The 22nd FIFA World Cup kicked off on Nov. 20, 2022 featuring the prestigious game of soccer — better known as football by the rest of the world. The FIFA World Cup is the most widely viewed sporting event, bringing in roughly 4 million viewers. It’s uniting, dividing, excitingly chaotic and sometimes scandalous for fans and players alike.
In the midst of this massive sporting event, Apple TV’s sports-comedy “Ted Lasso” is relevant through its themes of soccer, and necessary in its reflection of humanness in sports — the complexities of people and relationships that contribute to the game.
Coach Lasso is a character that was first brought to life on a comedy stage in Amsterdam by Jason Sudeikis, who stars as Ted Lasso in the series, and Brendan Hunt, who co-stars as Coach Beard, as a nod to American misunderstandings of soccer in a city where it’s so heavily embraced.
Lasso is an American football coach from Kansas who is hired to coach AFC Richmond, a fictional soccer team in England’s highest tier league. His unfamiliarity with the sport is what inspired the team owner, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), to hire him. She hopes to sabotage and destroy the football club to spite her ex-husband, believing it to be the only thing he has ever really cared about. Lasso’s soccer coaching ineptitude is exactly what she hopes will lead to the downfall of the team.
Do not be fooled! The two seasons of “Ted Lasso” condensed into a mere two sentences gives an impression of predictability and simplicity that is quite the opposite of how engaging the series is. It’s striking in its inclusivity of soccer fans and non-sportsgoers and is truly special in its choice to focus so heavily on warm sentiment and character arcs. Writers and co-stars Sudeikis, Hunt and Brett Goldstein, who plays Richmond player Roy Kent, are just a few of the brilliant minds who were able to leave an impression on audiences through clever, snappy and insightful dialogue delivered by exceptionally casted characters.
Rebecca is, as most accurately proclaimed by those closest to her, a “boss-ass bitch.” She is as commanding in her presence on screen as she is demanding of her Richmond employees, capable of what seems like anything she sets her mind to, and despite her intimidating nature she manages to pull the heartstrings of audiences as she progressively reveals the hurt and anger rooted in her divorce as the series moves along.
The vibrant, infectiously smiley and honest Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) honors herself through her unconditional kindness and willingness to be of direct support to the people in her life while exploring interests, with the support of her new friend Rebecca, that allow her to become a more fully realized person in her own right.
Richmond’s star player Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) is as far from humble as someone could possibly be. Loud in opinion and voice, he reflects a pompousness commonly seen on a real-life field, but progressively grows quieter and slowly comes into his own as a team player. As characters that could easily be written off as minor side roles, the development of these characters and many others are entirely integral to what makes this show as special as it is.
Of course, the character who bears the show’s name shines in every sense of the word. There is no one quite like Ted Lasso. He is an unwavering believer of belief, with a handwritten “BELIEVE” sign taped right above his office door. A coach who is entirely neutral to wins and losses, he prefers his players to be the best versions of themselves off of the field. He is unfamiliar with both soccer and England but remains true to his knack for motivating others. He is eviscerated by the notoriously harsh English press all the while maintaining an unfettered positivity and charm.
Ted has a self-awareness that balances what sometimes seems to be a lack of common sense, which allows him to gain admiration and respect from on-screen characters and audiences. His quick wit, pop-culture references — “I believe in Communism. Rom-communism, that is. If Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan can go through some heartfelt struggles and still end up happy, then so can we” — and thought-provoking remarks delivered in a Kansas accent leaves audiences appreciating the genius that is Ted Lasso. Ted’s dedication to everyone besides himself allows the show, during its second season, to focus on mental health issues. This creative choice on the writers’ part allows for more depth than the first season, making the series a grounding one in its relatability and touchingness, all without verging on being too saccharine.
“Ted Lasso” exceeds expectations as a sports-comedy in all the right ways, perhaps because it really isn’t a sports-comedy at all. Its ability to implement the tear-jerking and heartwarming aspects of a drama is what gives the series such unique depth. Each character commands attention through their individualities, independent of how their stories progress throughout the series. Because it is a show so deeply grounded in people, it would be more accurate to see it as an ode to human nature, rather than an ode to soccer.