Like someone telling you today’s scores before you can get home and watch that recording of Match of The Day, this overview includes spoilers throughout for Series One of Ted Lasso.
Like every single person going into episode one of Ted Lasso, the latest series – via one of many new streamers that happens to exist – Apple TV+, I was not expecting much, but rather wanted to kill half an hour before I fell asleep perhaps to never see or care about episode two.
And yet, what I experienced was something far from it. That thirty-minute pilot morphed into two episodes, then quickly into four and so on until I had seen them all.
For something based originally on an NBC commercial, Ted Lasso was no more than an SNL sketch, or perhaps more aptly something that Soccer AM would throw out on a Saturday morning (a sudden terrifying thought: is Jimmy Bullard simply our cockney equivalent of Kate McKinnon? Because I really hope not). Although very funny, these two bitesize running gag clips relied entirely on a fish out of water premise: American man does not understand English game – also has a moustache. At its best, this was a very good ad campaign – and not solid ground for a classic sitcom, least one that a brand new streamer should be touting as their flagship show. Ted Lasso, the TV show, is ostensibly exactly the same as he was in those ads – however, given a new spotlight through a whopping ten-episode series, he seems to have a drive now.
What was a skit that lasted under five minutes has somehow effortlessly translated into a show that as both a fan of film and football combined I only want to love. The fish out of water very much remains, but is far more than a common carnival goldfish: take a moment where Ted notes how Big Ben is the biggest clock he has ever seen, topping the one in his home town in size. A far lazier show would simply leave that line there to rot. Instead Ted goes on to reveal how exactly long he spent at the site of the second biggest clock he’s ever seen because his parents left without him, and he was presented with the time until they returned.
THE NICEST MAN IN FOOTBALL
Like football itself, timing here is key – when exactly to read the play, to make that tackle or pick that killer pass to split apart the opposition’s defence. Sudekis’ Ted is something so very refreshing and what makes him stand out so much now is his candour. Ted deals in a quaint and kind demeanour that simply isn’t seen in leading men anymore, whilst refusing to simply be boring or a pushover. Consistently being touted by the town locals as being quite simply a “wanker!”, the Kansas born can’t help but remain positive. A shining light in a sport dogged with corruption, backstabbing and greed – not to mention in a time where negativity in our real world is so very rife and hope is hard to come by – Ted Lasso could not have arrived at a better time globally.
This show approaches its main character differently to the norm – whereas sister shows will have them start off as an asshole and progress via those better around them (please see, Eastbound & Down, Brockmire – both very hateful and destructive characters), Ted instead is reverse engineered. Lasso is a delight from the very start – it’s everyone else in his gravity that’s really the wanker and who, in turn, Ted cannot help but raise up simply by being around. Yet another Americanism that could certainly come off as contrived whilst being viewed from this sceptical side of the pond, but instead rather creating a playful atmosphere and a strangely pleasant UK/US mutation.
As the series progresses, we see Ted have an edge though – simultaneously juggling a struggling team, his family back home and subsequent fallout of a divorce, both of which eat at him more and more with each new episode. Under the moustache and the sports cap, Lasso is a man struggling with inner turmoil and general loud abuse focused directly at him, all whilst being a foreigner in a strange new land of bog-standard pie and lager.
We’re shown this grit again when the star player is refusing to train, so Coach Lasso gives him a very public dressing room dressing down in front of his teammates. Simultaneously we’re shown exactly how this is but one domino in the manager’s grand plan to get the squad to play at their best, and a ploy to get this striker to elevate his overall game in general. The show respects its characters and layers them, giving them the spotlight required to be fully formed, as you find yourself rooting for characters like Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), a human zippo lighter of rage approaching the end of his playing career – someone, who like so many possible elements within this show could quite simply plummet off the cliche laden cliff like a pathetic Wile E Coyote, but instead the show moves its characters forward in a direction that only makes them stronger.
With each new episode, we are greeted by the addition of fellow real-world Premier League teams (Crystal Palace, Everton and Man City all feature) and it really makes up the fabric and DNA of the show. The world-building is real and suggests that money and time, and perhaps most importantly for football fans in general, respect has gone into making this show. Consistently, what Ted Lasso does so well is the element of surprise – surprise that it’s not something bog standard. Rather like a lower league football side itself, Ted Lasso is putting on a show, it’s willing to get muddy and is held up by the fans who support it.
IN TO EXTRA TIME
And with a third series recently announced, on top of the filming of Season 2 beginning in January, I look forward to seeing where Coach Lasso takes this team. And while, yes, I believe that the show itself may well be forgotten to time over the coming years, in turn, Sudekis’ career only continues to flourish as the very talented comedic actor that he is, all the frankly very surprised fans of this first series cannot help but be charmed by its own positivity in a current world filled with hate, darkness and God-awful fear.
Whilst this writer endures his second lockdown, Ted Lasso comes as a genuine treat that I can enjoy and pig out on. Much like the home-baked treats that Ted makes for his conniving boss (quite simply to be able to get to know her a little better no less), this is a series so very easy to binge without ever becoming too sickly.
The whole of series one of Ted Lasso can be viewed on Apple TV+.
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Jon Holmes is a writer based in the UK. Alongside his work writing for film, he is a multi-accoladed filmmaker in his own right, and also performs. He can be followed on Youtube at Hans HS and on Twitter on @jonnyjonjon1