[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge watched ahead of the second. I think the last time was Orphan Black. With that one, I just wasn’t in the right headspace for it during the first season’s run in 2013, but the following year, the week that Season 2 was beginning, it marathoned, I was curious and made a point to DVR and mainline it, and then I was all caught up to start live. I just did the same thing with Ted Lasso. As Ted would say, I got there eventually.
I had to go back and look at what I was watching instead and it clicked into place why I’d skipped it. When it premiered, I was deep into The Alienist: Angel of Darkness and Brave New World, so NOT in the headspace to be interested in, much less appreciative of, a fish-out-of-water comedy about an American football coach transplanted to England to coach soccer with zero frame of reference for the sport.
Fast forward nine months and the show’s been racking up awards left and right, but more importantly, it’s mentioned to me by close friends in very reverential tones, so it came back onto my radar. It was on my list to get around to it, maybe before Season 2 started, and then last week it blew the doors off the Emmy nominations and I thought, okay, time to get on this. Well, I watched the first season in three days and am now several episodes into screening the second season. Everybody who leaned on me to watch it was spot on. Yay, team!
If you’ve held out, too, let me give you a sense of what the show is without tipping any of the lovely specifics, and I’ll throw in a preview of Season 2, which arrives on July 23rd.
The premise mentioned above is pretty straightforward but significantly undersells the quiet charm of the show. Jason Sudeikis headlines, writes, and is one of the creators and executive producers of the 30-minute dramedy that follows the titular college football coach Ted Lasso and his colleague, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt, who is also a creator, producer, and writer on the series), from the American Midwest to London to take the reins of a struggling football club.
The club’s owner, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), has a deceptive master plan in hiring Lasso, but she is wholly unprepared for the unrelenting ray of sunshine that he is. And immediately that made me a little nervous because I vehemently didn’t want to watch the nice guy be the punching bag. Initially, he most definitely is, to some degree, but he genuinely doesn’t give a shit. He’s radiating positivity regardless, and like Sandra Bullock said in her Oscar speech, he’s eventually going to wear everyone down.
That’s not to say that he’s aloof to the vitriol directed his way; instead, he’s determined to be a coach to the team, and shepherd the boys in their careers and their lives regardless of whatever the score is when they play. And just by being who he is, he makes everyone around him better, including Rebecca.
He’s also navigating some complicated family dynamics that sent him out of the country and very occasionally, the pain and trauma of that bleed through, but his kindness is not an act nor a mask. It’s who he is at his core. He fundamentally cannot be any other way, and he spreads that around, welcoming others into his buoyancy by recognizing even the tiniest moments as the biggest victories. When he crumbles now and again in acknowledging his difficulties, which momentarily make him less nice, he’s immediately bound to make amends.
There are some prickly and problematic characters in the mix that lead to some bullying and arguments among the teammates, but when they’re resolved, it’s because Lasso planted the seed and made them recognize and address those issues. The show actually won a Peabody last month for its portrayal of anti-male toxicity.
Some unexpected and really wonderful moments occur where Ted’s inner circle grows beyond Beard to include their team manager, Nathan (Nick Mohammad), Rebecca’s right hand, Higgins (Jeremy Swift), and occasionally, Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein, who is also a producer and writer on the show), soccer royalty for over a decade but whose shine is starting to wane. In their circle, no topic is off the table. They can be real and happy and sad and confused and angry with each other and still come out the other side with their bond intact.
We also get an unlikely but very sweet and funny friendship between Rebecca and Keeley (Juno Temple), the girlfriend of star player Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), who’s “famous for being almost famous” when they commiserate over paparazzi hatred and then turn out to actually be pretty kopacetic across the board. And it’s Keeley’s friendship, and the threat of losing it, that help Rebecca embrace the Lasso Way.
It’s a very, very sweet show, and if it wasn’t chock full of good old UK profanity left and right, it would be pretty family friendly, and may still be in your household (I spent teenage summers in the UK and have Scottish family so my take-offense bar is pretty high). No judgments here.
Alongside Sudeikis, who infuses Ted with an extraordinary decency and completely believable heartfelt charm, the entire cast are just terrific. It’s not surprising that in addition to Sudeikis’s nominations for best actor, writing, and as one of the producers, Goldstein, Hunt (also nominated for writing and as a producer for the series), Mohammed, and Swift scored four of the best supporting actor nominations and Waddingham and Temple received two of the best supporting actress nominations–that’s on top of a passel of creative awards for directing (including Zach Braff, who headlined series co-creator Bill Lawrence’s Scrubs), editing, music (by Mumford and Sons’ Marcus Mumford and Tom Howe), and series for Suideikis, Hunt, Lawrence, and Joe Kelly).
Season 2 picks up six months after the conclusion of the first, with the core characters still in place, plus the addition of a team therapist, Sharon (Sarah Niles), which is a sticking point for Lasso that he’s going to have to address. I am thrilled to tell you it readily maintains the energy, vibe, and kindness. There are a couple of dynamics in the mix that need some smoothing out and characters for whom new crowns wear heavy, but keep the faith that they will be sorted out. A couple of episodes are about as close to perfect as you can hope for. Fans who have a deep bench of pop culture meta references will be well rewarded all season. And I have to give a shout out, too, to the equally deep bench of terrific song selections across both seasons so far. The first few times they tapped into songs that were already special to me, it was a fun surprise, and then it started to feel like I’m on it, which is very cool.
I have no regrets about waiting to watch it. I caught it at the perfect moment for me. In real-life, very few people get through the dings and drama of just living and retain their joy and their hope, so it’s something really special that Ted does. I love that so many people have embraced such a wholesome, positive story told with such care. I was in my 20s when Forrest Gump was similarly taken to heart. Every now and again, kindness rises in the zeitgeist. It’s Ted Lasso‘s turn and I am here for it.
All of Season 1 is streaming now on Apple TV Plus and Season 2 premieres its first episode on July 23rd, with new episodes to follow every Friday.
Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos and Videos Courtesy of Apple TV Plus.
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