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‘Ted’ brings Seth MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed teddy bear back to life on Peacock

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

(CNN) — Seth MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed teddy bear gets a logical scaled-down home in “Ted,” a Peacock prequel series that solves the “Why no Mark Wahlberg?” question by featuring his character as a teenager, with the wish-upon-a-star talking teddy as his only pal. Basically “ALF” with a lot more F-bombs, the show is raunchy, juvenile, proudly offensive and occasionally very, very funny.

For those unfamiliar with the original 2012 movie (which spawned a sequel three years later), John Bennett (Max Burkholder) made his wish in 1985, bringing his teddy bear to life and briefly bestowing fame and riches upon him. But now it’s 1993, John is a 16-year-old high-school student, and the world has moved on, so much so that the highlight of Ted’s day is watching “The Price is Right.”

The pair live in Framingham, Massachusetts with John’s parents – his beer-swilling, racist dad (Scott Grimes) and put-upon mother (Alanna Ubach) – as well as a cousin, Blaire (Giorgia Whigham), who rents the room above the garage, which Ted, leaving jaws agape, compares to Anne Frank’s attic.

Although best known for his animated comedies like “Family Guy” and “American Dad,” MacFarlane (who also provides the voice of Ted) has branched out into live-action fare, and “Ted” allows him to explore his more outlandish sensibilities in a comfortably sized package.

In this first season, that includes Ted introducing John to smoking pot, watching pornography and trying to lose his virginity. At school, John is victimized by bullies and cheerfully notes that kids who die get immortalized with “a whole page in the yearbook.”

If some of the gags perhaps push a little too far, it seems more justifiable when A) people know the source, and B) the protagonist is a talking teddy bear. Taken in the playful spirit in which it’s intended, the series is generally fun even with a few clunky outings in the seven-episode season, which is full of knowing references to the era in which it’s set, from “Jurassic Park” and the cannibalism-related “Alive” to the dad’s obsession with “Rocky IV” and the poster of “Full House’s” Lori Loughlin on John’s wall.

In that sense, “Ted” feels like an especially appropriate use of streaming, allowing MacFarlane to capitalize on the name and the concept’s irreverence without having to concoct something that might justify another movie (which, as “Ted 2” suggested, pulled the string once too often).

If the title character remains trapped in his furry form, “Ted” hews toward a ‘90s comedic sensibility that’s not merely nostalgic but seeks to tap into the inner teenager that some of us never entirely outgrow.

That might not qualify as high art, but in its unpretentious silliness, this Peacock comedy is still more than bear-able.

“Ted” premieres January 11 on Peacock.

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