Yes, 2020 has been a disaster of a year. Yes, I am the 125,746,743rd person to say that, but it remains as true now as it was yesterday, the day before . . .or pretty much any day since mid-March. But amidst a recession, a pandemic, a divisive election, celebrities demanding we imagine things, and the onslaught of corporations telling us “Amongst these unprecedented times” there emerged a hero that 2020 did not deserve, but desperately needed. Ted Lasso.
Like a Hobbit emerging from his comfortable hole, Ted Lasso is a hero coming from the unlikeliest of places. Born as an advertising campaign for Premiere League soccer being aired in the US on NBC way back in the before times of 2013, the Ted Lasso character was born of the hilarious concept that a British football club accidentally hired an American football coach. (Hah! Because American football isn’t soccer! Do you get it?) The promos were laden with pitifully awkward jokes about Lasso not knowing how the supposedly complex offsides rule works, or not understanding how a match could end in a tie. (It is not uncommon for American football games to end in a tie) The promos had no right being noteworthy in any way but were elevated by the inexplicable presence of the charming everyman Jason Sudeikis. Even with Sudeikis’s moderate star power, how does a mildly entertaining series of advertising spots somehow spin into a full-fledged TV series seven years after the fact? Well as it turns out, with a little help from Executive Producer Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) and the desperation of Apple TV for buzzworthy original content the show, Ted Lasso made it too air while so many more traditional shows never hit our screens.
Much like the promos it was born from, Ted Lasso has absolutely no right being as good as it is. The trite concept of an “American Football Coach in London” barely holds scrutiny for a 30 second ad, so how can it hold water for five hours of television? Well, as it turns out it . . . kind of can’t? The show hits you with that massive contrivance very early, (within the first five minutes in fact), and proceeds to throws the ludicrous concept into the fire to immediately make fun of it, and then quickly shuffles it from the foreground.
“You’re an American. Whose never set foot in England. Whose success has only ever come at the amateur level, and a second tier one at that. Who has now been charged with the leadership of a Premiere League football club, despite clearly possessing very little
knowledge of the game. Is this a fucking joke?”
However, after the writers deftly escort the audience through the nonsensical premise in the pilot, the set up is easily forgotten and the show really hits its stride in episode two, where its most valuable and unique feature comes into sharp focus. Its unwavering and relentless optimism. As the Lasso fish who is very out of water gently butts heads with his new surroundings, his positivity comes shining through in each and every encounter. Even as he is mocked, deceived, doubted and called a wanker over and over again he charmingly asserts himself in a manner reminiscent of Leslie Knope. (yet somehow even more positive)
“He thinks he’s mad now, just wait until we win him over”
However, it’s not just Ted Lasso. The whole show is populated by model human beings. You have Assistant Coach Beard who is the best friend that we all need, or better yet who we should aspire to be. Then you have Keeley Jones, the actress/model/model/actress girlfriend of one of the Richmond footballers, who ends up being an unlikely heroine in her own beautiful way. Nate, the mild-mannered clubhouse attendant who just needs someone to believe in him, Higgins the milk-toast administrative assistant family man, and Roy Kent the furious, aging midfielder who captains the team all round out a charming cast of characters. Even the shows two quasi-antagonists, club owner Rebecca Welton and prima donna attacker Jamie Tart are fully fleshed out and nuanced. You’ll enjoy rooting against them, for them, and will always feel for them.
“You know what the happiest animal in the world is? It’s a goldfish. It’s got a 10 second memory.
Be a goldfish.”
The value of these characters and the positive tone that Executive Producer Bill Lawrence chooses propels Ted Lasso enters an unusual territory for a television show. It actively adds good into the world. That is to say that I believe people who watch Ted Lasso are better people for it. It actively espouses common virtues like friendship, optimism, patience, understanding, courage, empathy and forgiveness. It serves as an allegory about simple kindnesses overcoming cynicism; of child-like joy overcoming world-weariness. This has earned a warm welcome in a world that increasingly feels defined by nastiness and suspicion.
At its core, Ted Lasso is a show about failure. People failing at relationships (with others and with themselves), people failing at careers, people failing at football. However, it’s the way they fail, the way they fall down, get back up, dust off their kits and move forward with that same unrelenting optimism that we would all should endeavor to emulate. In a year that feels like we kind of all fell down together, I know that’s a lesson I could use. I know a simple TV show can’t cure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that this year has brought, and many of us have the right to be sad and/or angry about this situation. That being said, I offer you Ted Lasso as a small but intense burst of sunlight into a cloudy year.
“So let’s be sad now. Let’s be sad together, and then . . . we can be a gosh darn goldfish.”
Ted Lasso can be streamed on Apple TV and I would be shocked if you didn’t binge it all within the 7-day trial period.