Every once in a while, all of the elements of a show converge to produce something that is truly special.
Ted Lasso is the result of such a convergence.
On paper, Ted Lasso should be an average show. It’s not a new concept, the plotlines are predictable, and the humor isn’t groundbreaking. But you put the comedy, the cast, and the kindhearted nature of the script together, and this is a workplace comedy that shines.
Ted Lasso, the character, was originally designed as part of an ad campaign that married the NFL and the Premier League together in an effort to establish a relationship between the two to lure Americans to the football watched by the rest of the world.
It worked so well that Jason Sudeikis has said he’s recognized more around the world for those short spots than anything else he’s done.
If you’ve seen the spots, Ted Lasso is a buffoon. He’s a former US football coach recruited to lead a London football (aka soccer) team. Sudeikis is so good-natured and charming that even at his absolute worst (which is still better than most), Ted Lasso is recognizable and lovable.
While the spots did little more than prove that you don’t have to know everything about the sport to enjoy it and discover why the world is so passionate about it, Ted Lasso, the series, creates an affable character with so much heart that he’s irresistible.
The series sees Ted hired by the AFC Richmond team. It’s a stunt casting by the newly divorced and new owner of the franchise, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), in an effort to wreck the team her philandering husband (a vile Anthony Head) lost in the divorce. Her goal is for Ted to fail.
But Ted is in the midst of his own mid-life crisis, and his winning attitude and desire to make the most of every situation, no matter how firmly the deck is stacked against him, makes Rebecca’s dreams a little more difficult to achieve.
Ted arrives in the UK with his assistant, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), in tow. They formed the duo on the sidelines of the commercials and continue their dedicated friendship and working relationship on the series.
Where Ted is jovial and upbeat, Coach Beard is a bit more pedantic. He sobers Ted’s exuberant can-do attitude (but greatly enjoys his time at the pub).
They’re joined by the team’s equivalent of a waterboy, Nate (Nick Mohammed), who has a keen understanding of the sport but lacks the confidence to express it.
He’s invaluable to Ted and Coach Beard because, with their coaching abilities and his sense of the sport, their coaching staff has a shot at doing what Rebecca wants to steer far away from — winning.
Rebecca tries to remain stoic and on point, but Ted finds a way through her battle scars with an incessant barrage of pleasantries and colloquialisms and a secret ingredient that threatens to break down Rebecca — mysterious and tasty biscuits (cookies) that he delivers to her daily.
Rebecca turns to her right hand, Higgins (Jeremy Swift), to continue the assault on Ted’s success even as she begins to soften to her new coach.
Rebecca finds another friend in Keeley (Juno Temple), a social media influencer with major street cred and who happens to be dating the star Richmond player, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster).
Jamie is everything you’d expect a recruited star athlete on whom a team depends to be — crass, unkind, and unwilling to bend with the new team dynamic imposed by Ted.
Aging superstar, Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), butts heads with Jamie as he realizes the damage Jamie’s attitude does to those around him, especially in light of Roy’s burgeoning appreciation for Ted and his strange, American way of putting the players before the plays and the team before the win.
Ted Lasso, the show, pulls heavily on goofy comedy and unexpected friendships. There is a lot of heart in the writing, and while you might expect the series to lean on Sudeikis as the star, as you watch, you begin to realize it’s a genuine ensemble piece.
Every character is equally important to the series in the same way they’re crucial to the success or failure of the Richmond football team.
The relationship between Rebecca and Keely might be one of the best explorations of female friendship we’ve seen in a while. Rebecca mentors Keeley to do something more meaningful with her life, while Keeley lifts up her new mentor, helping her to find the confidence in herself that her cheating husband has zapped.
If Ted is the heart of the show, then Keeley is its soul, and they both work from different angles to find a cohesive mix that will elevate the Richmond Team from the bottom of the league to, well, something different.
Whether they win or lose, they’ll find a deeper meaning to the sport by embracing Ted’s vision of being the best people and players they can be to achieve greatness on and off the pitch (field).
Sudeikis clearly loves this character and the feel-good premise. With the help of Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town), Joe Kelley (How I Met Your Mother), and a writing team that includes stars Hunt and Goldstein, that premise goes from mundane to magical.
With a confluence of events, including the genuine effort to make something uplifting, the talent on screen and behind the scenes, and desire of audiences everywhere to engage in good-spirited entertainment, Ted Lasso emerges as something quite remarkable.
We have interviews with the talented cast and writers next week and will be reviewing the show weekly, as well. We hope you’ll join us as we believe Ted Lasso will warm your heart and win you over.
Ted Lasso premieres on Apple TV+ on Friday, August 14, with three episodes. Subsequent episodes will drop weekly.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.