personalities, trends and media. Basically, if it happened in the 90s and Ted can make fun of it, he will.
Now to be clear – Ted is often extremely funny, but it frequently crosses the line from audaciously provocative into eyeroll-inducing juvenile. Sometimes the “anything for a laugh” approach pays off, other times the jokes just feel lazy, dated or forced. And unlike animation, seeing an actual physical teddy bear on screen spewing this stuff somehow feels a touch mean-spirited. But for fans wanting that vintage MacFarlane spice, Ted brings it by the truckload.
Fortunately, it’s not all pure sacrilege. Ted makes admirable attempts to ground its humor in real character-driven moments from time to time. As the series progresses, the better jokes emerge from Ted’s believable emotional bond with John or his contentious rapport with John’s parents. Unlike Family Guy, which rarely shows heart, you can sense the writers sincerely care about fleshing out pivotal relationships within the Bennett household. And that pays off with some humor that feels less cheap and exploitative. Plus, MacFarlane has squeezed in a few killer running gags – like reoccurring raunchy riffs on Full House and Ian McKellen’s guest role as an eccentric therapist – demonstrating he still has that magic comedy touch when he puts his mind to it.
It Looks Like a Movie, Feels Like Your Childhood
Given Seth MacFarlane’s animation background, production polish has never exactly been his claim to fame. But with Ted, he clearly understood the importance of surrounding his trash-talking CG teddy with Hollywood-quality sheen—and that supreme attention to detail remains consistent in the streaming series. From the slick cinematography to Ted’s amazingly tactile CGI fur, Ted looks and feels like a legitimate big-budget motion picture comedy.
That feature film aura stems partly from shooting on 35mm film to recreate those beloved 90s family sitcom aesthetics. Combined with era-appropriate set dressing, costumes, and props galore, entering each episode truly does feel like stepping into a 90s pop culture time capsule. The little nostalgic touches should delight older audiences, while also educating any young viewers on how rad it was to grow up in the early 90s.
But of course, the tech wizards saved their best work to make sure Ted himself stayed up to blockbuster standards. MacFarlane and crew clearly recognized Ted’s visual authenticity would make or break audiences investing in this plushie potty-mouth. Thankfully, Ted looks incredible – arguably better than he did on the big screen. Every little fur fiber and fabric wrinkle reacts realistically no matter what zany scenario Ted finds himself in. And MacFarlane, having now voiced Ted across multiple films and dozens of episodes, has truly made the character an extension of himself.
The human performances surrounding Ted also deserve applause, especially young Max Burkholder’s turn as the teen version of Johnny. He effortlessly channels all of Mark Wahlberg’s infectious man-child energy that made the original Ted such a hit. And small supporting turns from vets like Alanna Ubach and Giorgia Whigham bring added laughs and heart. But make no mistake, this was always going to be the Seth and Ted show; MacFarlane just had the good sense to surround his mouthy little meal ticket with equally talented collaborators.
Thanks to that A-list production pedigree and 90s nostalgia blast, Ted becomes one of those rare TV adaptations that feels just as cinematic as its big-screen predecessors—except now audiences get more time to hang out in Ted and John’s ridiculous world each week.
Lean and Mean Ted Machine
In many ways, Ted functions more like an extended film sequel than a traditional TV comedy. Rather than a sprawling multi-season narrative, this Peacock exclusive event consists of just seven episodes clocking in around a brisk 40 minutes each. For comparison, even a network sitcom would produce up to 24 half-hour episodes per season – so this is an undeniably petite portion of Ted’s continued adventures.
The concise episode count airs to the show’s benefit and detriment. On one paw, there’s no narrative fluff or meandering subplots weighing things down. You’re either laughing your ass off or eagerly bouncing onto the next zany misadventure Ted gets him and John into. MacFarlane takes an aggressive “leave them wanting more” approach, cramming each installment with wall-to-wall juvenile jokes.
Yet that breakneck pace and limited runtime also prohibits deeper explorations into relationships or sustained character growth. Unlike long-running animated staples like Family Guy, Ted lacks the luxury of endless reset button storytelling where no one fundamentally evolves. There seems to be genuine attempts to emotionally develop Ted’s connection with John or have John’s dad confront his failures as a father. But with barely 7 hours to play with, certain story threads get shortchanged.
The overall episodic, sitcom-esque structure also indicates the show’s interest in laughs over continuity. Similar to Family Guy, American Dad or golden age Simpsons, you can bounce into any chapter of Ted’s first season without needing prior context. The lack of serialization gives each mini-sode freedom to riff on specific 90s nostalgia trends or go off on amusing narrative tangents without worrying about some master plan.
It may ultimately leave fans wishing for more. But by sticking to a truncated episode order, Ted avoids overstaying its welcome or watching narrative returns diminish. Seven outrageous episodes lets MacFarlane and Ted do their crude thing, get some laughs, then retire before wearing out their welcome…again.
A Welcome Return Despite Some Stuffing Issues
After nearly a decade without that troublesome teddy hitting screens, Ted’s return engagement on Peacock proves the character still has entertainment value to mine – even if the series exposes some fluff in need of restuffing. At just seven episodes, it neverwear out its welcome; MacFarlane brilliantly taps back into his crowd-pleasing Ted voice while surrounding the fuzzball with slick production and a game cast that includes a breakout turn from young Max Burkholder as the teen version of Ted’s BFF John.
Though structurally episodic with no master plot, enjoyable character dynamics emerge between John’s eccentric family members while still leaving room for Ted’s signature crude humor style. And by rewinding to the 90s for Ted and John’s origin story, the writers find fresh comedic fuel satirizing the decade’s pop culture. Ultimately for all its ribald laughs, Ted is held back by its derivative nature; the jokes and story beats feel recycled from past MacFarlane projects lacking originality. Without a commitment to evolving relationships or expanding Ted’s world over multiple seasons, the series falls short of leaving a lasting impact.
But that isn’t to say further Ted tales need staying stuffed away in storage. While seven episodes make for a satisfying enough reunion, the showrunners only just scratched the surface of adolescent John and Ted’s hijinks. More seasons could allow beloved characters like Matty time to emotionally mature while introducing zanier personalities to keep things unpredictable. As long as MacFarlane avoids falling back on repetitive bits, Ted has both the charisma and childlike wonder to keep audiences chuckling at his cuddly craziness. Regardless of what the future holds, this Profane Paddington proved he can still charm in small doses.
Ted's return to the screen proves you can go home again - while still being just as gloriously offensive as when you left. MacFarlane resumes his director's chair without missing a crude beat, reuniting with the titular trash-talking teddy who feels more huggable than ever thanks to cutting-edge CG animation. Their proven chemistry combined with a game cast and slick production makes Ted an easy streaming watch for fans eager to laugh. Just don't expect significant evolution from the formula that made Ted a hit in theaters. This is comfort food television - emphasis on the crass comfort.
- Seth MacFarlane slip seamlessly back into the crude Ted character
- Great performances especially from Max Burkholder as young John
- Slick production values and visual effects bringing Ted to life
- Perfectly captures spirit and humor of Ted films
- Relatable family sitcom dynamics between characters
- Healthy dose of 90s nostalgia and pop culture references
- Very derivative humor and lack of originality
- Storytelling becomes repetitive quickly
- Doesn't evolve franchise much or sustain narrative depth
- Push boundaries too far at times trying too hard to be funny
- Brevity of 7 episodes limits character growth