Creators – Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence
Cast – Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Juno Temple, Nick Mohammed, Phil Dunster
Like the character himself, the show’s Ted Lasso, its humble beginnings to become a symbol, transcends more meaningfully than one could ever imagine.
Lasso, the character, a chuckling American football coach who lands a plum performance in England, was created several years ago for a series of English Premier League commercials in the United States. But the show, which is out on Apple TV +, is not just a silly sitcom about a free man who finds himself out of his depth, in a foreign country, overwhelmed by a sports culture of which he has no knowledge. Ted Lasso is an ambassador on a mission to present America and Americans ̵
Watch the Ted Lasso trailer here
Ted, played by Jason Sudeikis, does not demand respect. He understands that in England, where he has been hired to run a fictional EPL site called AFC Richmond, he is the outsider. And he has the humility to accept this. And it is this humility that also penetrates the show that will undoubtedly overshadow my favorite in 2020 – heartwarming, fun and hugely inspiring. It is to use a phrase that you will often hear football commentators use, just what the doctor has ordered.
In the first few episodes – three will be available on launch day, followed by a new one each week – Ted Lasso, the character, comes almost as needy as Michael Scott from The Office. He even likes Fettuccini Alfredo, a reference that devoted fans of the office will surely understand. You can feel in him, just moments after his arrival in the UK, a desire to be wanted.
These early episodes lean heavily on humor-out-of-water humor – Ted takes a sip of tea and with a look of disgust on his face dismisses it as ‘hot brown water’. During his debut fight, he hears the word ‘wanker’ for the first time, and moments later he is told that it is not an expression of love. In England, he cautiously informs his son, “Fries are called chips, chips are called chips, and bangers are not good songs, but they make you want to dance.”
Jason Sudeikis in a still image by Ted Lasso. (Apple)
But Ted is not one to bask in blissful ignorance. He is as curious as he is nice. And Ted Lasso, who we learn in later episodes, is a very handsome man. At first, his infinite enthusiasm is met with suspicion; in fact weathered audiences can watch the show with similar cynicism as well.
Ted’s players are stunned when he suggests that AFC Richmond, who are crucial, neither very good nor very bad – they are the crucial midfield team – could beat the champions, Manchester City. At the local pub, Ted gets an important lesson on cultural differences: In America, they ask, “Do you believe in miracles?” But in Britain they say, “It is hope that kills you.”
But hope is all Ted sells. He is not worried about the company of running a top-flight football club, but more concerned about making friendships and giving his team valuable lessons about life.
Ted Lasso is a workplace comedy in the same way that the recent Netflix series Space Force was a workplace comedy. Like the Steve Carrell show that spent more time in the mission control room than on Mars, Ted Lasso hardly has any football action to speak of. It focuses more on the conditions built into the closet space.
Jason Sudeikis and Hannah Waddingham in a still from Ted Lasso (Apple)
One big reason for its success is how effortlessly it not only makes up Ted, who has a wonderfully emotional bow, but also the players who support. There is Rebecca, the icy owner of the club, who inherited it as part of her divorce settlement; there’s Roy Kent, the team captain, who is well past his heyday; there is Nate, the modest kit-man who, almost as a kind of will-hunter, has a hidden talent for coming up with tactical plays; and then there’s Keeley, a WAG with bigger ambitions.
Each of these characters is written with patience and empathy – some of them are not as sympathetic as others, but all of them, even a gag of hooligan fans, can be redeemed. What a wonderful performance.
Also read: Never Have I Ever review: Mindy Kaling’s Netflix show takes desi-drama worldwide
As grateful as I am for this show, part of me is worried about whether it will reach its potential on Apple TV +, a streaming service that ironically has not reached its own. Along with the recent animated musical Central Park, Ted Lasso is worth buying a subscription. Many of you with new Apple devices can literally tune in for free. You will not regret it.
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The author tweets @RohanNaahar