Ted Lasso

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

It seems appropriate that Coach Ted Lasso would’ve crossed the pond for his latest job: He’s a classic fish out of water.

It’s not as if Ted’s a terrible coach. If he was coaching an American football team, he’d likely do just fine. After all, he did lead a team to a Division II title in his very first year as head coach. He even set social media ablaze with his goofy celebratory dance.

But football in the United States and futbal, well, everywhere else, is a different game. Literally. You don’t just kick balls through goalposts or to change possessions: you kick it all the time. Throwing and catching said ball is not just frowned upon: It’s a penalty. Players dribble the ball on the pitch—two terms that actually belong to two entirely different sports back in the good ol’ U. S. of A.

Yes, Ted Lasso has his hands—er, feet full in trying to coach the struggling AFC Richmond into a consistent winner. Could it be that he’s being set up to fail?

Extra Time

Ted, a drawling, relentlessly cheery motivator, seems like an odd fit for this jaded team filled with prima-Maradonas. When asked if he believes in ghosts, Ted says, “I do. But more importantly, I think they need to believe in themselves.”

That chipper, can-do attitude, and his complete lack of knowledge of the “beautiful game,” made Ted the perfect choice for Rebecca Welton, the team’s new owner. She received the team as part of a divorce settlement from her philandering, football-mad husband. Turning Richmond into a Premiere-League laughingstock is Rebecca’s way of twisting the knife a little.

“Ted Lasso is going to help me burn it to the ground,” she says.

But Ted, who knows nothing of Rebecca’s sneaky little scheme, has his own designs. Sure, he wants to turn Richmond into a real contender. He wants his bickering stars to learn to work together. He wants to instill a bit of genuine goodwill and camaraderie in his locker room.

But most especially, he hopes that the gig—giving his still-stateside wife the “space” she says she needs—will somehow heal his family; that being an ocean away will, paradoxically, bring his wife and child closer.

It’s perhaps a strange way of looking at things, but Ted Lasso is nothing if not strange. And maybe—just maybe—his particular brand of strange can do a strange, sweet work in Richmond.

Red Card

Ted Lasso is a strange work in itself. Featuring Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis in the starring role, this Apple TV+ comedy can sometimes suffer from a certain internal inconsistency. Ted’s exaggerated Texas accent paired with his ridiculously over-the-top folksy gullibility can make the character feel like he belongs in a SNL skit, not helming a series.

But the show, like Lasso himself, is smarter than it might seem at first.  

Ted is a nice guy, and the show suggests that nice guys sometimes do finish first: Or, if not, there are more important things than winning, anyway. While he’s easy to laugh at, the coach’s unflagging sincerity, decency and dogged determination to do the best job he can slowly shine through.

Ted Lasso is a funny and good-hearted, poignant show. And that makes the problematic content it also contains all the more vexing.

In another time and place, Ted Lasso would’ve been the sort of show that could’ve landed on network TV or basic cable, kept its nose relatively clean and earned a small-but-loyal audience (and maybe some Emmys, too). But today, in an oversaturated media landscape with very few rules, Apple TV+ has given Lasso license to be the TV-MA show that some apparently want it to be, but certainly doesn’t need to be.

Harsh profanities, including dozens of f-words, flit through the television speakers. Sexual jokes and revealing scenes also land on our screens. While the characters here are trying to be better people, Ted Lasso shows no such impulse to be a better show. It’s like someone took a homemade apple pie and coated it with tuna gravy. It’s hard not to root for Ted Lasso, the coach. But Apple TV+ makes Ted Lasso, the show, hard to watch.

Episode Reviews

Aug. 21, 2020: “For the Children”

Rebecca prepares to host an annual fundraising gala—an event she’s always co-hosted with her husband before—but is blindsided when her ex-hubby shows up and upstages her at every step. Meanwhile, Ted tries to use the dinner to forge a peace between his petulant stars, Roy and Jamie.

Players are “auctioned” off as part of the charity, and Jamie (an arrogant 23-year-old who attends the banquet with a suit, sans shirt) is told that he’ll need to have sex with whoever bids on him if the bidding reaches a certain point. (It’s a lie, but several crude jokes, involving various forms of sex, are made regarding Jamie’s misconception.) Keeley, Jamie’s girlfriend, learns that Jamie’s been two-timing with another woman. (Rebecca’s husband later leaves the banquet with that same “other woman.”)

Trying to ease the friction at his table, Ted says he has an idea that’ll either “help a little or hurt a whole lot. Who needs a drink?” All hands are raised, and Ted grabs a bevy of beers. We see plenty of other drink, as well—everything from martinis to wine to beer to mixed drinks. At the end of the night, a woman grabs a couple of unopened bottles of champagne from the bar and asks another woman, “Do you want to go and get really drunk? And then we can go, like, rob a bank or something.” Ted asks for “Jack on the rocks”—and a triple helping at that. Someone spits out a martini.

We hear jokes referencing various forms of genitalia. We see a player shirtless several times. He makes several incredibly crass comments about another player’s mother (and who she should have sex with). Ted says he likes his locker rooms to be like his mother’s bathing suit: In one piece. Characters say the f-word a dozen times and the s-word a good half-dozen. We also hear “a–,” “b–ch,” “h—,” “d–n,” “p-ss,” “pr–k” and the British profanity “b–locks.”

Aug. 14, 2020: “Pilot”

Ted leaves his job as an American college football coach to take the helm of a dysfunctional Premiere League soccer team. He admits that you could fill “two internets with what I don’t know about football,” but he receives no quarter from the fans, the notoriously nasty British press or the team itself. And that’s just the way Rebecca, the team’s new owner, wants it.

Rebecca fires the current coach, calling him out on his “casual misogyny” and his too-short shorts that often reveal his testicles. (He, meanwhile, asks if a “poof” helped decorate her office and compliments her on her “impressive chest,” and he jokingly tries to punch the nether-regions of Rebecca’s assistant.) We hear several references to Rebecca’s philandering husband and see a picture of him surrounded by women. When Ted Lasso walks through an empty locker room, he spies a bare-breasted picture of one player’s girlfriend. We see the un-edited picture indistinctly, and Ted places black tape over the breasts (as the appreciative girlfriend walks in).

When Ted greets the owner as “Miss Welton,” Rebecca insists that she call her Rebecca. “Miss Welton was my father,” she jokes. Ted says if that is a joke, it’s funny. And if not, “Can’t wait to unpack that with you.” We see a couple of soccer players shirtless. Fans drink beer as they hurl insults at a TV screen (on which Ted is holding his first press conference). Ted quips that life is like riding a horse: “If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.” We hear references to masturbation, and a player ogles his girlfriend’s rear.

Characters say the f-word 13 times and the s-word twice. We also hear “a–,” “p-ss,” “tw-t,” “w–ker” and “d–k.” God’s name is misused three times, and Jesus’ name is abused once.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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