Ten years ago, a talking teddy bear named Ted went head-to-head with Magic Mike himself at the summertime box office … and walked away $54 million richer. Released on June 29, 2012, Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut became one of the year’s biggest success stories, grossing over $200 million in the US alone and earning strong reviews from the likes of Roger Ebert, who called the movie’s CGI-generated title character — voiced by the Family Guy creator — “the funniest movie character so far this year.”
Flash-forward a decade and some might question Ebert’s judgment. although Ted certainly had its detractors at the time — Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum described it as “stuffed with crap” — in recent years more viewers have taken the film to task for its R-rated humor and reliance on outdated stereotypes that have been criticized as misogynistic and racist. In one scene, for example, an Asian neighbor crashes a wild house party that Ted throws and speaks in a broad Asian accent. Another sequence finds MacFarlane’s alter ego inviting four hookers over to his apartment. “Somewhere out there are four terrible fathers I wish I could thank for this great night!” he boasts.
Even MacFarlane seems to recognize that the movie’s moment may have passed, especially after the poorly-reviewed Ted 2 came and went in 2015. But he’s still planning to revive the character for a new streaming series on Peacock. “Whether people still have an appetite for Ted remains to be seen,” he told The Hollywood Reporter recently. “It’s a very specific kind of comedy, but we are allowing it to be what it is.”
Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment timed to the Season 3 premiere of his sci-fi series The OrvilleMacFarlane makes it clear that he doesn’t regret any of the jokes in the original Ted. “Every comedy is a product of its time, and I think you have to accept that,” he explains. “Ted was what it was meant to be at the time.” (Watch our video interview above.)
“We’re working on a Ted series right now for Peacock, and that was one of the big questions,” MacFarlane continues. “What do we lean into and what do we lean away from? We were surprised how much of it still held true because the characters are the characters. And if you have characters at the end of the day who are good-hearted, though deeply imperfect, then the audience will find a way in to relate to them. So yeah, I’d make it the same way.”
Making it the same way would still include casting Mark Wahlberg as Ted’s best friend John, whose childhood wish is what brings the bear to life in the first place. “Mark was always the guy,” MacFarlane confirms, adding that the Boston-born actor’s roots in the city where the movie takes place made him the “logical choice” for the part. At the time, Wahlberg was in the middle of his action movie phase, and making Ted required him to flex some of the comedy muscles he’d previously shown in films like Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees. Much like Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? though, Wahlberg was expressly directed not to try and out-comic the movie’s animated star.
“I always felt that Ted shouldn’t be opposite a comic in the classic sense, because you lose a little bit of the realism,” MacFarlane explains. “This should feel like two guys who are actual friends. If you watch the footage of Ted before the bear was put in, and it’s just Mark sitting on the couch alone talking to empty air, you realize how much of it he really brought to the table, because he’s really seeing that bear sitting there.”
Wahlberg won’t be returning to the Peacock prequel series, which turns back the clock to the early ’90s when the characters are in high school. But another Ted celebrity could potentially make an appearance. In the film, Ted and John are super-fans of the 1980 cult classic, Flash Gordon, starring Sam J. Jones as the comic strip hero. And Jones appears in both Ted and Ted 2 as a hyper-exaggerated version of himself.
“As of now, Sam will not be making an appearance,” MacFarlane teases. “But I can certainly look for a spot. He’s a great guy.” And like the song goes, he’ll save every one of us.
— Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jimmie Rhee
Ted is currently available for rent or purchase on most VOD services, including Prime Video