BETTER OFF TED. 9:30 tonight, Channel 6.

IN THE FUTURE, there will be no TV schedules, no good or bad time slots, no "appointment viewing" or "must-see" anything.

Or so they keep telling me.

In the meantime, though, shows that people forget to watch or record or stream or download or arrange to have personally delivered by carrier pigeon have a way of disappearing, if not forever, then at least until the release of the sad little "complete" series DVD.

I do not want to see that happen to ABC's "Better Off Ted," a very funny show that many of you last season told me you really meant to watch but didn't and which tonight returns to the air right after "Scrubs."

In the future, this may not matter, but here in the present, where the return of "Scrubs" for a ninth season has been greeted with a near-universal yawn, "Ted" might as well be standing behind a potted plant.

Still, as much as I think that "Better Off Ted" might be better off on Wednesdays, keeping company with ABC's "Modern Family" and "The Middle," I'm glad to see it back at all.

Especially since it's even funnier than I remember.

For those of you not yet playing along at home, Ted (Jay Harrington) is an executive at ginormous Veridian Dynamics, where he appears to spend most of his days trying to keep the company from inadvertently - or quite deliberately - harming its employees or the wider world in the name of progress.

Among its experiments last season: Cryogenically freezing one of its own scientists, Phil (Jonathan Slavin) and installing an energy-saving sensor that failed to detect any of its African-American employees, stranding them in darkened rooms or on stopped elevators.

You don't want to know what they'd like to do to the rest of us.

In tonight's season premiere, Veridian decides to try its hand at matchmaking, publishing a list of genetically matched employees and suggesting they get together, with an eye toward saving money in health-care costs for their presumably healthy future offspring.

Taye Diggs ("Private Practice") guest-stars as a match for Ted's office buddy/occasional love interest Linda (Andrea Anders), while Ted's scary boss, Veronica (Portia de Rossi), targets a sperm donor for her future offspring.

If this doesn't sound funny, it's because you'd have to be there.

Sometimes, there's just no substitute for showing up.

Another plug for 'Lights'

There's no way of knowing if a Comcast-owned NBC would have found a way to keep airing "Friday Night Lights," but I'm guessing whatever deal it did come up with, it wouldn't have involved a partnership with DirecTV.

That's the deal that's in force right now, and why the current season of one of 2009's best shows won't be available on most people's TVs until it comes to NBC sometime in 2010.

If you do happen to be both a DirecTV subscriber and an "FNL" fan, you won't want to miss tomorrow's episode, "Stay" (9 p.m., 101 Network), which deftly handles some sad but probably necessary changes in the show's cast.

Transitions in shows involving high school students are never easy, but "Friday Night Lights," which successfully presented one of its central characters, Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), with a whole new challenge this season, seems better equipped than most to handle them.

Now it just needs to find a way to keep the lights on for a few seasons longer while it shows us how. *

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