‘Ted Lasso’ Retrospective – One Year Later

A little over one year ago, Ted Lasso aired its finale. Despite being off the air for an entire year, it has never dipped out of the top five of Apple TV+’s most-watched shows. While plenty of shows gain a new life when they are released in a new format (think Suits showing up on Netflix and dominating the conversation for a while), most shows tend to fade into obscurity for all but the most die-hard fans by the time a year has passed, replaced by the new hotness. But Ted Lasso has managed to remain one of Apple TV+’s top offerings, even spawning the rare box set releasing on July 30th.

What about this show, following an American college football coach moving to London to coach Premier League Football, has captured the attention of so many people? I have a few ideas.

The Characters 

Good shows are built on compelling characters. We like Tony Soprano because he’s more than just a mobster. We like Walter White because he’s more than just some high school chemistry teacher. We like BoJack Horseman because he’s more than just a celebrity. There is something nuanced and complex about each of these characters that makes us want to soak in whatever they’re doing.

Really good shows are able to extend that beyond the main cast. Dr. Melfi and Carmela have stories apart from Tony that make them interesting. Skylar and Hank give us glimpses of who Walter was and who he became. Diane Nguyen helps both ground and challenge BoJack in surprising ways. 

Jason Sudeikis and Hannah Waddingham
Jason Sudeikis and Hannah Waddingham. Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

Ted Lasso does this with every single character. There is no one in the cast who doesn’t go through some kind of character arc. Obviously, there are main characters like Ted, Rebecca, and Nate who undergo significant changes, but we see it with everyone to some degree. We see Jamie Tartt find how to turn his negative traits into something more positive. We see Keeley move from a somewhat aimless spokesmodel into a woman running her own company. We see Roy learning, albeit slowly, how to express emotions beyond anger. 

Even smaller characters like Colin, Isaac, and Higgins all had meaningful story arcs. And all of these changes happen in largely organic ways. One person changes, and that has an impact on the next, which in turn causes more and more changes until an entire team is transformed. It is an important reminder that every person affects those they come in contact with, and it’s up to us to choose what that will look like.

The Story 

At first blush, the story seems rather simplistic. The backward American in a foreign country is played out. The vengeful woman trying to get back at her ex is a story we’ve seen. A sports team coming back from near-devastation to win The Big Game has been done. Yet, within all of these common dramedy-type tropes, we get some truly unique stories. 

Brett Goldstein and Phil Dunster in Ted Lasso
Brett Goldstein and Phil Dunster in Ted Lasso. Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

We care about the dumb American because we see that he’s doing this to try to help his family, even if that help isn’t exactly what he expected. We care about the vengeful woman because we grow to understand the depth of the abuse that she suffered in her previous marriage. We somehow don’t really care about the team winning, not because we don’t like the team, but because, along with Ted, we cease seeing this in terms of wins and losses. 

It’s not that the tropes themselves are turned on their head, it’s that the motivation behind the tropes is exposed. As an audience, everything feels very familiar, which makes the show comforting even on a first watch, but it also allows for repeated rewatching as we uncover the deeper layers behind each storyline. 

The Jokes

This show is fascinating because the humor is both incredibly corny and incredibly sophisticated. Ted is filled to the brim with dad jokes and puns. Sometimes the humor is so cringe that it’s hard to avoid some heavy eye rolls. 

But then there will be callback jokes, even episodes apart, that are so subtle you could easily miss them on a first watch. Wordplay that is so magnificent that you only wish you could turn a phrase that well. Humor is a really tough thing to get right, particularly in a show that also deals with some incredibly heavy themes, but Ted Lasso manages to have something for everyone and threads the needle brilliantly.

The Kindness on Ted Lasso

Ted Lasso premiered on Apple TV+ in August of 2020. America was in the midst of a summer of reckoning with race following the murder of George Floyd. It was on the verge of another deeply contentious election season. Everyone was dealing with loneliness and isolation as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to sweep across the globe. 

Nick Mohammed in Ted Lasso
Nick Mohammed in Ted Lasso. Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

In the midst of all of this chaos and pain and division, there was a television show that showed people being kind to one another. It showed people apologizing in true and authentic ways and then showed people offering forgiveness. It showed greatness coming from unexpected places. It showed the value of really seeing people and caring about them, not just where they are, but seeing who they could be. 

Over three seasons, Ted Lasso addressed issues like homophobia, racism, infidelity, divorce, abuse, anxiety, and suicide but always kept kindness at its center. Not niceness, where the pain of these issues was glossed over or ignored, but kindness, where people could feel their real feelings but then try to foster a sense of understanding and empathy for the person perpetrating the harm. I can think of few shows that have done that at all, and none as well. 

Ted Lasso is not without its faults. The first season has a decided lack of diversity. The second season is its strongest but has two episodes that feel very out of place due to being requested by the studio after the season was planned out. The third season becomes a bit self-congratulatory and tries to cram a little too much into each episode. 

But like many sports teams, Ted Lasso has some of the most devout fans that you have ever seen, including me. It reminds me that nothing has to be faced alone. It reminds me that I can make a decision to change no matter my age or my baggage. It reminds me that I can choose to be curious, not judgmental. 

Maybe Ted can teach you those things as well.

All episodes of Ted Lasso are now streaming on Apple TV+.

Learn more about the show, including how to watch, at the Apple TV+ website for the title.

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