by Paula Gail
I don’t remember
what finally enticed me to watch the first season of Ted Lasso (a sitcom
created for Apple TV+). The premise of an American college football coach with
no soccer experience hired to manage a premiere professional British football
(aka soccer) team seemed intriguing. Hearing about Jason Sudeikis’ Golden Globe
winning performance in the title role piqued my curiosity. Maybe the deciding
factor came from reading about how good natured, optimistic, and hopeful the program
was. I had been looking for a “feel good” series to binge, and Ted Lasso,
with 10 half hour episodes, seemed worthy.
What I discovered
in watching it, much like the character of reporter Trent Crim who shadows Ted
for a day learns, is that there is more to Ted than a joke. Ted may not know
the sport, but he is a very capable coach, not only for the team, but for everyone
The twist upon
which the show develops is that Ted has been hired to fail. The new owner,
Rebecca Welton, acquired the team in her divorce settlement. She knows it’s the
only thing her ex-husband really cares about and she systematically plans to
destroy it. She doesn’t care who she has to hurt in the process, as long as she
can cause her ex pain.
Does Ted know or
suspect he’s a pawn in a bigger scheme? That’s a good question, particularly
after watching the episodes several times. There’s a lot of subtext and
characters are not what they initially seem. Or, maybe they grow, under Ted’s
Because Ted really
is Pollyanna. He finds something meaningful and worthwhile in every situation
he encounters, even those most devastating for himself. He’s both wide-eyed and
wise at the same time.
He has a quiet
exuberance that’s contagious. He wins people over even when they are determined
to dismiss him. That’s difficult to achieve and to make convincing for jaded
readers. Part of how it’s accomplished is that Ted doesn’t have a completely
charmed life. He comes to Britain to give himself and his family a new start,
but it doesn’t work out as he hopes it might. He has to deal with personal
disappointment while trying to accomplish the impossible (reinvigorating the
team) and having his boss actively plotting against him.
As a writer, what
I found most delightful about Ted Lasso is that almost every character,
no matter how briefly introduced, has a story arc. Each person grows, learns,
changes, becomes more or less assertive, and happily reaches his or her place
in the overall structure. Even those walk-ons have their moments. Just like
what Ted tries to provide for his players.
One other interesting
aspect is how much a “family” operation Ted Lasso seems to be. Jason
Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt, who plays the assistant coach, helped develop the
show. Brett Goldstein, who takes on the role of grumpy, aging team captain Roy
Kent, is the chief writer and Phoebe Walsh, who appears as the assistant coach’s
love interest, is also on the writing staff. Character names are drawn from
show insiders (Roy’s niece is Phoebe and Keeley Jones, a character portrayed by
Juno Temple, has the first name of Keeley Hazell, who has the minor part of Bex
and dates Sudeikis). Higgins, the beleaguered and unwilling henchman for the new owner, is transformed by music. The actor playing the part, Jeremy Swift, is also a musician and composer.
Best of all, being
good and kind wins out, not in a cloying or sentimental way, but even when the
opposite path would be perfectly plausible. Respect for others, despite their
differences, becomes the theme. Seeing that it can be accomplished without losing
self-confidence or dignity makes for a truly winning first season. I anxiously
anticipate seasons two and three!