Anyone who remembers ABC’s The Cavemen knows that it’s generally a bad idea to make a show based on a series of advertisements. To be fair, 2007 was a different time, but it was BAD. I mean really bad. I mean has a 19 on metacritic bad. So, let’s just say when I saw that Apple TV+ was producing a series based on the NBC Sports Premier League announcement commercials I was skeptical. The character of Ted Lasso started off as an arrogant American football coach who was brought in to lead Tottenham Hotspur in a comedic fish out of water scenario. For an ad it was pretty good humor. The show Ted Lasso has been the most surprising series I have watched in a long time. It just works.
The Secret Sauce of Ted Lasso
The biggest reason why the show works is that Ted Lasso, brilliantly portrayed again by Jason Sudekis, nails a certain type of perpetual optimist football coach, a wise pivot from his self assured bravado from the commercial series. Last summer, I met Geoff Collins who had recently become the coach of Georgia Tech. Before he was a Yellowjacket, he was at Temple University. Being a head coach for a smaller school is as much about impressing the recruits and their families as anything else. I watched Collins throughout the day remember everyone’s name, give everyone the time of day, give his personal cell number to a kid, and I realized that’s his superpower. That’s how you convince a kid to come to Georgia Tech and get their ass beat by Clemson. Sudekis channels that energy. His first act as coach of fictional FC Richmond was learning the name of Nathan, the team equipment manager. By the end of the third episode he has already started to win over the locker room and his boss, Rebbecca, who had initially hired him to tank the team into relegation in order to spite the previous owner, her ex-husband.
The cast is likewise outstanding. Aside from Sudekis, Hannah Waddingham (Rebecca) toes the line between villainous and sympathetic, while Brendan Hunt (Coach Beard) is the quintessentially under-appreciated assistant. Brett Goldstein (Joe Kent) plays the steeled veteran to perfection. There really isn’t anyone on this cast I would replace. It just works. How often can you say that for the first season of a comedy show? Go back and watch season one of your favorite comedy series and how many of them have their full toolbox at the beginning?
I shouldn’t be surprised at how much I like Ted Lasso, because the tone reminds me a lot of showrunner Bill Lawrence’s other series, Scrubs. Both shows walk a tight line of silly comedy and heartstring-tugging moments. It’s hard to balance those two things without either becoming jarring or sappy. Ted Lasso is by far the best show on AppleTV+. Admittedly a feat which isn’t that hard to pull off, but all the same it is well worth a free trial to check out.