I’ve mentioned before that I’m not usually into sit-coms. Most of them are carbon copies of each other, with nothing new or fresh to say, rehashing jokes that have been around since the 50’s. There are exceptions. I’ve already done an entire blog post about The Good Place, I fell in love with Brooklyn 99 just a year ago and I’ve just recently found a new sitcom that I adore, Ted Lasso. Much like The Good Place, Ted Lasso defies an easy description. Yes, it’s a comedy, but there are times that it will kick you right in the feels. There’s a sports angle, but it doesn’t dominate the story line. And, oddly enough, especially for a show I like, if I had to sum it up in one word, that word would be wholesome.
Okay, so the show itself is about an American football coach, the eponymous Ted Lasso (played by Jason Sudeikis of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock), who is hired to coach an English football team. That premise, if you know anything about both sports, is funny in and of itself. Obviously, a big part of the humor is that Lasso knows nothing about English football, AKA soccer. The reason he is hired is that the owner of the team, Rebecca Welton (played by Hannah Waddingham of Game of Thrones and Krypton), knows how much her ex-husband, Rupert Mannion (played by Anthony Head of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Merlin), loves the team and she wants to see it fail. Lasso is assisted in his coaching position by Coach Beard (played by Brendan Hunt of We’re the Millers and Horrible Bosses 2) and Nathan Shelley (played by Nick Mohammed of Intelligence and Hank Zipzer).
Obviously, some of the players factor into the show. The two with the biggest roles are Roy Kent (played by Brett Goldstein of Derek and Hoff the Record) and Jamie Tartt (played by Phil Dunster of Catastrophe and Humans). Roy is the older player that was great in his day, but is now slowing down. He’s gruff and taciturn, but does care about the team and is seen as a leader. Jamie is Roy’s polar opposite. He is the star player of the team and selfish and arrogant. He rarely listens to anything anyone else has to say and is completely self absorbed. The other players are mainly background for these two, but we do get to see a little of Sam Obisanya (played by Toheeb Jimoh of The Feed and London Kills) and Dani Rojas (played by Cristo Fernandez of El Hada de Las Chelas and When You Are Gone). Sam is a Nigerian player still trying to find his place on the team and so far from home. Dani is from Mexico, new to the team and, potentially, has just as much talent and star power as Jamie. He’s also the most insanely happy character on the show and that’s saying something.
The origin of Ted Lasso actually started 7-8 years ago, as a commercial for NBC’s coverage of the Premier League. In these promos, Sudeikis played the character Ted Lasso, usually giving a press conference and answering questions in such a way as to display a comical ignorance of soccer. That character must have stuck with him, because he went on to develop into a series, along with Bill Lawrence, Joe Kelly and Brendan Hunt. All of them have had a hand in writing episodes. Fun fact: Zach Braff, of the television show Scrubs, directed the second episode of season 1.
Some had suggested that Ted Lasso is loosely based on the American football coach Terry Smith. He started as a defensive back for the New England Patriots, but injured his knee bad enough to ultimately retire. He coached at a few U.S. Colleges, but then went to Great Britain to coach the Manchester Spartans. I haven’t been able to find out how much Smith knew about soccer before crossing the pond, but he was wildly successful at his job. He took a 2-10 team and turned them into a 14-0 undefeated team in his first season. After an incredibly amazing coaching run, he became the owner of several professional sports teams, including the European Champion Spartans. According to Wikipedia he’s a teacher now, but I don’t know more than that. I tried to do more research, but evidently Terry Smith is a very common name, even among football players.
But I digress; back to the show. It’s hard to describe why I love it so much, but I don’t think I’ve seen one without crying at some point during its 30-40 minute run time. Watching the show almost feels like a therapy session. The easiest thing to describe it as is a comedy, but it’s more humorous than laugh out loud funny. The characters are incredibly well written, achieving that rare balance of being strong and vulnerable. The stories are often good people going through tough situations and sometimes overcoming them, but, also, sometimes just being big enough to accept the things that can’t be changed. One of the best quotes I’ve heard about the show comes from Keri Lumm of Paste magazine. She said, “Ted Lasso is the wholesome American hero we need“, going on to say “… the landscape of television has felt kind of gloomy, so imagine my surprise when I turned on the TV to Ted Lasso and felt a swelling of a now unfamiliar emotion – hope.” Perhaps that’s the word I was looking for to describe the show; the word hope. Do yourself a favor and watch an episode.