Ted Lasso (streaming on Apple+ with its second season dropping Friday July 23rd) should not exist today. It is a throwback show, one enriched with hope, earnestness, and sentiment that used to be present in shows like Leave It to Beaver and My Three Sons. It’s virtually void of the cynicism, which has permeated mainstream entertainment for the last three decades. I say that as someone who enjoys, and regularly employs, a snarky, cynical attitude in my content. Yet, I love this show, which only features skepticism when characters deal with the main character.*
That character is of course, Ted Lasso, an NCAA Division II American football coach who is hired to coach AFC Richmond, a British football team. (In deference to the show and our British cousins, I won’t use the S-word to describe the sport). Ted has never coached, or even played, British football. It wuldn’t be out of order to say that the only thing that he knows about the game is that teams score by kicking a ball into a net.
Virtually everyone, including the Richmond players, the media, and the fans, who repeatedly call him a “wanker,” are gob-smacked by the hiring.
The only three people who seem to believe in Ted are Ted himself (who displays an inordinate amount of self-confidence); his assistant Coach Beard, who is a walking encyclopedia; and the team’s owner, Rebecca Welton, who won the team in her divorce from her philandering husband. I say “seem” because <MINOR SPOILER MINOR SPOILER>
we find out at the end of the first episode that Rebecca hired Ted because she believes he’ll fail miserably, thereby destroying the one thing that her ex-husband loves: the team.
When I reached that reveal, my thought was that Bill Lawrence, the creator of Lasso and Scrubs (which also featured spurts of sincerity and sentiment), had made an update on Major League. Indeed, like Major League, Lasso features a number of stereotypical characters, like the over-the-hill veteran with a bum knee; the up-and-coming, egocentric super-star; the foreign black player; the bigger-than-life vengeful female owner, and the bumbling assistant to the owner.
Yet, unlike Major League, Lasso goes beyond its stereotypes and gives it characters layers upon layers. Even Coach Lasso, who at first glance appears to be a more intelligent version of Forrest Gump (okay that’s a low bar) is shown to be much more than what he appears to be. With Ted, virtually everyone on the show underestimates the man.
That includes the viewer.
Perhaps the greatest pleasure of the show is watching as Ted demolishes their initial beliefs and wins each of the characters over, one-by-one.
In fact, for me, it’s that pleasure that makes the show worth a second viewing before the second season begins.
If I have a reservation about the second season, it’s due to this question. If the greatest pleasure is in watching Ted win everyone over, what can it do in the second season after there is no one left to win over?
I’ve learned, though, to stop underestimating Ted and his undying earnestness. Perhaps he can even bring that quality back to our larger society
*I’m late to this show, which debuted in August 2020, but given the amount of content out there now, I hope you’ll forgive my tardiness.