Dozens, if not hundreds, of new shows debut every year now. That might be hyperbole, but it certainly feels true. Every network has original programming now, and so does every streaming service. Everyone needs to offer unique content, and they’re all spending millions of dollars to make their films and series stand out.
It’s amazing then that all they had to do was be nice.
Ted Lasso, the new series from AppleTV+, concludes its first season today. The series has become one of my favourite things of the year and it did so not by being dark, or edgy, or cynical, but by being positive, uplifting, and relentlessly good-hearted.
Led by Jason Sudeikis, the show begins with an American college football coach arriving in England to coach a premiership football team. He’s out of his league, out of his depth, and coaching a sport he doesn’t even fully understand. Yes, he’s coaching soccer, and yes I am going to continue calling it by its proper name.
The team he arrives to coach, AFC Richmond, is one in shambles. Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), the newly divorced owner wants to run the club into the ground to punish the philandering ex-husband she acquired the team from. The squad itself is a divided one, with ageing former superstar Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) on one side of the locker room and cocky up and coming star Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) on the other, and every other archetype in between, including Keeley Jones (Juno Temple), a model and girlfriend of Tartt.
Everyone in Richmond is either angry or resigned. With this setup, many shows or film start with an invigorating speech designed to lift everyone’s spirits. Ted begins by fixing the water pressure in the showers, by bringing Rebecca cookies each morning, and by engaging with not only every member of the team but everyone in the community as well.
And this is the charm of the character and the show. Ted shows genuine, unironic interest in everyone he meets. Whether it’s his star player or the young girl who kicks a ball around in the park, he wants to know them. Not just their name, but know who they are and what they aspire to. He doesn’t have a catchphrase per se, but it might as well be “I appreciate you” which he says to almost everyone that does anything. “Congratulations,” he says to a reporter and a waiter he has just introduced to one another, “you both just met a cool person.”
Similarly, Ted looking for talent everywhere pays off too. There’s a lovely moment in episode three where he uses a play designed by the kit man Nathan (Nick Mohammed) and then rechristens him “Nate the Great”, recognising that Nate has probably forgotten more about football than he will ever know.
All of this good-naturedness from Ted, with support from his friend and confidant Coach Beard (who is hilariously played by Brendan Hunt) of course, ends up rubbing off on the entire community. Yes, everyone who is set up to have an arc in the show gets a boost from Ted, who in one episode states that his measure of success isn’t a count of wins and losses, but in helping the men in his charge become the best versions of themselves.
Ted is like Captain America, in that he shows up and the world changes around him and his implacable optimism, which makes the revelation that he is having marital problems all the more meaningful. There are problems he can’t fix, and the resolution to that storyline is beautiful too and requires more from Sudeikis than you’d expect a show like to ask.
2020 has been a bad year. Between the political, economic, social, healthcare, and ecological disasters that are playing out in the world in real time there hasn’t been that many rays of light. Ted Lasso is a ray of light. It might be the 2020 of it all speaking, but I really needed Ted Lasso this month and this year. The show brings a smile to my face each time I watch it (and I have watched all 10 episodes now, twice), even when its not trying to make my laugh. I hope they throw all the awards at Jason Sudeikis for his performance.
There are ten episodes in the first season of Ted Lasso, each a half-hour in length. That’s the kind of feel-good storytelling you can also conceivably binge in a single night if you get into it, and I have a hard time imagining that you wouldn’t get into it. Ted Lasso is one of the best new shows in years, it has already renewed for a second season, and you should definitely watch it.