Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Availability: Apple TV
Storyline: Rebecca Welton is the new owner of a London soccer team, the struggling AFC Richmond. She employs Ted Lasso, an American football coach from Kansas, to change the team’s fortunes. While Ted has had some success with coaching American football, he knows nothing at all about soccer. This becomes blatantly obvious in his first media interview which would be any media coach’s nightmare. The journalists shred him, ‘wanker’ becomes the new chant for the underwhelmed fan base, and his team just hopes he will leave soon. Ted is nevertheless unfailingly optimistic that things will come right. Rebecca agrees, although soon it is clear that she has an alternative motive for employing Ted as the new manager of the lacklustre team.
Film-craft: This fine production takes us from the seedy environment of the locker room to the glamorous world of premier league sport. But in the end it’s the script that really sings in this series. Funny and clever, it democratises humour across a terrific set of characters. Ted’s performance spans a comical spectrum – laugh-out-loud slapstick one minute, then subtle humour as he challenges Rebecca’s HR practices or amuses us with his therapeutic insights. The script makes everyone else shine too. Sharp-witted Rebecca’s words cut like a knife as she mercilessly bullies her underlings (except, of course, the seemingly impervious Ted). Roy Kent, the ageing team captain, switches from anger to bafflement brilliantly. Keeley Jones’s sexual antics and innate sense of fun is a delight. And Rupert, Rebecca’s vile and manipulating ex-husband, gets some really nasty lines that compel us toward embracing revenge. All in all, great writing.
Cast: The whole cast is impressive in this series – as Ted Lasso would say, it’s the whole team that wins. But I will try to single out one or two. Comedian and Ted Lasso co–script-writer Jason Sudeikis is really wonderful playing the irrepressible Ted Lasso. Despite his positivism, you simply can’t help but like him. Brendan Hunt, also co-writer, is equally impressive as the intimidating and angry Roy Kent. My favourite though is the fabulous Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca. In a nuanced and complex portrayal, she brings exactly the right amount of attitude to the show, and has a great sense of (exasperated) comic timing. Her scenes with Keeley Jones, played engagingly by Juno Temple, are some of the best. Nick Mohammed as Nathan is lovely as the team’s self-effacing kit-man, and Jeremy Swift is a delight as Higgins, Rebecca’s browbeaten assistant. Collectively, Ted Lasso brings together one of the best comic teams I have seen.
Personal Comments: I am very late in coming to this show. Many people told me that I must see it, but frankly I could think of nothing worse than sitting through a series about football team coaching. Astonishingly, I find it to be an absolute delight. Ted Lasso, the character, is kind in the most appealing way. The production is very good. I’m confident it will dismantle any resistance you may have, leaving you open to its charms, along with its deeper messages of hope and resilience. I realise now that Ted Lasso is not primarily a show about sport. It’s a funny take on important conversations that could be had across all walks of life. I see there is a second series, and if they can keep up the standard of the first I’ll be right there bingeing my way through it.