Earlier this month I upgraded to an iPhone 12, and was rewarded with a free year of Apple TV Plus. While I’ve heard very little buzz about most of the services content offering, bar the odd exception like The Morning Show, one show that I’ve heard almost unanimous praise for is Ted Lasso (so loved that Apple green-lit Ted Lasso season 2 and 3 at the same time) — a show I seriously doubted before hitting play.
Ted Lasso follows an American college football coach who unexpectedly becomes the manager of fictional top-flight soccer team AFC Richmond. Jason Sudeikis stars as the eponymous Coach Ted and the show is actually based on a series of promo spots that NBC ran back in 2013.
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The show’s second series arrives next month, so now was a good time for me to try it out. Its first collection of ten episodes received almost universal critical praise and multiple colleagues have raved about it during staff meetings. I’d heard an awful lot of good things about Ted Lasso, almost too many.
Instead of all this positive feedback increasing my interest and expectations, it only served to convince me further that I’d be a dissenting voice. I went into Ted Lasso with the attitude of one of the show’s own characters: Trent Crimm — a cynical sports journalist looking to tear Ted down for being a Yank who doesn't understand the sport.
Never judge a book (or television series) by its cover
My initial cynical attitude towards the series came down to two factors. The first was that I never actually found the original NBC promos the show is inspired by particularly funny.
I vividly remember them doing the rounds on social media back in 2013, and though I recalled them being described as “hilarious” by multiple friends I was thoroughly unimpressed.
The idea of stretching out a series of short promos, that overplayed the same joke multiple times in just a couple of minutes, into a television series that would span five hours across ten episodes, did not appeal to me. At all.
My other reason for prejudging the series is slightly more personal. As a massive soccer fan (calling it soccer not football in this article pains me) I’m always highly skeptical of any non-documentary series/feature that attempts to tackle the beautiful game. This is due to a wealth of previous efforts that wildly missed the mark.
There’s definitely a hint of gatekeeping about this attitude, and it’s more of a personal failing on my part than a problem with any of the creatives behind Ted Lasso. Especially when you consider that the show was in part developed by Bill Lawrence — the creator of Scrubs, my favorite sitcom of all-time. If only I knew he was the show's true coach.
But yes, I did assume that the series would make an unflattering mockery of the sport that I’ve been obsessed with for most of my life. I was wrong.
As the credits rolled on the first episode I sat with a great big smile on my face, and found myself eagerly pressing ‘play next episode.' I did the same again after watching the second episode. Consider me a full-on covert. Ted Lasso, I’m sorry for ever doubting you.
Not the show I wanted, but the one I needed
After the last year and a half, I think we all need some optimism in our lives. I most certainly do. That’s exactly what makes Ted Lasso such a special show, it’s essentially bottled optimism.
Brought to life by Jason Sudeikis' best comedic performance since his SNL days, Coach Lasso is the embodiment of good. He’s sincere, compassionate, kind and very charming in a goofy kind of way. He’s probably a character that couldn’t ever really exist in real life, but getting to spend 30 minutes in his presence is a great way to forget any real-world troubles.
The show itself is pretty derivative from a narrative standpoint. The setup may be fairly original, but it largely covers plot points and relationship dynamics that sitcoms wore out decades ago. But, still, Ted Lasso won me over.
Ted Lasso is simply comforting at a time where that’s never been more valuable. There are more complex series available to watch, and there’s most definitely more original television being released right now. But I challenge anyone to find a show being produced at the minute with more heart.
As to my pre-watch reservations, while I can’t declare that Ted Lasso perfectly captures the unique English footballing culture, it certainly doesn’t disrespect it. The creative team has clearly done their homework and the footballing elements of the show are serviceable for the most part.
Give Ted Lasso a chance
Admittedly, I'm not done with season one. No, not because the middle episodes slow down, quite the opposite. After binging three episodes straight off the bat, I decided I wanted to savor Ted Lasso instead of rushing through it. I’m slowly making my way through the series so I can fully appreciate the warm feeling that each installment gives me. My editor tells me to just rewatch it again before season 2 begins.
Even at my slow pace it still feels like I’m burning through the first season too fast. I’m very grateful that I will only have to wait a few weeks for a new batch of episodes. I salute anyone who’s been waiting months.
If you’ve not given Ted Lasso a chance yet, for whatever reason, I implore you to find the time. You won’t regret it. Apple TV Plus may not be the most compelling streaming service compared to its rivals, but Ted Lasso is worth the price of admission alone.