TED LASSO, a new series on Apple TV+, stars Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live) as a low level American Football coach hired to lead a British Premier League soccer club. Why would an owner of a soccer team do such a thing? We find out in the pilot and it sets up the rest of the series nicely.
As an American relocating to England, Sudeikis’ Ted Lasso is a fish out of water. He is even further out of water because while he knows football, he doesn’t know anything about … football (soccer). We are soon treated to some sports and cultural clichés, which could be a bit on the nose, if not for the performances of three main characters.
Sudeikis gives Lasso a goofy earnestness that, while hokey (on purpose), makes you love him. He manages to portray a midwestern sweetness cranked to 11 without seeming saccharine or too over the top. The character of Ted Lasso originated in a series of NBC promotional clips for the Premier League, but fans of Sudeikis’ work on on Saturday Night Live will catch glimpses of some of his characters (including the dance moves he showed on the “What’s Up With That?” sketch). Lasso is a ray of sunshine, but Sudeikis also gives the character a hint of sadness.
The ‘differences between football and soccer’ sports angle could easily be annoying if not for Brendan Hunt’s understated but likable Coach Beard. Hunt steals every scene he is in. The back and forth between Lasso and Coach Beard makes Ted’s attempts to understand soccer go down easier. Hunt and Sudeikis have an easy rapport that makes their friendship believable.
Ted’s boss is the new owner of the team, Rebecca played by Hannah Waddingham (Krypton). While the ‘tough as nails boss’ is an oft used movie and TV device, Waddingham gives Rebecca a vulnerability that makes her likable even as she does some bad things. Rebecca is the most multi-dimensional character in the pilot. I am keenly interested to see how Ted and Rebecca’s working relationship evolves over time.
Ted Lasso is a funny show, but in a quirky way. It doesn’t go all in for belly laughs and it doesn’t try to go for over the top absurd humor. Instead it sprinkles in clever jokes that make you chuckle throughout the episode. Is it a ridiculous concept? Sure. Does it employ some sports clichés such as the aged veteran and the jerk hot shot rookie? Sure. But in an entertainment landscape filled with cynicism, it is refreshing to have something to watch that is upbeat and … nice.
The first three episodes of TED LASSO are now available.
Have you watched the show? What did you think? Feel free to chat with me on Twitter or leave a comment below!