Jason Sudeikis once starred in a comedy sketch to promote football on NBC (or rather, soccer as Americans insist on calling it). The premise of An American Coach in London is that an American football coach, Ted Lasso, has been hired to coach football in the UK.
Ted Lasso fumbles at every turn, failing to understand the rules of socc…football, the number of countries in the UK, and anything really. It’s one of the most hilarious sketches ever made. It was followed up by a second promotional skit. Both ended up going viral, with a combined 30 million views at the time of writing. More skits have been made using the character, to varying degrees of quality.
Then they decided to make an entire TV series out of it. 3 seasons in fact. How did they manage to stretch this concept out for that long? And why is it so good?
A New TV Series
Ted Lasso is a comedy series, but is also perhaps one of the most wholesome TV shows out there. The premise is made more believable: Ted Lasso is hired by the owner of a fictional football team because the owner is purposefully trying to sabotage it. We see from the first episode how insane everyone thinks this move is. Because it is. Even Coach Beard, Lasso’s best friend, exclaims, “This is nuts”.
We get introduced to characters who seem to fit the typical tropes you might get in a series about football. The evil boss and her loyal minion, the “it” girl, the diva footballer who thinks he’s god’s gift, the angry and bitter football captain past his prime. We think we know what to expect with these characters.
But this show subverts our expectations and humanises all of these characters and more. It shows how first impressions aren’t everything, and at their core, most of these characters are good people who screw up. Except for Rupert. He’s a bastard down to his very core.
Ted Lasso himself isn’t portrayed as idiotic as he is in the original sketches. He’s a fish out of water and he is definitely confused by a lot. He is met with a lot of hostility, from the media, the public, and even from the team he’s supposed to coach. But he is a good coach, even if he’s coaching the wrong sport.
The third episode where he spends time with Trent Crimm, The Independent, tells us the true premise of the TV series. It’s about making these people the best versions of themselves. And as the show goes on we see every character grow with Lasso’s influence. But we also see Lasso grow under the influence of everyone else. They don’t all become the best versions of themselves by the end, but they are at least on the right path to getting there.
The third season falters a bit, but I still think it’s worth watching until the end. Some of my favourite episodes are there, and the conclusion to the story is more than satisfying.
I think, for me at least, the man strength of the show is how it deals with masculinity. Footballers are often seen as the most masculine in our society, and that can sometimes feed into a culture of toxic masculinity. But this show attacks toxic masculinity while still showing how true masculinity can be a good thing. These characters can be vulnerable, be in love, have panic attacks, and can even break down sobbing. And yet they are never show to be any less of a person because of it.
The result of these moments is that they support each other and build each other back up, just as a real friends, real family should. If you see a man crying you don’t tell them to suck it up. A real man wouldn’t hesitate to him a hug and the support he needs. And he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks when he does this.
At the end of the day, this is the most wholesome of TV shows. It’s a show that made me question how I look at others. It showed me I should always look for the positive in people, even if it’s not there on the surface. In rare cases you may not find it (you’re still a bastard, Rupert), but for 99% of people you will.
To end, I’ll repeat the title: you should watch Ted Lasso.