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Ted Lasso

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Why it’s worth your time:

Ted Lasso wasn’t the role model anyone expected at the end of 2020, but he was absolutely the one we needed. Supportive, good-natured, and undaunted by adversity, Ted (played with total commitment by Jason Sudeikis) could teach us all a thing or two about making the best out of a tough situation.

The story begins with Ted arriving in England to start a job as head manager of AFC Richmond, an English Premier League football team. He’s never coached soccer before, or even visited England, but he’s up for the challenge. Despite his folksy demeanor, Ted is no fool. He’s aware of how much he has to learn, puts in the effort, and catches on quickly. Joining him on his adventure is his trusted assistant Coach Beard (played by co-creator Brendan Hunt). Their close friendship — based on mutual respect and a shared history that’s only alluded to but feels palpable on screen — turns out to be one of the best parts of the series.

What they don’t know is that the team’s recently divorced owner, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Wadingham), is determined to destroy her ex-husband’s beloved franchise, and has brought in Ted to help her do it. What Rebecca doesn’t know is that she’s picked the exact wrong guy for the job. Or, rather, she’s inadvertently picked the right one. Though he’s set up to fail, Ted handles each setback with grace and humor. His secret weapons against a hostile press, belligerent fans, and a team of resentful players who don’t take well to being told what to do by clueless outsiders are relentless optimism and genuine decency. Sometimes that’s enough.

Yes, the show employs the typical fish-out-of-water trope, but it gets a lot of the expected culture-clash humor (or should it be humour?) out of its system early on. There’s a wide range of comedic moments, from subtle, dry asides to full-on spit takes, balanced out by scenes of exquisite tension and heartbreak. For a show about sports, toxic masculinity is in surprisingly short supply here. Even the one character who embodies that archetype — the team’s egotistical star player Jaime Tartt (Phil Dunster) — is revealed to have a vulnerable side. As for the show’s two main female characters — besides Rebecca, there’s Jaime’s on-and-off girlfriend Keeley (Juno Temple) — it’s fun to watch them form an unlikely friendship with an appeal all its own. Brett Goldstein is also a standout as the team’s aging captain, Roy Kent, but really there’s not a false note among the entire cast.

The takeaway:

It’s so refreshing to have a legitimately good hero leading a series for a change, no “anti-” modifier necessary. Ted Lasso the show works because of Ted Lasso the character, but that’s not all it has going for it. The fun and uplifting story helps carry the viewer along.

Watch it with:

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the show is only for sports fans. The compelling story and well-developed characters are the main appeal here. Those characters do, however, engage in some sexual situations and tend to communicate in colorful language, so it may not be appropriate for younger audiences.

Worth noting:

You may notice an unusual attribution in the opening credits of each episode: “Based on Pre-Existing Format / Characters from NBC Sports.” That’s because Ted Lasso was originally created in 2013 for a series of promotional spots advertising coverage of the Premiere League on NBC Sports. That version (also played by Sudeikis) is a bit more of a crude American stereotype bumbling his way through the job, but you may recognize some recycled lines. Fortunately, the creative team made adjustments when developing the show, resulting in the version we know now.

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