Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
Ted Lasso was the best television program of 2020. It wasn’t just the best comedy; it was the very best show that aired during a very tough year. This Friday the second season finally arrives.
And I'm nervous.
I couldn't get enough of this fish out of water comedy starring Jason Sudeikis as a successful college football coach who lands a job managing (coaching) a struggling British football (soccer) team.
The character of Ted Lasso was born years ago in ads for real soccer matches that were airing on NBC. A promotional campaign is one thing, but a fully scripted series on the relatively new streamer AppleTV+? I expected the show to be funny, but I also thought the American coach in the UK bit would get old awfully fast.
Boy was I wrong. Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt (who plays Coach Beard) and sitcom veteran Bill Lawrence created a world I couldn't get enough of. All of the characters were multi-dimensional. The backstories made sense. And most important of all, the show made me laugh.
Initially Ted Lasso was an under-the-radar success. It was the first show I'd recommend to anyone asking for something "good to watch" during the pandemic. Since Ted is such a "feel good" character, many have attributed the program's success to being the right show at the right time. As Ted might say, that’s bullcrap. This comedy would work regardless of what's going on in the world because of solid writing and excellent acting.
"Feel good" Ted just happens to be going through a divorce, struggles to stay in touch with his kid overseas, worries about being a failure, and is starting his life over in a new country with a boss who wants him to fail. Plenty of hard-hitting issues are tackled on the show. The plot isn't just schtick and wondering who will win the next match.
The first season benefited from zero expectations. Now that the universal praise and Emmy nominations are out, the next season has been forced to operate on a different playing field. I'm confident Richmond FC will rise to the challenge (in spite of what happened on the pitch last year), but critical eyes are watching.
Jason Sudeikis does the heavy lifting as Ted, but the other characters create a deep ensemble. The ascent of Nathan (Nick Mohammed) is inspiring but also plausible. Team owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) is more than just the "shame" nun from Game of Thrones. The romance of Keely (Juno Temple) and Roy (Brett Goldstein) was foreshadowed but complicated. Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) seemed like a spoiled star, but we learned much more about his personal struggles. And who isn't a Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernandez) fan?
Making a comedy about professional sports is no easy feat. The games matter on Ted Lasso, but every episode doesn't hinge on a last-minute goal or game-saving stop. Ted and the club’s fate is the driving force, but much more interesting stuff happens off the field.
The second season starts off picking up the pieces of the first (no spoilers, just go watch it already!). Bank on Ted's eternal optimism, biscuits, and plenty of witty storylines to carry the day.
Expectations may be sky high, but that yellow sign above Ted's office provides an answer to anyone questioning or doubting season two.
THIS WEEK’S SPTINAFOBYMB!
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
Sexy Beasts (NETFLIX) – Dating series where suitors have been transformed into creatures through prosthetic makeup. I wish I was joking. Unmasks Wednesday.
Turner & Hooch (DISNEY+) – If it has a dog in it, even Tom Hanks' not-so-finest moment gets rebooted as a series these days. Fetches Wednesday.
Behind The Attraction (DISNEY+) – New docuseries on how your favorite Disney rides were made. Fast-Passes Wednesday.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation (NETFLIX) – Kevin Smith picks up where He-Man left off in this animated series featuring voices you'll recognize. Powers Friday.
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage (HBO) – Documentary on the festival’s unpleasant late nineties return. Back to the garden on Friday.
Eden: Untamed Planet (BBC AMERICA) – Helen Bonham Carter narrates this six-part nature series. Springs Saturday.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Going for the gold and some classic film trivia…
Summer Olympics (NBC)
Friday, July 23rd
Start humming that John Williams theme... it's time for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games (one year later, and in front of no live fans). The Tokyo opening ceremonies will be the typical Olympic spectacle, and then it's time for weeks of mostly-amateur worldwide competition.
NBC spent a ton of money on these games, so brace for over saturation. Expect a heartbreaking gymnastics story, controversy with the world's fastest athletes, and wonder how the US basketball team can actually be defeated. Or just stay outside and exercise on your own in the warm weather.
The Movies That Made Us (NETFLIX)
Friday, July 23rd Season 2
The premise is right there in the title. The creators of The Toys That Made Us (another premise in the title) return for a second season of looking back at some modern film classics.
I couldn't get enough of the Dirty Dancing and Home Alone profiles from the first season. This time around we learn more about Jurassic Park, Pretty Woman, Forrest Gump and Back To The Future. If you yearn for the old days of DVD commentary tracks, this is the series for you.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe!
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.