If you’re fed up with all the depressing, distressing, dramas focusing on hard-to-swallow issues and your mind yearns for something more optimistic and comforting, then look no further: you need to get a ‘Ted Lasso’ (Apple TV+) in your life. This series is the ideal tonic in these times of pandemic when the TV industry appears to be obsessed with holding up the mirror to our harsh reality, thereby multiplying its effect. Okay, so we already know that ‘L’effondrement’ (The Collapse) is an excellent series and probably this year’s best, but it’s a heavy dose of optimism that these times truly call for.
With our protagonist in this show, its optimism galore, his frank smile, thick mustache, and Texan drawl as he’s signed up by an English first division club, despite not knowing the first thing about soccer. He has no idea how the offside rule works, or how many yellow cards you get before a red, or anything. In fact, his only coaching experience boils down to having coached high school football teams in his native US and players and fans soon begin to wonder why this character was hired at all. The answer: it’s all part of a plan to sink the club.
Predictably, when he arrives at his new job, he’s met with one hurdle after another. Slack from the club’s players, journalists, fans. But nothing seems to put a dent in Ted Lasso’s smile. No matter how hurtful and accurate the comments levied are, critique runs off him like water off a duck’s back. His optimism is almost armor-plated, and you begin to wonder if maybe Ted Lasso lives in a bubble of self-deception or if, on the contrary, he might just be the smartest man in the room. Turns out it’s the latter.
As the series progresses we begin to realize that Ted Lasso isn’t there to win the game on the field, but rather the one in the locker room. Little by little, he slips all his detractors into his pocket with his ever-positive attitude. Including audiences, of course. Even those of us who first believe the series is merely entertaining and observe from a safe distance. Even for this kind of public, there comes a moment when he wins audiences over making us all devotees of the Ted Lasso philosophy, a philosophy that goes so against the grain of modern times. The character is inspiring in the same way coach Eric Taylor from ‘Friday Night Lights’ but comedically. With his smile, his belief in the impossible, and his unabashed kindness, Ted Lasso makes everyone around him that little bit better.
One of the keys to the success of this series is the actor cast to breathe life into our coach; the magnificent Jason Sudeikis is our Ted Lasso, based on a character of the same name that Sudeikis first portrayed in a series of promos for NBC Sports’ coverage of the Premier League, playing deftly with the culture shock). Here he transforms into a character with depth, someone we can laugh with, and yes, a man who also has moments of fragility, giving the jester a human dimension in a way not unlike what Steve Carell managed with Michael Scott in ‘The Office’.
Another fundamental aspect to the show is how well the supporting actors have been created. As in any workplace program, the interplay between the different characters is vital for the dynamics to work. As such, we have the assistant coach (played by Brendan Hunt, co-creator of the series), the veteran Roy Kent (who plays Brett Goldstein, and is also in the writers’ room), the unbearable Jamie Tartt, a highly irritating version of a Christian Ronaldo type, Nathan, the shy kit man, etc. Even later additions like Dani Rojas, the footballer in permanent ecstasy for the mere fact of being able to play soccer, all work wonders. As does the well-kept script, which picks up events from one episode to another (phrases, situations, objects) to give it that touch of humor and to forge a greater connection with the viewer who has fallen headlong into Ted’s world. On top of all this, it’s really easy to get into ‘Ted Lasso’. As with the protagonist, you don’t need to know one iota about football (soccer). You only need a desire to view the glass as being half-full.