Ted Lasso, the series streaming on Apple TV+, cleaned up at the Emmy Awards on Sunday night. And, deservedly so. The brainchild of SNL star Jason Sudeikis, the sports comedy-drama is the vaccine we all need now. Not against Covid-19 (although watching the show during the pandemic certainly raised many spirits, if not immunity), but because it lays out a game plan for how we can heal and come together.
For those who have managed not to watch this excellent series, put aside preconceived notions and tune in. Yes, it does require a subscription to Apple TV+, but the investment pays off. You may find other shows to watch on this service, but even if you don’t and decide to cancel, the feel-good nature of Ted Lasso will last and help you over any obstacles ahead.
I’m a baseball fan, not a soccer fan, although when I do watch – particularly women’s soccer – I enjoy every minute. But if you’ve shied away from Ted Lasso because you hate soccer or sports in general, the series is about so much more. And the topics – everything from anxiety and depression, to divorce and dating, to friendships and parenting – are handled with such sensitivity, compassion, and, yes, humor, that the lessons being delivered never seem preachy or heavy-handed.
Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca Welton
Lasso is the fish out of water, recruited by the British soccer team, AFC Richmond, struggling in the Premier League. Lasso, who coached to a title an NCAA Division II football team in Kansas City, knows nothing about soccer. But he takes on the challenge, bringing along his assistant, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt). The team’s new owner, recently divorced Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), is seeking revenge on her husband, hoping to destroy the team he loved. What better way to do that than to hire an incompetent coach? Ted Lasso fits the bill.
Rebecca’s initial instincts hold up when Lasso fails to deliver any wins and has the crowd jeering him, not only during games, but whenever they encounter him on the street or in pubs, taunting him with “wanker.” As with everything else, Lasso manages to turn that insult around by the way he handles himself with Rebecca, the team, and even his harshest critics. Soon wanker begins to mean something else entirely.
Tempers on a loosing team run hot, and Lasso often must referee verbal, even physical, battles among his players. The team is diverse, with players from England as well as from Asia and Africa, and several episodes touch on socio-economic differences. But no matter the conflict, the way Lasso intervenes, never being judgmental, but helping each side understand the emotions playing out, settles things down. These instances offer so many lessons to parents, coaches, teachers, counselors, and others that they should be required viewing. The counseling aspect gets a boost in season two when Sarah Niles joins the cast as psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone. Initially hired to help one player, she soon has a growing line out her door, emphasizing the current concern with mental health issues for elite athletes.
Brett Goldstein as Roy Kent
One criticism hurled at Ted Lasso and the title character specifically, is his unfailingly upbeat and folksy demeanor. That attitude endures even when his wife and son show up for a game and he knows his marriage is over. It will be many episodes before Ted confronts the demons in his life, because of his divorce and also the pressure of managing the team, but he still conveys compassion for those who are suffering. When Rebecca finally confesses that she hired him to kill the team, rather than anger, he embraces her with understanding, noting that divorce makes people do crazy things. From that moment on, she’s in his corner, doing everything she can to help him turn AFC Richmond around.
The series may not be appropriate viewing for young people, even if they are soccer fans, because there’s plenty of swearing and sex talk. For older teens, however, the lessons will hit home.
At the Emmy Awards, Ted Lasso was named Outstanding Comedy Series and the stars were frequent visitors to the stage. Besides Sudeikis, who won for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Brett Goldstein, who plays the aging soccer star, Roy Kent, was named Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, and Waddingham won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
In her acceptance speech, Waddingham thanked Sudeikis for changing her life. But for so many of us, Ted Lasso, has affected our lives, during the pandemic and beyond.
Ted Lasso’s first two seasons can be steamed on Apple TV+.
Photos courtesy of Apple TV+