Ted Lasso (2020) – loved the series, hated the ending

Ted Lasso (2020)

There are so many reviews of this Apple TV+ original series, there isn’t much for me to add. Well, except for that bit about hating the ending. But let me start by saying Ted Lasso is one of few things that I can be thankful for this year, outside of my family and friends. This ensemble piece gives us characters that we care about and watch develop over 10 episodes. It’s almost heartbreaking that we have to wait until next year for season 2.

The premise for the series started with wildly successful Ted Lasso sketches that Jason Sudeikis did back in 2013 and 2014 to help NBC Sports promote the EPL to American sports viewers (links are at the end of this article). In the new series, Lasso is an American collegiate football coach who is hired to manage EPL team AFC Richmond. Owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) has taken over the club in an acrimonious divorce, and her revenge will be to tank her ex-husband’s favorite plaything that doesn’t have shapely legs. 

Lasso’s effusive positivity and abundant aphorisms overcome the resistance to his midwestern twang. And as he rises, so do the rest of the characters. The aging captain Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) faces life on the other side. The diffident kit man Nate (Nick Mohammed) finds his value. The PR come technical director Higgins (Jeremy Swift) learns to forgive. And even the ditsy Keeley (Juno Temple) proves she is more than a WAG. Often the episodes have as much pathos as comedy while characters look at why they are what they are. 

For example, one of the episodes I enjoyed most was when the team conducts an exorcism of the bad luck ghosts in the treatment room. Lasso points out though, that the ghosts are there because so many young men were recruited for World War One in that room, and they never returned. It’s the kind of balance about which people will write books someday. (For a reminder of the recruitment of boys, see War Game.)

As my husband pointed out, watching Ted Lasso is like a piece of candy where bits of deliciousness keep popping up in your mouth. 

Those other reviews and write-ups

As I mentioned, this show has a lot of reviews, mostly based on the first 3 episodes, and mostly very favorable. Here are some of the comments:

  • Ted Lasso is the dad pants of sitcoms – Mike Hale, NY Times
  • Ted Lasso Makes America Good Again – Willa Paskin, Slate
  • Lasso’s boundless optimism, in the face of so many different shades of cynicism, slowly wins us over. – Ed Cumming, The Independent
  • Lasso … an affable fish out of water – Ben Allen, GQ UK
  • Every single person on the series is a teddy bear at heart. – Willa Paskin, Slate
  • The shopworn story has been filmed and assembled with style and professionalism. – Mike Hale, NY Times
  • it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to come back for more – Benjamin Lee, The Guardian (you can’t win them all)

And there are a lot of “making of” articles explaining how the series came together and what the ensemble team of writers and producers were trying to achieve:

  • Ted Lasso is “Mr Rogers meets John Wooden” – Jason Sudeikis (via Kevin Baxter, LA Times)
  • “He’s more a white rabbit than a white knight. He can lead you to a better place.” – Jason Sudeikis (via Kevin Baxter, LA Times)
  • “We said, ‘We’re going to make our version of a sports movie because how fun will it be to do all the tropes but to examine them?’ Yeah, you have the bad owner who just wants to destroy the team, but instead of just doing that trope you go, ‘Hey, how’d she get there?’ Maybe you empathize for a bit.” – Producer Bill Lawrence (via Josh Jackson, Paste Magazine)
  • “Jason brought to this a desire to make this show that’s dedicated to that seminal teacher or coach or relative or friend figure that was a true mentor in every sense of the word, who didn’t look for credit, showed you the right way, inspired you. He said, ‘I’m going to try to embody my favorite version of that.’” – Bill Lawrence (via Josh Jackson, Paste Magazine)
  • “But if you can be the person who knows how much he does not know and be curious about the things you do not know, then that automatically lends itself to being a big-hearted, welcoming person who wants to know about every person you meet.” – Brendan Hunt, writer and producer who plays Coach Beard (via Kevin Baxter, LA Times)
  • “to make a hopeful optimistic show right now is appealing, considering where we’re at.” – Bill Lawrence (via Liz Shannon Miller, Collider)

SPOILER ALERT – about that ending 

So why did I end up a little sad and not give this series a 10? Two reasons really. All along, the series balances on top of a fence between believability and implausible. Throughout the series, you are thinking, yeah that couldn’t really happen but maybe it could, yeah a person might really do a version of that, yeah it would be nice if an EPL manager were that approachable. 

But in the final episode, the creative crew jumps off the fence and lands completely in the muck of implausibility and farce. I don’t know if it’s coincidental, but it’s also the first episode that has a lot of game action in it. Unfortunately, the play is the old trope of executing an American football formation in a soccer game. And the way relegation is underplayed is so far from reality, it’s like fake news.

My second qualm about the series is that it is a bit sexist and off-putting in its emphasis on women’s boobs and sex drive, whether she be a WAG, a chess player, or a woman in power. And even worse, in the final game, the women admit they don’t even care about football. Such unfortunate stereotypes! 

Final thoughts

In this year of the pandemic, the West Coast wildfires, the unbreathable air, and the unbearable presidency, Ted Lasso is one of the few reasons to subscribe to Apple TV+. But even if these were good times, Ted Lasso would still be at the top of my ratings because, as The Guardian points out, you enjoy the superb supporting British cast. They are the targets that Lasso wins over, and they are the reason you care. 

To see the original Ted Lasso commercials for the Premier League:

Wikipedia has an extensive summary of all the episodes. BTW, I have always been a big fan of Jason Sudeikis. 

9 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 9

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