When I read the blurb for Ted Lasso, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my sort of TV. A crucial lesson that I have learned from this coaching drama comedy is that I really do need to get a more open mind or, at least, towards TV, as if I continue, like I do, with my preconceived ideas about what I like and don’t like, I am going to miss out on little gems like this. Thank goodness for friends with less narrow TV prejudices who recommend things.
Ted Lasso is an eponymously titled drama on Apple TV which is about an American football coach who is brought to Britain, specifically AFC Richmond, a fictional club in London, to become their soccer coach. He has zero experience of soccer but an awful lot of coaching enthusiasm and knowledge and, along with his stalwart sidekick, Coach Beard, he attempts to turn around the flailing fortunes of Richmond with energy, good natured cajoling and an injection of team camaraderie for good measure.
Unbeknown to Lasso, not only does he have the task of convincing the team that they should lower their resistance and allow him to influence them but the owner of the team, Rebecca Welton, formerly Mannion is consistently conspiring against him. She wants the club to fail in a bid to wound her philandering ex-husband Rupert Mannion who has been cheating on her for years, culminating in embarrassment for her and public scandal in the papers. She is a woman scorned and you know what they say about those.
She is intent on revenge, on hitting Rupert where it hurts most but as she now has limited access to his “crown jewels”, she is determined that his beloved soccer club, Richmond, should go down the toilet.
Enter Ted Lasso, a surefire way to ensure that the club fails in Rebecca’s opinion. Who in their right mind would employ an American football coach to manage an English Premiership soccer team?
Ted has his work cut out for him regardless of his complete lack of soccer knowledge. The team is full of egos and one particularly large one in the form of Jamie Tartt who is a very talented soccer player but is also a complete and utter arse. He is arrogant and self-serving and a real thorn in the side of Ted and what he is trying to do to bring the team together.
His presence in the team is essential but damaging and add to that the fact that the team captain, veteran player Roy Kent despises Jamie and his childish bullying tactics with other players of the team, means that even Ted’s positive personality and good vibes washing over them like a tsunami of optimistic thinking does little to change attitudes towards the game or the team.
Will Ted be successful? Well, there’s a good chance but he is faced with many obstacles, not all of them are soccer related but it’s great viewing finding out.
You can tell from my opening paragraph that I loved Ted Lasso and so did my husband which is unusual in itself as he prefers documentaries as opposed to stories.
But Ted Lasso rather aptly won him over, as it is funny watching this chirpy American with his Southern drawl “Howdy” uptight Brits, remain chipper in the face of the most direct and abusive criticism from fans at the ground and in the street and suffer the derisory views of the unforgiving British media.
Ted reminded me of someone, of a character or characters that I had previously seen somewhere. It wasn’t someone from real life, it was someone I liked, made you feel good…and then it came to me! Jason Sudeikis is like a male Julie Andrews, combining her two most prominent film roles, Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp to create a male character in Ted who is winsome and sweet and lively who magically motivates and supports in his own unique way. Or if the Julie Andrews’ comparison doesn’t work, think of him like an enthusiastic puppy, intelligent and caring, bouncy and energetic and so endearing, he can’t fail to win you over. He is completely likeable and despite the comparison made to two female iconic roles and a dog, very much male and masculine.
He brings his coaching prowess to a place where it is not easily welcomed and with his relentlessness in the face of opposing odds, it is very difficult not to admire him. Also, us Brits love an underdog and I regularly found myself verbally encouraging Ted in his crusade.
Whilst Jason Sudeikis’ performance is wonderful, he has a great supporting cast in this comedy drama. I like Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard, a quietly spoken man of few words in marked contrast to Ted’s uncontrollable chattiness. But when he does speak it is with wit or wisdom or both. Their comfortable and successful relationship as manager and coach and their friendship beyond that is one of the things that remains solid throughout and feels unshakeable although they have their disagreements.
There is Nathan who is the caretaker of the club, doing tasks like mowing the grass, taking kits to be laundered, a general dogsbody who is timid in the face of players. As a result, he becomes a target for their ridicule and shrinks into himself, not wanting to draw attention. But, he has great ideas as he is not an unintelligent man – he is observant and astute in his assessment of the players and the way they play soccer and Ted draws upon him for coaching advice, building his confidence and self-esteem along the way.
Roy Kent, team captain and the King of Grumpiness, becomes the leader of the team that he was always meant to be and his thawing in the light of new love is heartwarming to see. He too grows as a person, realising his potential as a leader and role model.
Keeley Jones, the girlfriend of Jamie Tartt, who is bright and witty and friendly is one of my favourite characters with her straight-as-they-come attitude in everything she does, whether it’s confronting a character about what he or she may have done wrong or providing support to others when she can see that that is what they need, her down-to-Earth, no-nonsense approach is endearing and refreshing, despite that fact that I have managed to describe her in a completely unfresh way with clichés.
There are also moments galore where I laughed out loud during this series. Witty phrases and word-play litter the script and some of the interactions between the characters whether in the dressing room or the pub or elsewhere are so funny or poignant or both, that you can’t fail to be gripped by it and the dynamic between the characters.
It’s not all good humour though as there are some pain-filled moments but the pathos created only adds to Ted’s story. There’s nothing like a bit of conflict to align you to a character and the writers of Ted Lasso have done this in just the right amount.
For me, as a person with one foot on this side of the pond and another in good old Blighty (as well as some of me in Australia – you can decide what), I loved the mix of North American and British. The differences in words reflects my life on a daily basis. Notice that I have used “soccer” in this article throughout but I really want to call it “football”. I constantly have to amend my words to the North American equivalent to avoid being misconstrued except with my closest Canadian friends who have heard them before. You won’t believe the trouble I could get into on this continent, talking about “Ginger Nuts” ( a delicious hard biscuit (cookie)which is perfect for dunking in hot tea and great to suck on(see?)) or “fag butts” (cigarette stubs, a totally innocent reference) or indeed “tits”(chickadees) as previously mentioned, so the constant dialogue about the difference in cultural terms between two English speaking countries makes me feel very much at home.
I loved it. I am going to miss Ted Lasso. Just like The Queen’s Gambit, I wish that there was a little more Ted Lasso to view and that it hadn’t been so damned good that I had had to devour it at once, a bit like a small pink pack of biscuits.
But I have a funny feeling that I may see Ted again and I can’t wait.