Jason Sudeikis’s New Comedy Ted Lasso Is An Important Reminder About Why It’s Important To Be Nice
To paraphrase the legendary football pundit Jimmy Greaves, ‘football it’s a funny old game’, and those words have perhaps never been truer thanks to Jason Sudeikis and his new Apple TV Show, Ted Lasso.
An optimistic and surprisingly touching comedy, Ted Lasso sees the titular Ted (Jason Sudeikis) – a lower-tier Kansas college American football coach – be whisked away to the UK to coach AFC Richmond, a struggling English Premier League team, despite knowing almost nothing about the beautiful game.
It’s a recipe for disaster of course, and it soon becomes clear that Ted – despite his eternal optimism, hard work, and supernatural ability to be nice – is being set up to fail by his new boss Rebecca, who’s using him to get revenge on her husband who loved AFC Richmond more than he loved her.
Check out the trailer here:
Developed by Sudeikis and Bill Lawrence (of Scrubs fame) Ted Lasso takes liberal inspiration from about half a dozen aspirational, underdog, sports movies, and the show is effectively a fish-out-of-water comedy, drawing its humour not just from the subtle differences between Americans and Brits, but also the commonalities we can be ignorant to.
It’s those commonalities that Sudeikis was keen to explore in the show, drawing on lessons learned after his experience working in a European theatre earlier in the decade.
Sudeikis told UNILAD:
That was something I was lucky to learn in my time working in a theatre in Amsterdam, along with my buddies Brendan Hunt who plays Coach Beard and Joe Kelly who’s a writer/producer on the show. We all worked there and we got international audiences from Europe, Australia, Asia, and America and they were all laughing at the same thing.
So, as much as we say things like ‘Germans are like this’, and ‘French people are like this’, I think we all go through the same stuff, you know? And I think that’s a point of view of [Ted Lasso].
Jason went on to point out the similarities between Americans and British sense of humour pointing out that, as much as we Brits might like to pretend we have a more refined sense of humour, shows that succeed here in the UK often succeed over the Pond and vice versa.
Look at the success of things like I May Destroy You, Fleabag or even, in my opinion, the granddaddy of them all, the British Office. They’re all international successes that changed television for the better and that can’t happen, for right or wrong, without coming through the US. And that happens for two reasons: one, they’re created by truly brilliant people, and two, they speak to things that we all go through.
Our conversation inevitably then turned then to the US version of The Office, a show we both agreed was brilliant, specifically the way in which the show’s writers cleverly made Michael Scott much more sympathetic than his UK equivalent, David Brent. Interestingly the comparison between Scott and Brent is an apt one when talking about Ted Lasso as a character.
You see, Sudeikis first played Ted in 2014 to promote the Premier League in the States, and he was originally an Alan Partridge-esque figure. More of an arrogant buffoon, who knew nothing about football, but wouldn’t let that stop him from offering inane advice.
For the show though, the rough edges have been smoothed off Ted, he’s still ignorant about football, but he’s less full of himself, the bluster is gone, and he seems far nicer. Watching the old skit’s Ted has far more in common with the self-important Brent than the show’s version, whose easy manner and positive personality remind me of a later season Scott.
It’s to the show’s benefit that they made this decision. As fun as it is watching idiots get their just deserts, I don’t think I could sanction a whole show full of ‘Skit Lasso’s’ buffoonery, and it’s Sudeikis performance as the lovable Ted that really roped me into the series.
One similarity that Lasso, Brent and Scott share is that they’re all semi-tragic figures. Brent and Scott are of course both desperate, lonely people looking for validation, while Lasso is a world away from his estranged family and ultimately being taken advantage of.
So often it’s said that comedy can’t exist without tragedy, after all, how can you have the light without the darkness? It’s something Sudeikis is keenly aware of.
I remember one of our producers Bill Roubel, who’s worked on show’s like Will and Grace and Modern Family, he referred to it as a melancholy that exists through the show.
I don’t think every comedy needs it but I know [Ted Lasso] has that and that’s something that was rooted in me before Ricky and Steve were doing it, before Judd Apatow as doing it, it goes back to John Hughes – that’s where I see it.
Despite this ‘whiff of melancholy’ it’s important to stress that Ted Lasso is not a cynical show, and in fact, for all the fun the show has with its US versus UK dynamic, it actively rejects the notion that Brits are somehow more cynical or less optimistic than Americans.
It’s something Sudeikis was keen to point out to me, even if he did admit British sarcasm tends to be a bit wittier.
I think if the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that there’s cynicism in all of us and all cultures. I think that at any given moment someone is susceptible to feeling optimistic or cynical, and a lot of it has to do with your conditioning.
Maybe it’s your nature? Maybe it’s your nurture? But I believe there’s a healthy balance to be struck. Of course, I will say we don’t quite have the sarcastic wit of the Brits, but we can be sarcastic and it comes across in all forms of social media.
Ultimately, I think the rejection of the obvious cynic versus optimist format is why Ted Lasso works for me. It might be the current apocalypse we find ourselves in, but a feel-good show like this, with the main character who’s so unfailingly nice, was an unexpected tonic.
Even if his opinions on tea are bullsh*t…
Ted Lasso debuts exclusively on Apple TV on August 14th.
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