TV review: Ted Lasso
On paper, this sports comedy series has all the ingredients for a lame cocktail of lazy tropes.
Also, outside of HBO, streaming services have really struggled with sitcoms.
So seeing Ted Lasso on the Apple TV+ menu, I braced myself and prepared to wince.
First warning sign was that it is based on the titular Jason Sudeikis character previously seen only in two NBC Sports' Premier League promos from seven years ago.
Then the premise is fraught with pitfalls – an American football coach is hired to lead a middling EPL team (you know, real football).
We could have seen a brash, dismissive unaware coach – much as the character began – with a tiresome list of fish out of water jokes, everyone English being either posh or Mr Bean and lazy jibes about the beautiful game.
Instead, Ted Lasso is one of the best new comedies this reviewer has seen – and incredibly uplifting too.
It is rare to see a sitcom launch so fully formed and packed with plot threads and ideas.
Even with the great sitcoms, it can take a whole season to settle, dynamics to form and for characters to "find themselves".
Here, everything is so definite and confidently delivered.
Sudeikis plays the proverbial displaced fish to a tee.
On the surface, he is a gentle assault of wholesome "aw shucks" apple-pie charm. Even his outright rejection of tea as "garbage water" comes off as polite.
At first, it is easy to assume he is not fully stocked in the brain department. But that is Lasso's secret weapon against endemic cynicism. Well, that and some mystery biscuits.
Sudeikis also gets to unleash some acting chops. Lasso's phone call with his wife adds a pang of heartache to the perma-happy coach.
Lasso is brought to the UK by Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) to manage the fictional AFC Richmond, in what appears to be a very naive move by the club's new owner. Except that she is freshly divorced from her unfaithful billionare husband and he loved the club, so she is out to destroy it.
And what could cause that to happen more quickly than a coach with little knowledge of the game and no respect from the press or the players – especially star player and very slappable toxic narcissist, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster).
Much like Lasso's charm gets into the minds of the players and public, you are quickly rooting for Lasso, his stoic No. 2 Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt, also a series co-creator) and his people skills.
Lasso's aproach to team building is an advert for positive thinking. Even a seemingly misguided effort in gift giving – as if footballers have any use for books – turns out to be well-targeted.
I foresee company retreats and self-improvement seminars built around the "Lasso Way".
For a debut series, Ted Lasso barely puts a foot wrong. The only downside is that there are not enough episodes.