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Ted Lasso, the character, is a figure of great pathology, a sloganeer drifting in a purgatorial state

  • "The sports comedy, now in its second season, is almost alarmingly unsexy, and yet it’s expertly attuned to the romantic and the sentimental, as if engineered by Pixar," says Doreen St. Felix. "You don’t discuss what the show is about but, rather, how it feels to watch it, which is comforting, or, as one headline put it, like 'a warm hug of nice.'" She adds: "Here is the molten core of the series, the power source that’s too hot to truly touch: Ted is a figure of great pathology, a sloganeer drifting in a purgatorial state. The simplicity of his language betrays his inner turmoil. When a colleague informs him that there are four countries in the United Kingdom, Ted replies, 'Kinda like America these days.' At one point, he encourages two feuding players to 'woman up,' since manning up hasn’t been so successful. He’s a gender-equality warrior, and yet the relentlessness of his world view has alienated his wife, who wants a divorce. The Richmond gig serves as an escape. But, even in the new place, Ted can’t help but rebuild his cheery hell, his fantasy of perpetual triumph through adversity. In fact, he seems to convert practically the whole country to his way. He’s quite the powerful white man...Ted Lasso was a long-gestating passion project for Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt (who plays Ted’s assistant, Coach Beard), Bill Lawrence (the creator of Scrubs), and Joe Kelly (a writer on Saturday Night Live). The comedy machers drew the premise from a couple of NBC commercials from the early twenty-tens, starring Sudeikis as an American coach in London, which promoted the network’s coverage of the Premier League. Back then, Ted was the butt of the joke—all red-blooded bluster and hubris. In the intervening years, he has been domesticated into a myth of American earnestness. Ted Lasso is trying to redeem the bygone phenomenon of the cultural diplomat; the show itself has become a tightly controlled piece of diplomacy. The coach is not a dandy, but we are reminded, while watching him, of the jaunty comportment of Barack Obama and his koans. ('I believe in hope,' Ted says, in Season 1. 'I believe in believe.') And then there’s Sudeikis himself. The performer, who grew up in Kansas, and who was previously known for his goofball turns on SNL, was never a philosopher-actor, nor was he a source of celebrity intrigue. Lately, he has been coyly encouraging the slippage between creator and character. At a screening for the second season of Ted Lasso, in July, he wore a T-shirt that read 'Jadon & Marcus & Bukayo,' in support of three Black British soccer players who faced racist abuse online after they missed their penalty kicks in the European Championship final against Italy. Total Ted move. In interviews, Sudeikis speaks in a down-home, Lassovian tongue—regarding the recent dissolution of a long-term relationship with a famous actor and director, for example, in a GQ profile last month, he said, 'It’ll go from being, you know, a book of my life to becoming a chapter to a paragraph to a line to a word to a doodle.' Many fans are getting off on having the permission to be openly credulous about his star power. Maybe Ted Lasso could be real. Maybe we can trust male television creators again."


    • What happens when feel-good TV doesn't feel good anymore?: Ted Lasso's "greatest strength is its titular character, a folksy Kansas college football coach with a preternaturally sunny disposition who ends up getting hired as the manager of a middling English Premier League soccer club—despite not knowing anything about the sport or the culture of his new home," says Josh Terry. "Like the show’s hero, the first season of Ted Lasso won everyone over. But with season two, some critics are less convinced. Is televised goodness always comforting, or at a certain point does it just become annoying? What’s the point? On paper, Ted Lasso sounds like potentially saccharine schmaltz, but it’s actually expertly cast, the writing is clever, and Jason Sudeikis’s performance as Lasso brings a warmth to the breezy watch: Think Mr. Rogers meets Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. The show is convinced of Lasso’s goodness and wants you to be too." He adds: "At least the first season of Ted Lasso had obvious stakes: What would happen if Ted lost his job and his marriage? What if the team got relegated to a lower league? Instead, the new season begins with a whimper, becoming an exploration about the problems a good attitude and a hopeful spirit can’t fix. He bumps up against a sports psychologist whose serious disposition is at odds with his Midwestern attitudes; the Nigerian players he coaches begin a protest against the club’s sponsor, for its destruction of the environment. How these storylines resolve will reveal what kind of show Ted Lasso wants to be: Will it be the happy-go-lucky galvanizing force it was in season one, or will it become something darker and more complicated? If it’s the latter, can the show pull it off? If the show proves its own hypothesis wrong—that optimism and kindness are enough to withstand all the knocks life throws at you, will people still like it?"
    • Ted Lasso leaves viewers with an optimistic feeling: "I’ve thought about Ted Lasso, the character, and Ted Lasso, the show, a lot during the past year, and it’s been bouncing around my frontal lobes even more since Season Two started a couple of weeks ago," says Jelisa Castrodale. "Despite the number of scenes that take place in locker rooms—and the fact that most of the major characters are either football players, coaches, or front office execs—it’s not really a 'sports' show. If you’ve watched the twelve episodes that are available as of this writing (a new episode drops every Friday between now and mid-October), you might say it’s more about kindness, optimism, self-acceptance, or some other ineffably positive quality. Viewers of the show don’t just internalize the lessons that Ted teaches his players, like reminding them to 'be a goldfish' and stop dwelling on their past mistakes. They also seem to come away from it wanting be more Ted-like: to be the kind of person who knows when to talk and when to listen, who isn’t afraid of being both confident and vulnerable, and who can communicate using the kind of Midwestern maxims that Rae Dunn would torch a TJ Maxx for without sounding the least bit insincere."
    • Ted Lasso production designer Paul Cripps on making the show look real: "Well, the comedy writing was so good that I felt we had to kind of create a real world that the characters fit into and inhabit," he says. "I thought that the actual world of the football and the team needed to be quite real, and then you’d believe the kind of fish-out-of-water story. So, we went for quite a bit of reality in order to make the comedy work, but also to make the more heartfelt moments of the show work, it had to feel like real situations and real relationships."
    • Jeremy Swift has offered Ted Lasso writers suggestions -- but he didn't pitch putting his wife on the show

      "In the first season," says the Emmy-nominated actor, "I had said something to Bill Lawrence along the lines of, 'What’s happening with this guy’s background? Does he have a really angry wife just lurking outside the grounds and yelling at him all the time?' Then they brought in my actual wife, Mary Roscoe, who plays my TV wife. When I got the episode I totally got it. Big family. Loving relationship. Perfect. I planted a seed and they went in a much smarter way with it." Swift says his wife "had auditioned for an earlier role in season one; the woman who bargains for Jamie Tartt at the fundraising auction. Her character’s name was Old Lady. I told her, “We’re getting there in age, but I don’t think you’re gonna get that part.” (Laughs.) So, yes, she didn’t get that one, but she read for a few other parts. We kind of forgot about it, but a few weeks later Bill came up to me and asked if I’d worked with my wife before, and if so, did we get along."

    • How Ted Lasso filmed the epic roast scene

    TOPICS: Ted Lasso, Apple TV+, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Swift