During the lead-up to the 2013-14 Premier League season, to which NBC had just landed the prestigious TV rights, the broadcaster began heavily promoting that they were the new home of English football (soccer) in the United States. Part of that promotion involved a comical fictional character named Ted Lasso. The character was created as a satirical embodiment of introducing an American person to English football (soccer). Ted, previously an American Football coach, attempted to become the new manager (coach) of Tottenham Hotspur (a premier league team) with hilarious visual footage capturing the classic cultural confusion between the United States and the United Kingdom. Thus, a star was born, and Ted Lasso season 1 burst onto the scene some years later for Apple TV+ with absolutely unexpected results.
Ted Lasso season 1 is literally built from the same foundation of his creation. Ted, previously a beloved American college Football coach, has taken a job with Richmond Football (soccer) club in England (a fictional team created for the purposes of the show), in the hopes of saving them from being relegated to a lower league. Now he must overcome sporting conflicts, cultural conflicts, and his own personal conflicts in order to do the job he was hired to do.
You don’t need to love, or understand soccer, or sports, to fall in love with the show
This sounds absurd, right? Ted Lasso is a show built around the sport, specifically football (soccer). So the fact that you don’t need to even have an association with sports AT ALL, sounds preposterous. Herein lies the joy of Ted Lasso. The sporting setup is merely the background of the show. Yes, it drives the characters’ plot points, but as the show builds momentum you begin to realize at the heart of all this, this show is built around so much more than simply sports. Which leads me so smoothly to my next point.
The cast of Ted Lasso is for the most part, largely unknown for the worldwide audience, with a few notable exceptions. Ted Lasso is played by the enigmatic and wonderfully infectious Jason Sudeikis. He is joined by the likes of Hannah Waddingham (Rebecca Welton), Anthony Head (Rupert Mannion), and Juno Temple (Keeley Jones). While the cast is mostly unknown, it in no way diminishes the extremely charming, and appealing performances that they bring to the screen.
The characters themselves are for the most part a larger-than-life motley crew, but their development over the initial first season, and the trials and tribulations they overcome, had me so attached to each of them. That is where this show shines at its brightest. Inept heroes, becoming shining knights, devious villains are redeemed, and throughout it, all the power of teamwork conquers all. Look, I understand that the last line sounds CHEESY as hell, nevertheless, I unabashedly was fully attached to these characters once it was all said and done. They represent the best and worst of us. They are complex, and each driven by different motivations, but are more than the sum of their actions.
Overflowing with Heart
As I hurtle around the final turn of this article, I come crashing to the destination that is the cornerstone of this show. While I would absolutely state that Ted Lasso is a comedy, it’s not what made me fall in love with it. The show has an overabundance of heart, and I can’t stress this enough. Ted Lasso as a character is the personification of hope and belief, and in these dark and miserable times we’ve found ourselves this past year, it’s such a welcoming theme to see. The show is very emotionally raw at times, with characters given room to be vulnerable and break down. It showcases that life, much like sports, values the wins, because we understand the losses. Again, this series highlights the fact that these characters have compounding motives that don’t all fit nice and neat into a box for narrative purposes. This results in this really unexpectedly genuine story. I say that because episode 1 would have you believe this is merely a comedic show, but oh no, no, no. Just hang in there.
As an Englishman, when I first approached Ted Lasso, I was skeptical that this series wouldn’t be able to strike the balance of plots needed to juggle soccer, comedy, cultural differences, and life in a way that did any of it justice. It felt like one of these things would have to be sacrificed, to give room for the other to breathe over the ten 30 minute episodes.
That being said, Ted Lasso is a complex multi-faceted accomplishment that is as much a comedy, as it is a gripping and emotional drama. While I was skeptical, I lavished in rooting for Ted and his team by the end of the show. I hit a point where I couldn’t consume the episodes quick enough, yet I wanted to also relish every second. I’ve watched this series three times now, and I still get mucho, mucho joy from it. Football is life.
Have you watched Ted Lasso? What do you love about the show, and how does it connect to you as a sports/non-sports fan? Let us know on social media!
Ted Lasso season 1 is available exclusively on Apple TV+ now, with season 2 coming July 23rd, 2021.