Friday, August 13, 2021

We can all use a little Ted Lasso

I think the world could use a little bit more Ted Lasso.

I'm only three episodes in to the popular AppleTV series about an American football coach who moves to England to coach a professional British futbol team, but Ted Lasso has my heart.

The series, which began as a simple skit with Jason Sudeikis in promo for NBC Sports coverage of the English Premier League, has become the perfect vehicle for some much-needed positive vibes about the better angels of our nature, or in this case just the story of a simple good guy. And I really like Sudeikis in this role because it's a nice transition from his string of SNL and movie characters who are ultimately good guys at heart, but who too often let their ego, their insecurities, and their privilege get in the way of their humanity. This role is part of Jason Sudeikis' very good year.

Ted Lasso. Man—what an unlikely story. The character was initially dreamed up to serve a very different purpose. Sudeikis first played him in 2013, in a promo for NBC, which had recently acquired the television rights to the Premier League and was trying to inspire American interest in English football. The promo was the length and shape of an SNL sketch and featured a straightforward conceit: A hayseed football (our football) coach is hired as the football (their football) coach of a beloved English club, to teach a game he neither knows nor understands in a place he neither knows nor understands. The joke was simple and boiled down to the central fact that Ted Lasso was an amiable buffoon in short shorts.

But Sudeikis tries to listen to the universe, even in unlikely circumstances, and for whatever reason the character stuck around in his head. So, in time, Sudeikis developed and pitched a series with the same setup—Ted, in England, far from his family, a stranger in a strange land learning a strange game—that Apple eventually bought. But when we next saw Ted Lasso, he had changed. He wasn't loud or obnoxious anymore; he was simply…human. He was a man in the midst of a divorce who missed his son in America. The new version of Ted Lasso was still funny, but now in an earned kind of way, where the jokes he told and the jokes made at his expense spoke to the quality of the man. He had become an encourager, someone who thrills to the talents and dreams of others. He was still ignorant at times, but now he was curious too.

The show starts from a somewhat cliched fish-out-of-water premise, but quickly matures into some clever situational humor and an eclectic cast of characters who move the plot while winning our hearts and making us go "awhhhh." Watching the endless optimism of Ted Lasso, an admittedly flawed man, who always assumes best intentions, I am struck by how good Ted can make us feel simply by committing to making the people around him feel good.

A buddy of mine recently Tweeted to me, "I can't think of a better, more impactful, show from the past five years." 

At this point, I gotta say I agree.

No comments: