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Ted 2: What Will Seth MacFarlane Do For an Encore?

Ted
Universal Pictures

Given the record-breaking success of ‘Ted‘ this past weekend, the execs at Universal are most certainly talking today about plans for ‘Ted 2.’ Hollywood ought to now have greater trust in original ideas. Or, if not that, at least they should allow Seth MacFarlane to develop any other original project of his own devise. After all, much of the appeal of the comedy is that it’s by the creator of ‘Family Guy‘ and other hit television series. And his trademark pop culture-possessed sense of humor draws audiences more than does this film’s specific story of arrested development.

But knowing Hollywood, we can guarantee that its first response this morning is to focus not on the “fluke” $54 million gross of a fresh property but on how to turn that newly minted name brand into an ongoing franchise. So what will Seth MacFarlane cook up for ‘Ted 2?’

Let’s not get too worked up about that disappointing logic, though. Really, ‘Ted’ isn’t that much of an original idea in the first place. Basically it’s just a reworking of a familiar concept we’ve seen in movies such as ‘Short Circuit,’ ‘Mannequin,’ ‘The Indian in the Cupboard,’ ‘Child’s Play’ and many others. And the conflict driving the plot is common to numerous romantic comedies in which a childhood buddy is keeping the lead from fully committing to a love interest. Look at ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas’ for two, umm, forebears.

At its foundation, ‘Ted’ is also something of a repeat for MacFarlane, who has one main situation up his sleeve: a grown man has a non-human best friend who can talk. The titular teddy bear is just the latest incarnation of Steve, the dog from MacFarlane’s 1995 animated short, ‘The Life of Larry’ (and the follow-up/remake, ‘Larry & Steve’), who evolved into Brian Griffith of ‘Family Guy’ and later Roger of ‘American Dad!’ As he joked in a recent CollegeHumor video, MacFarlane could have made “Ted” be any other inanimate object come to life, but traditionally — for himself and for movies in general — the character could have very easily been a talking canine or alien.

The good thing is that ‘Ted 2′ could probably go any which way that MacFarlane pleases, and since his style of comedy is what really matters, it shouldn’t be of any concern to us or the studio where he takes the foul-mouthed furball. Ted doesn’t even need be joined by John and Lori (Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis). Maybe he, alone, takes Manhattan and hangs out with a white guy in brownface, a la ‘Short Circuit 2′ (MacFarlane could get some ideas from his buddy Dan Milano, who scripted an early draft of the ‘Short Circuit’ remake that’s currently in the works).

Perhaps the character could wind up in a political satire, the way Harold and Kumar did after their relatively mindless debut. Could Ted be an agent for more substantial targets than this generation’s culturally impairing penchant for nostalgia? What’s the citizenship status of a magically come-to-life toy anyway? Wait, now we’re back to the plot of ‘Short Circuit 2.’

The most obvious direction for ‘Ted 2′ is Hollywood itself. The inaugural film already deals a lot with Ted’s fame, but it’s not the center of its story even if it does trigger the subplot involving Giovanni Ribisi as an extreme, creepy counterpoint to Mark Wahlberg’s (and perhaps American entertainment’s) own retro-minded holdups. Just think of all the cameos and MacFarlane-manner of parody that could be mined from a tale of Ted in Tinseltown.

The world of ‘Ted,’ in which the talking bear was a pop culture phenomenon whose celebrity eventually dwindled, has to have the same system of recycling entertainment as we do in the real world. And therefore Ted would have to be called back for a reality series or his own talk show or a biopic or something else that could similarly exploit the barest familiarity of a once-prominent figure.

Of course, most of these possibilities promise a dangerous level of reflexivity, but they could also lead to a humorous commentary on the sequel’s own existence, as a capitalization on the brand recognition of the first ‘Ted’ movie.

Note: if any new release should actually give Hollywood a trust in original ideas, it’s ‘Magic Mike,’ which grossed less in second place but which also cost much, much less than ‘Ted’ did. Incidentally, if Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper movie were to receive a sequel, it too would head in the direction of Hollywood, because the film is based on the life of star Channing Tatum.

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