‘Ted’ heads to TV: Inside the new prequel series that takes the potty-mouthed bear back to 1993

Everyone’s favorite foul-mouthed teddy bear is back in action. Ted is starring in a new prequel series inspired by the massively popular 2012 film and its 2015 sequel. The seven-episode original series, which premieres on Peacock Jan. 11, brings back Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane as the voice of the title-role troublemaker.

Will Mark Wahlberg return? Do you need to see the movies before tuning in? Here’s what to know about the new show.

What’s the show about?

Peacock’s Ted is set in 1993 and follows teenage John Bennett (Max Burkholder) 19 years before he was portrayed by Wahlberg. In the show, Bennett lives in Framingham, Mass., with his working-class parents and cousin.

“Ted the bear’s moment of fame has passed, leaving him living with his best friend, 16-year-old John,” a news release about the series said. “Ted may not be the best influence on John, but when it comes right down to it, Ted’s willing to go out on a limb to help his friend and his family.”

The trailer for the show dropped at the end of November showcasing plenty of the same humor as the source material films, but with an added dose of Boston accents and a ’90s soundtrack. Set to the Proclaimers’ hit, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” it features Ted and John as they smoke marijuana for the first time, navigate sex education and grapple with high school ups and downs.

What is MacFarlane’s involvement?

MacFarlane serves as the showrunner, executive producer, director and writer of the series. In the trailer, he says he’s “thrilled” to bring the beloved character back to screens, “telling the story of Ted and John’s early days.”

MacFarlane told the Wrap that long before the films, he pitched Ted as a family-focused animated series. That’s a significant contrast to the final product, which is famous for Ted’s expletive-laden language.

“There was a period during the Time Warner-Turner merger during which the company really had no idea what to do with its creative staff. We were all just sitting around, the whole place was in chaos. They didn’t want to fire us all because then they wouldn’t have any artists or writers when they did get underway again,” MacFarlane said. “So all we really had to do was pitch an animated show once a week to our bosses. Ted was originally one of these ideas.”

The original Ted films were runaway hits. The R-rated 2012 film grossed more than $549 million at the box office globally, according to Box Office Mojo, while its 2015 sequel brought in over $215 million worldwide.

As for the prequel, MacFarlane used his formative years as inspiration for the series.

“1993 is maybe a little bit later than when I was in high school and when my co-showrunners [Paul Corrigan and Brad Walsh] were in high school, but not by much,” MacFarlane told the Wrap. “To go back and dig into a lot of those memories we all had as a bunch of beta males and look at those firsts, and plug Ted in there and see them through his eyes was kind of funny and an enjoyable process.”

Corrigan and Walsh told ScreenRant that working on the new series was “a labor of love for Seth.”

“He’s very hands-on, and it is an intense show for him,” Walsh said. “He’s in the writers room the entire time. He’s directing, he’s acting, it’s a lot of things.”

Who stars in the show?

MacFarlane is returning as the voice of Ted, and he’s joined by Max Burkholder, 26, who plays John Bennett, the role originally played by Wahlberg. Parenthood fans may recognize Burkholder as Max Braverman from the cult favorite NBC series, which ran from 2010 to 2015.

Max Burkholder as John in Peacock's

Max Burkholder as John in Peacock’s “Ted.” (Elizabeth Morris/Peacock via Getty Images)

Burkholder told Today that in preparation for the series, everyone in the cast was sent a life-size version of Ted to carry around with them before filming.

Burkholder is joined by several other popular actors in the series. Alanna Ubach, who played mom Suze in HBO’s Euphoria, stars as John’s mom Susan; while his father Matt is played by The Orville star Scott Grimes. Actress Giorgia Whigham, known for Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, rounds out the cast as John’s cousin Blaire.

Since Burkholder is playing Wahlberg’s character 19 years previous to the film, you won’t see the Oscar-winning actor in the show. But that doesn’t mean his presence wasn’t missed, said MacFarlane. At the PGA Produced By Conference in 2022, the showrunner shared that he was initially skeptical about creating the prequel without Wahlberg’s involvement.

“For me, the challenge was really how does this character exist in a world without Mark Wahlberg?” MacFarlane said. “That was really a two-hander. The movie was a real feat of visual-effects work for the artists who did it. But also, if you look at the raw footage before the bear was placed into it, a lot of it was Mark.”

When the series was first announced in 2021, Deadline reported that Mila Kunis, who played Wahlberg’s love interest in the first Ted film, was not expected to appear in the series, either.

Was the ‘Ted’ prequel filmed in Boston?

Unlike the previous films, this iteration of Ted wasn’t filmed in Massachusetts, except for a few background shots. New Englanders will still be pleased with the plethora of references in the series, from the hefty Boston accents to the spirited ad campaign.

Peacock ran a full-page ad in the print edition of Boston Globe on Jan. 7 encouraging locals to watch the series.

“Dear Boston, remember when you used to ban books and other stuff you found offensive? Well, you’re gonna wish you still did because I’ve got a new show on Peacock,” the ad read. “So, put down that tub of iced coffee — it’s freezing out — and stream Ted.”

‘Ted’ is available to stream on Peacock Jan. 11.

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