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Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Ted’ is cuddlier and cuter than you might expect

Neal Justin
Star Tribune
(TNS)

“Family Guy,” now in its 22nd season, may be the funniest show on TV without any redeeming value. The fact that the animated series is now in its 22nd season has only hardened creator Seth MacFarlane’s reputation as a naughty boy. He doubled down with the blockbuster “Ted” movies, featuring a talking teddy bear stuffed with Andrew Dice Clay’s personality.

The TV prequel, also titled “Ted” and debuting Thursday on Peacock, leads viewers to believe they’ll get more of the same. The opening dialogue is peppered with so many swear words that you might think you’ve stumbled into a Martin Scorsese gangster flick.

This time around, the title character is helping his buddy John (Max Burkholder) navigate his teenage years, which means making sure he has access to pornography and weed.

But it doesn’t take long to realize that the series is actually kind of sweet — and noble. Over the course of eight episodes, the pair advocate for gay rights, befriend the school bully and help Mom break out of her role as beleaguered housewife. They also have a love affair with each other that can’t be denied.

MacFarlane may never shake his politically incorrect persona — it’s hard to forget how he tried to turn the 85th Academy Awards into a late-night bash at the Playboy Mansion — but he keeps showing signs that he’s turning into a softie.

Just don’t tell Peter Griffin.

Also this week …

‘Echo’

The lack of interest in “The Marvels” and the last “Ant-Man” movie suggest that superheroes may have overstayed their welcome. The latest DC series doesn’t do much to change that sentiment. Alaqua Cox, who grew up on an Indian reservation in Wisconsin, is formidable as the title character, a warrior who won’t let her deafness and prosthetic leg get in the way of taking down Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio). It’s also great to see yet another series spotlight a mostly Native American cast. But those attributes aren’t enough to recharge a genre that’s running low on power. Maybe it’s time for superheroes to take a vacation. I hear Paradise Island is nice this time of year. Disney+

‘Prison Brides’

Tinder isn’t the only dating service out there. This reality series follows seven women who graduated from pen pals to girlfriends with incarcerated men, uprooting their lives to make the relationships work. You end up rooting for these hopeless romantics, even as some of their decisions make you wince. 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesdays, Lifetime

‘Good Grief’

Dan Levy, who co-created “Schitt’s Creek,” gets gushy in this dramedy about an artist trying to reembrace life after the death of his husband. As star, director and writer, Levy clearly owes a nod to Nora Ephron, especially when the philosophical conversations take place in picturesque Paris. But the script is missing Ephron’s wit. Netflix

‘Self Reliance’

Jake Johnson, best known for “New Girl,” plays a contestant in a dark-web game show in which the only path to survival is bonding with strangers. The setup doesn’t make much sense. But Johnson, who also directed, recruits enough famous folks (Andy Samberg, Christopher Lloyd, Anna Kendrick) to keep you somewhat engaged. Friday, Hulu

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