Better Late Than Never: Ted Lasso
Ever since I saw the first episode of Scrubs, I have always been one of Bill Lawrence’s biggest fans. I truly believe that show was the best comedy series of the 2000s — I’d compare it favorably over Everybody Loves Raymond and Will & Grace without blinking. He’s had some inspired shows in the past ten years — the very funny, if admittedly poorly titled Cougar Town, and the undervalued and underwatched Ground Floor and Life Sentence. It took me awhile to sign on to watching Ted Lasso his latest venture (I’ll explain why in a moment) but after a plethora of nominations from the Golden Globes and Broadcast Critics I signed on. I’m so glad I did.
Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) has just divorced a billionaire British media mogul. Among the many things she has won in his divorce is his beloved soccer team. She sacked the legendary coach, and in its place hires Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) the head of a very minor Kansas American football champion more known for his viral celebration dance than his success. Ted really isn’t sure why he’s been hired as he knows nothing about British football. But what he lacks for her understanding of the game, he more than makes up for in enthusiasm and pure cheerfulness. There is nothing that can mute his optimism and spirit, and considering how hostile the press, the fans, and his own players bear him, that’s perhaps his greatest asset. What Ted doesn’t know is that Rebecca for the express purpose of failing spectacularly and destroying the team that her cheating husband loved more than life.
It is easy to think Ted, with his southern accent and apparent foolishness as just another idiot. But the key word is ‘apparent’. Ted is smarter than anybody (with the possible exception of his loyal assistant Coach Beard, wonderfully played by Brendan Hunt) would give him credit for. He has a good understanding of how people think, and I don’t know any sport coach who has knowledge of Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography, which he uses to gently to put down a pesky reporter. He loves everybody and everything. He is nice when he know it might hurt him, and doesn’t care even when his own players like superstar Jamie Start and veteran Roy Kent treat him like dirt. And he’s great at winning people over; he instantly makes friends with a local gaffer Nathan, who is amazed that anybody is paying attention to him and tries his best to set up a good report with Jamie’s supermodel wife (Juno Temple is remarkable). Even though Rebecca wants so desperately to keep him at arms length, she can’t help but be impressed when he brings her ‘biscuits’ every morning. She tries to get her assistant to find out where he gets them from, not knowing Ted bakes them himself every night before he goes to best. There are hints that Ted is still suffering a bit — his wife and son have not come overseas with him, and the implication is great that their marriage is in trouble.
You don’t need to know about football or soccer or, heck sports at all, to love Ted Lasso. In typical Lawrence fashion, there are so many quick fire jokes going back and forth that the replay value is immense — some of them, like Ted’s reaction when he learns how many countries are in the United Kingdom, is one of the most brilliant political jokes I’ve heard in a very long time. The entire cast is superb, but full credit must be given to the impressive Jason Sudeikis. His work has always been below my radar, even when he was at his peak on Saturday Night Live, but this is one of the very lead performances I’ve seen in a comedy in a very long time. I didn’t know how long I’d have to wait to see a performance that was so centered around a truly nice person since Kidding was cancelled last year, but Sudeikis is more than up to the challenged. The series and the man are already on my short list for this year’s Emmys.
I have been very reluctant to watch anything on Apple TV, perhaps because of my own failures in ability to access it. But when I finally found myself available to do so and watch this exceptional comedy, they won me over. I’m so glad this show was renewed for two more seasons (Lawrence has always had to struggle for every new season of every other show he’s had on TV) and maybe I’ll be willing give some of their other shows a chance. Hell, maybe I’ll even like The Morning Show.
My score: 4.75 stars.