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A Beginner’s Guide to Ted Lasso

By Syed Zaid Ali Syed Mudzhar

By now, I’d say that it’s nearly impossible to not have heard of Ted Lasso, the hit comedy TV series released on Apple TV+. With the second season coming to a close, let’s look back at the first and discuss what makes it so good. Be it a friend excitedly endorsing the show’s laugh-out-loud, witty writing, or its record-setting 20(!) Emmy award nominations, there’s no ignoring the phenomenon that this show has become. If you are familiar with ‘the Lasso Way’ as described by one of its fictional reporters, it is clear why it has. If you haven’t, well, that’s probably why you’re here: why are people so excited about that football show with the guy from We’re The Millers and Horrible Bosses anyway? 

The show’s titular coach (played by Jason Sudeikis, also co-creator and writer) has just arrived in the UK after being hired by Rebecca Welton (played by Hannah Waddingham, of Game of Thrones and Sex Education fame), the new owner of AFC Richmond, a struggling team in the Premier League. As we meet the players and their fans, we see that they are clearly angry with this development. Why? Well, let’s just say that Ted, uh, knows nothing about football. He’s led an American football team before, but soccer? Forget about it. As it turns out, Rebecca has recently divorced Richmond’s previous owner, and hires Ted in an effort to ruin the club, which was one of the only things her cheating ex-husband loved. The feelings of disdain felt by the players and fans towards Ted and his assistant Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) remains throughout a good portion of the season. However, this slowly changes over the course of the ten episodes, thanks in large part to how Ted treats everyone around him. 

Intoxicating amounts of positivity 

Looking back at the absolute dumpster fire of a year we had in 2020, which has undeniably left an indelible mark on our minds, it’s not difficult to see why the show resonated so much with so many. Sure, a large part about being stuck at home was having more free time to watch the show and more. But more importantly, it felt like a glimmer of hope in a largely depressing year thanks to its positivity, which is most apparent in how Ted reacts to negativity. You wouldn’t be very optimistic either if your favourite team suddenly gained a coach who is absolutely clueless about the sport. Despite the jeers he gets from the fans of Richmond, Ted continues to do the job to the best of his ability, and his perseverance in the face of everyone else’s pessimism is ultimately what drives Richmond to some form of success. Adding on to that, his philosophy surrounding success itself is rather humanistic: more often than not, it seems as though he emphasises the players’ well-being over winning. He cares about seemingly trivial matters such as snacks in vending machines and water pressure in the showers. One can accuse Ted of being ignorant, but we soon realise that player wellbeing is an important aspect in leading the team to victory. As such, there has been a healthy amount of discussion surrounding what people can learn from the show, with numerous articles discussing how Ted Lasso teaches us to be a good leader. In the end, one could argue that nothing we can learn from it is particularly eye-opening, but the time in which the show was released and the ways in which it presents these lessons are what makes them salient. Another reason it worked for me had to do with how my reaction to Ted’s character mirrored that of the team’s fans. In the first few episodes, I kept thinking: what does this seemingly dimwitted outsider have to offer? 

Betraying expectations

Well, as it turns out, quite a lot, actually. I think the showrunners definitely could have played up the role of Ted as the stereotypical naive outsider having a hard time adjusting, milking this archetype for its comedic and dramatic potential. While he clearly misses the mark with some cultural differences, he’s revealed to be much wiser than he lets on, and this smartly subverts what we expect from his character. Additionally, the writers give Ted’s character much appreciated depth, as seen through the meaningful parallel between him and Rebecca formed by their respective romantic relationships. Similarly with Rebecca, they could easily have made her into a pure antagonist, but her connections to Ted and the ways in which she develops over the course of the season make her character much more interesting. Her relationship with Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) – who does marketing and public relations for AFC Richmond – also acts as a pleasant surprise in a show revolving around football (a sport so often associated with men) since it allows for the show to easily pass the Bechdel test. Despite all this, there are still plenty more revelations throughout that are sure to come as surprises, which I think are what make the series so exciting. 

Compelling characters

No discussion of Ted Lasso should ever be undertaken without mentioning just how good the characters are. Some mention has been made of Rebecca, whose character might be tied with that of the immensely hilarious Roy Kent (played by the incredibly talented Brett Goldstein, who initially came on the show only to write) as my favourites from the show. Partially based off of near-namesake Roy Keane, Roy Kent serves not only to be a great source of comedy due to his grumpy demeanour often being contrasted against Ted’s cheeriness. But like most of the characters in the show, his character allows us to assess how we live our lives. As the aging captain of the team, and one of the best players in the League, we learn that Roy struggles with ideas of self-worth, which is something I believe many of us experience as well. He is soon to retire, but has a hard time accepting this because he associates his self-worth with his ability to play football. In fact, one can look at practically any of the characters on the show and find something in them they can relate to, and that’s where I think it succeeds. 

Ultimately, how the characters develop throughout the season was what kept me hooked. By introducing interesting ones to begin with, and having them interact in exciting ways, it wouldn’t be unlikely for you to binge watch the show. Sometimes, trying to juggle too many characters can be a detriment to a good story, but how they are treated in Ted Lasso is what lends it incredible charm.

Hopefully, this guide of sorts has been enough to convince you to give it a shot if you haven’t already. Be warned, though: one moment you’ll be crying laughing, and the next you’ll probably just be straight up bawling your eyes out. A box of tissues should come in handy.

This boy from Malaysia never thought he’d ever write for the School’s newspaper, but here he is now. Call me Syed. I mainly write about film and television, though I might throw in an article or two about the bands I’m listening to, or video games I find interesting. I’m also a fan of T. S. Eliot’s poetry and pieces by Chopin. You can find me on Instagram at @zaid.exe but feel free to send an email to s.z.bin-syed-mudzhar@lse.ac.uk if you’re feeling all formal.

Syed Zaid Ali Syed Mudzhar

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