Ted Lasso is joyous. It’s a show that makes you happy—but not in a saccharine, overly sentimental way. It shows us a character who knows himself. It shows us what believing in ourselves and others can do. I’m a somewhat pessimistic person in general, and this show got me right where it counts. And it’s funny as hell, too! All of the above is in no small part due to Jason Sudeikis’s prowess as a comedic performer and personality. If Ted were in someone else’s hands, things could go off the rails quite easily. Sudeikis has confidence that shines through his performance; it’s not cocky, but it is assured—just like Ted’s assured optimism. He’s wicked smart, and he imbues Ted’s innocence (which could, again in other hands, come across as mere childish naïveté) with nous, awareness, and intelligence. Ted knows that others underestimate him (and he says so explicitly in the series). Still, he knows that this has nothing to do with him and everything to do with those who are doing the underestimating.
It is surprising that this sketch character, beginning as a persona in a series of promo commercials to advertise the Premier League on NBC, would be developed into a fully-fledged figure that could sustain multiple episodes. Many of these sketch characters do not have such longevity—e.g., as evidenced by the many failed attempts SNL has in this department.
Granted, the premise to get Ted to the Premier League is far-fetched if not downright ridiculous—and, to its benefit, the narrative quickly passes over the machinations fairly quickly. Rebecca’s character motivations, which play out slowly over the episodes, also help paper over the thin premise.
But who would have thought that a tv series about hope, optimism, and belief would work?
The show is perfectly cast. Just some highlights for me: Coach Beard is fantastically (under) played by Brenden Hunt–a proper balance to Lasso’s character/optimism; Higgins, played by Jeremy Swift, is excellent–the appropriate balance of sycophantism and heart-felt pragmatism (plus, his faux gag reflexes are perfectly timed hilarity); Rebecca, portrayed astutely by Hannah Waddingham, is the perfect (sympathetic) juxtaposition to Ted and his antics–and she acts the part with humanity, a humanity that is all to often denied in other series of this ilk (the writing also helps here, of course).
The show, in general, presents the female characters without snark or cynicism; they are strong, well-formed characters. Concerning Rebecca and Keeley in particular, there is evident love between the characters. They genuinely care, help, and root for each other, even when they are at odds.
Ted utters the Socratic imperative (“R.I.P. Socrates”) in the penultimate episode of the series. It may symbolize the whole intent of the series, and it is Ted’s superpower: he embodies that Socratic imperative. He wants to impart that knowledge to everyone he meets—to have them learn that lesson for themselves. Even his offhanded joke/judgment of Jamie being more psychologically healthy than he realizes–when Jamie is asked if he would rather be a lion or panda and answers that he’s already Jamie and why would he want to be anything other than Jamie–is evidence of Ted’s belief in the Socratic imperative. Yes, Jamie needs to learn Socratic humility, but his belief in and knowledge of himself should stand. But Ted also knows the facade of Jaime’s confidence is rooted in appearances and not in true, deep inner belief. Ted strengthens Jaime’s true inner belief at the end of the series with a sweet note in direct opposition to Jamie’s father.
One can only hope that Ted Lasso‘s coming second season will live up to its first. But, “it’s the hope that kills you.” I, for one, will take Ted’s advice and believe.
And for those who want those delicious-looking Lasso biscuits, there’s now a recipe–or at least an attempted one–for them!