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Friday, June 14, 2024
Ted Lasso_ARTS

Jason Sudekis is Ted, a former football coach thrown into the English Premier League as AFC Richmond's new head coach in "Ted Lasso."

“Ted Lasso” is the hopefulness you need right now

I broke my leg a few weeks ago. 

A fluke involving a Saturday afternoon pickup basketball game with my roommates, I traveled back to my home in Green Bay to visit a local orthopedic surgeon and get the diagnosis on my fractured fibula. No surgery - but non-weight-bearing and a hard cast for the next four weeks.

I was crushed. Here I was, in the last half of my final semester at UW, and I was stuck, once again, in my parent’s basement almost one year exactly after shutdowns ended my time on campus last spring. Slightly depressed and more than irritated at my seemingly lived-in “Groundhog Day” scenario, I tried to do what I know best — turn my attention towards pop culture and try to find something to distract myself from the pain I felt in both my leg and heart.

Yet almost as if it was fate, “Ted Lasso” turned out to be just the medicine the doctor ordered.

Released back in September, “Lasso” has a straightforward logline. Ted, played by SNL alum and comedy staple Jason Sudeikis (“We’re The Millers" and ”Horrible Bosses”), is a college football coach and national champion at Wichita State University who receives a strange proposition — move to England and become the next coach of the Premier League’s fictitious AFC Richmond squad, despite never having played, coached or borderline touched a soccer ball in his life. 

Built on the legacy of an NBC Sports campaign released in 2013 to promote the network’s new coverage of the league, I heard positive buzz about the show when it premiered but never managed to catch it during a fall filled with strange times and too many things to watch. Showrunner and creator Bill Lawrence’s other sitcoms, namely “Scrubs” and “Spin City,” have never really moved the needle for me — and while the thought of upgrading my iPhone for a free year’s worth of Apple TV+ was tempting, it wasn’t until I was confined between my couch, bed and a support stool for daily showers that I realized $4.99 per month wouldn’t be quite so bad. 

That decision may have turned out to be one of the best I’ve made, as the journey that Ted and company take us along is the most wholesome and heartwarming I’ve been treated to in years.

Playing off a “fish out of water” trope that seems to work less and less these days, the series begins by revealing that AFC Richmond owner and new divorcee Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) has only decided to hire the Southern drawling, mustached Lasso to ruin the team and stick it to her ex-husband Rupert Mannion. Hoping to bring to pieces what she says is the only thing he loves, she believes that exploiting Ted’s inexperience is the only way to do so. 

Set for failure from the second he enters the locker room, Lasso faces criticism and sabotage on behalf of management, local reporters and the Richmond community at large in the early stages — most of which comes from aging captain and legendary footballer Roy Kent (Brent Goldstein), as well as hotshot Manchester City transfer and rising playboy superstar Jaime Tartt (Phil Dunster). Neither willing to adjust to Ted’s attitude and complete lack of awareness on the pitch, the miserable squad loses their first few games in embarrassing fashion before finding themselves on the brink of relegation at the halfway point of the season, and it soon seems as though we’re heading towards a quick conclusion to Lasso’s period coaching across the pond.

But folks in Richmond don’t know what Ted — a fellow filled with optimism and positivity galore — is capable of doing when he wants to make everyone around him better on and off the pitch.  

Recognizing the talent his team possesses and making several curious personnel and strategy decisions in the following weeks, the American coach manages to slowly turn his numerous doubters into supporters through his infectious personality, enriching spirit and relentless enthusiasm towards whatever new challenges, big and small, the ragtag football squad faces. 

Whether it be through a revealing days’ worth of interviews that wins over remorseless team beat reporter Trent Crimm, a late-night bonding session to expel a curse that haunts the team training room and finally helps Roy Kent emerge from isolation or delivery of freshly baked biscuits to the woman who hired him purely to fail each morning — Ted shows that what he may lack in soccer knowledge, he more than makes up for in heart. Inspiring his players and staff members to become the best version of themselves, he steers the club towards personal and professional victories aplenty as the playoffs soon approach, all the while painting a smile over his face as he deals with his own personal issues apart from his family back home in America. 

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As most sports-driven tales do, the season comes down to a “win or go home” match — and while I won’t reveal the outcome for Richmond, the post-game speech that Lasso delivers perfectly symbolizes the way he’s handled every single hurdle thrown his direction. In a world where the ability to avoid dramedy feels impossible, Sudeikis gives a nourishing performance more than worthy of his Golden Globe victory in February. Had I not already recognized him as the most undervalued player on a stacked mid-2000’s SNL cast that featured Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and more — his turn as Lasso more than does the trick in that regard.

With 30-minute episodes that can be watched as a late-night snack before bed or when you just need to decompress during the most difficult stretches of a semester that has left most of us frustrated, confused and completely exhausted — “Ted Lasso” might sound too unoriginal and predictable to be meaningful, but that basic “we can do this” spirit is what makes it all the more pleasurable to watch. It’s an old-fashioned show about finding new family and forging new friendships, hidden among football kits and crazy soccer fans. And even if I would have re-broken my leg in frustration when the credits rolled, there would still be a smile on my face. 

You can find all 10 episodes of “Ted Lasso” streaming on AppleTV+ right now

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