I recently started watching this TV show on Apple TV+ that my friend recommended called “Ted Lasso.” It follows the eponymous character, Lasso, an American college football coach who is recruited to coach a Premier League soccer team in England, despite having never coached soccer before.
Understandably, the English fans are upset that Lasso has taken over the team: He’s an American with no experience and a disaster of a press conference shows he knows very little about the sport or the league. Despite everyone’s skepticism and overt contempt for him, Lasso is undeterred — he believes in himself, in his methods and in the people around him.
Despite having absolutely no interest in TV shows structured around sports, “Ted Lasso” has managed to hook me. Soccer provides the structure for the story but it’s not central to it. Very little action actually takes place on the field (or “on the pitch,” as they would say) as episodes primarily focus on the relationships between all the characters and their personal growth.
Lasso is a relentlessly positive man, he is kind and sweet and always does his best for the people around him. I find this refreshing in an era of television that is heavy with pessimism, nihilism and violence. The show and it’s humor is pure and wholesome, even as it tackles heavier issues like struggles with self-worth, aging, divorce and failure.
My favorite scene so far is one where Lasso brings sports journalist, Trent Crimm, who has been vocally skeptical of Lasso’s competency, to lunch for an interview. They go to an Indian restaurant owned by the family of the driver who picked Lasso up from the airport in Episode 1. The driver is surprised to see him and Lasso reminds him that he said he could drop by anytime. “I say that to everyone I drive,” the driver says.
Lasso encourages the driver to bring out whatever dish is their specialty and to make it as if he were one of the family. Crimm asks Lasso if he enjoys Indian food and Lasso admits he’s actually never eaten it. The driver brings out a variety of very spicy curries, so spicy that Crimm is unable to eat it. Lasso, too, is overwhelmed with how spicy it is, but eats it all because he doesn’t want the driver’s family to feel bad or be embarrassed. When the driver asks how the food is, Lasso smiles encouragingly and says, “It’s perfect!”
Lasso might reasonably have never run into the driver ever again, but he makes a point to visit him at his restaurant. He encourages him to share his favorite dish with him and compliments him and his family on it because, even though he’d only met this man once, he cares about him anyway. He wants to be supportive and wants people to believe in themselves, even if he personally has no stake in their happiness. He does it because he is a good person.
Oftentimes TV shows punish characters who are idealistic as Lasso, or there is a character that is pessimistic in equal measure to serve as a foil, but “Ted Lasso” hasn’t done this. Sure, some characters are pessimistic and cynical, but the audience is shown what their cynicism is rooted in, just as Lasso looks for people’s insecurities to better help them.
While things don’t always work out for Lasso, his positivity is never punished, he is not put down for doing his best or for his enthusiasm, either by other characters or by the narrative of the show. I think, considering the events transpiring in the world today, a show like this is a wonderful breath of fresh air so sorely needed.
Johanna Armstrong is the editor of the Lifestyle section.