Fiction Fridays: I Believe In Ted Lasso
Hi. It’s me again. Back from the ether.
Have you heard about my favorite thing, the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso?
Surely you must’ve by now.
A Peabody award, 20 Emmy nominations and the most for a comedy in its debut season (unseating Glee from that record, thank whatever god you believe in).
A genuine visual hug of a series based on two short films created by NBC Sports to promote their Premier League coverage, starring Jason Sudeikis?
I started this post as “my new favorite thing” but really, Ted Lasso hasn’t been a “new” favorite thing in quite some time.
We’ll take you back to 2014, when I had just started to go to local bars to watch my dearest Liverpool. When my girlfriends and I would quote these dumb commercials to each other, giggling madly every time someone mentioned Leicester City - shouting at each other in Ted’s overdone Southern accent “LIE-CHESTER!”
Because we’d all been those dumb Americans, unaware of how Leicester was actually pronounced.
(Its actually pronounced like “Lester”, in case you didn’t know either).
Those commercials, the two of them, seemed to plant something in Sudeikis and his co-star Brendan Hunt and they teamed up with Bill Lawrence of Scrubs fame, and spent the next oh, something like 8 years working on making Ted and Coach Beard a real leadership force. Finding them a club to take on as a new challenge, giving them a reason to actually move to London and stay there longer than about 12 hours, as they did in the first commercial.
So Ted Lasso for Apple TV was born.
In the lead up to the first episodes dropping, with the first three of the first season coming out all at once last year, I had… low expectations, to say the least. I didn’t want to be disappointed, and was very much ready to be. There seemed to be only so much meat that could be hewn from those commercials before it got stale. I hadn’t really, truly, fully loved a television show since I gave too much of myself to a spy dramedy on NBC that ripped my heart out in its finale in 2012 and left it sobbing on a beach in San Pedro.
(That might be another story for another time).
And then came in Ted and Coach Beard, fully realized and no longer American caricatures. Then came Rebecca, and Higgins, and Nate, and Keeley, and Jamie, and Sam, and Roy fucking Kent.
This ensemble really is something else. There’s something about watching genuine kindness and compassion slowly erode walls of British stiff upper lip protections, melt away bravado in favor of teamwork and true support for each other.
It’s not perfect, by any means. If you’re a more cynical person, it can be too cloying, to overly nice, like it tries too hard. I remember thinking how disappointed I was that the catalyst for Keeley and Rebecca’s friendship was over them talking about the men in their lives, bonding in the women’s bathroom - even as their friendship became more than that. Ted himself can be almost toxically positive, in a way that has pushed away his wife, that is obviously hiding some real pain and emotions he doesn’t know how to deal with. Writing a character like that has to be fascinating. How do you make someone that nice, that kind, and maintain his intelligence - isn’t there an ignorance that has to go along with choosing to be that positive? What are the downsides to being a goldfish?
There’s also the moments where they can clearly make fun of something that any other show would do, like Higgins’ first name for example, and they brush it off as normal. Things like Sam’s aversion to the American military is understood, rather than questioned and laughed at. There are things that in most any other show would be written as a punchline, but in Ted Lasso’s Richmond they simply are what they are.
I’ve watched the first season five times over by now, and the second season (or what’s available of it) twice. There are more things to love every time, subtle moments that go past you until you go back again. I didn’t catch the “Harry Redknapp called three times” joke until the third watch through. I actually felt my heart clench when Roy reached up and touched the ‘Believe’ sign, a gesture we know too well as Liverpool fans.
(Sidenote: Brett Goldstein, the actor that plays Roy and also a member of the writer’s room, is a Tottenham Hotspurs fan and had watched the original commercials because of that).
I haven’t loved a show like this since 2007-2012. I haven’t needed a show like this since then - something to come back to, a world of characters that feel like friends and family members. That I can dream of and speculate in a way that brings me comfort, not anxiety, or even worse - apathy.
When season one ended, with a promise of a season two but not a premiere date, my mind went spinning. I pulled on all the threads that they’d left behind, hoping that certain stories would take certain paths that they’d laid out. As a football fan, deeper than maybe most, I knew what a toll relegation would take on a smaller club like AFC Richmond. Having seen the end of Steven Gerrard’s career, I eagerly pressed my nose against the glass looking into Roy’s impending retirement - how that would work with his new romance with Keeley.
As cheesy as it might be to say, Ted Lasso is a gift. Some don’t agree, and that’s fine. It’s probably not something they needed.
I needed it, though. In the thick of the pandemic, of trying to make a space for myself, to find what I loved again, I needed it. Ted Lasso became, thankfully, one of many life rafts I held onto throughout a tough year that is continuing to be tough but in different ways.
That there was someone, however fictional, that could affect change by being kind. Even at times to his own detriment, or the detriment of the ones around him. Coach Beard’s outburst towards the end of the season, when he yells at Ted for not caring about wins or losses even as they stare relegation in the face, was like cutting open a loaf of bread and watching the steam pour out. Hearing Michelle tell him that she couldn’t do it anymore, couldn’t be smothered like that anymore, was the knife.
Characters are people, they are real, however much in our heads. However powerfully infectious Ted’s kindness can be, he is flawed as much as everyone else.
It’s beautiful, to see thoughtful, kind, and flawed characters, make their way through a world that is often so secretive - because those flaws can be eviscerated in the press at a moment’s notice.
I so look forward to the half hour and change I get to spend with AFC Richmond. There is so much to be loved about this show, so much that is fascinating and incredible to see from a writer's point of view, but also from a football fan’s point of view. It is a well crafted dish, that I can order as often as I want and never get sick of.
And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a new episode up today.