Ted Lasso began as a comedic character in English Premier League TV spots for NBC Sports several years ago. Jason Sudeikis played the American Football coach who goes across the pond to become the gaffer of Tottenham Hotspur F.C. The promos centered around Lasso’s transition into becoming familiar with the Beautiful Game and highlighting the differences between the two footballs for entertainment value. Today, Coach Lasso returns for an all new series on Apple TV+ based on the same premise of the NBC Sports skits.
Coming off leading his Wichita State Shockers to the Division II championship in college football, Ted Lasso is surprisingly hired as the soccer coach for the fictional team, AFC Richmond, by its new owner. He takes his college approach to the pros by not just developing great players, but great men while also building a community both within and outside the team. In the first three episodes we observe how much the Lasso Way is changing the club and their west London supporters.
So far, Ted Lasso is such a wholesome show (minus the language) and has the makings of the next feel good sports story. Sudeikis brings a lot of positivity and midwestern charm to his role making it hard not to root for him. A stark contrast to the NBC Sports shorts where he came off as the stereotypical clueless, boorish American.
Joining him is a great amiable cast, but with a show focused on male team sports, it’s the women who really stand out. Hannah Waddingham plays the cold hearted, intimidating owner, Rebecca Welton. She’s sharp witted always finding the right thing to say whether it’s deflecting questions about her ex-husband without being noticeably frazzled to deescalating Lasso’s first press conference before he becomes too overwhelmed. Her striking presence alone is enough to keep players and staff alike in line and you can tell she commands their respect. Also, her management style serves as a nice contrast compared to Lasso’s.
Similarly, Juno Temple’s Keeley is an interesting character. She plays the star player’s girlfriend and grounds the story a bit by providing an outside of sports aspect and perspective. Temple steals many of the scenes she’s in and has great chemistry with whoever she’s acting opposite off.
The writing is well done creating some intriguing story lines. There is the main one focusing on the real, nefarious reason Rebecca hires an inexperienced coach to Ted’s ulterior motives to taking a job in a distant land in a sport he knows nothing about other than a pure love of coaching. The comedy is also there with funny wordplay bits with his assistant coach and a very stirring and hilarious speech by the team’s captain on his admiration for the film Step Brothers.
If you’re familiar with the NBC Sports promos, you’ll find some of the material recycled in the first few episodes. It can be understandable, especially for the pilot because they’re building on the initial idea and seeing if it’s feasible for an entire series. However, the tonal shift in how the lines are delivered and in Ted Lasso’s character creates a more likeable and good-natured atmosphere. There is also a reliance early on using jokes about the cultural differences but they are phased out as the season progresses.
There could have also been more original characters as many follow conventional tropes such as the hotshot arrogant young star, the angry tough guy team captain, and the pudgy, unathletic team manager who has a keen sense of strategy and plays. But the genuineness and heart the actors bring to their fictional counterparts make them endearing.
On the show, Ted Lasso is tasked with proving to his club and their fans that he is the right man for the job. We’ll see this season if he has what it takes to keep a mediocre team out of the relegation zone and maybe to the title but the show’s already won me over and I’ll tune in to watch the exploits of AFC Richmond every week.