This is truly a family show that feels both real and aspirational.
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?
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.
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. The show is strangely contradictory in that it features content that doesn’t at all line up with the themes that it promotes.
And yet, despite its many flaws, it’s difficult to miss just how nice the show is. Ted refuses to let his frustrating circumstances influence him negatively, approaching every situation with a smile, every conflict with a kind word. Even his hardened players begin to recognize that it’s hard to completely despise him. The extraordinary kindness of Ted Lasso is one that’s incredibly needed in today’s entertainment, even if it’s surrounded by objectionable content that isn’t.
It’s hard not to root for Ted Lasso, the coach. But suggestive content and profanity can make Ted Lasso, the show, hard to watch.
It’s a new season, both for Ted Lasso the coach and Ted Lasso the series. While AFC Richmond struggles to break a frustrating streak of ties, an unfortunate accident causes footballer Dani Rojas to suddenly lose his ability to play, and club owner Rebecca tentatively re-enters the dating scene.
The first episode of the new season features many of the same content issues of its predecessor. We see Dani wake up in bed shirtless between two sleeping women. Retired AFC Richmond player Roy Kent watches a reality show called Lust Conquers All (on which his old teammate and rival Jamie Tartt is a contestant), and we see a woman in a revealing bikini. Jamie tells the audience that he’s the “top scorer” on the show—“Sexually,” he clarifies cheekily. Rebecca’s new boyfriend, John, invites her over to his place after a date, but she declines. Higgins, Rebecca’s assistant, laments that he has to watch Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back with his kids and explain the scene where Luke and Leia, who turn out to be twins, make out. Ted mentions that he once attended a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood.
In a particularly tense moment during a match, assistant coach Nathan asks Ted, “Is it okay if I pray?” Ted responds, “Yeah, sure. But to which god and in which language?” They decide to simply cross their fingers and make wishes instead. Dani stands fully clothed in the shower and prays in Spanish, continuously crossing himself. Ted and his assistant, Coach Beard, are incredibly superstitious about using the term “the yips,” which refers to when a player suddenly loses their athletic ability. Ted compares it so saying “Macbeth” in a theater, which many believe brings bad luck. As Higgins leaves to watch Star Wars with his family, Ted quotes, “May the Force be with you,” to which Higgins responds, “And also with you.”
Rebecca, Ted, Higgins and Keeley drink cocktails together after a match. While on a double date, Rebecca, John and Keeley sip glasses of wine, while Roy throws back multiple glasses of hard liquor. Ted and Coach Beard drink beer at a pub, and Keeley jokes about Roy getting “buzzed on rosé,” which we later see him drink with his club of yoga moms. Keeley also offers to come over to Roy’s apartment with a bottle of wine.
While attempting a penalty kick during a match, Dani’s ball accidentally hits and kills the team mascot, Earl the greyhound. The impact happens offscreen, but we hear the whimper of the dog and see the horrified faces of the crowd. Later, Dani has a nightmare about the event in which blood splatters onto his face before he wakes up. Roy’s 8-year-old niece Phoebe tells Keeley she got a red card for “elbowing a girl in her neck” during one of her football matches. “And I’m very proud,” Roy says before kissing her on the head.
As in the first season, profanity is nearly constant. The f-word is used 16 times, the s-word is heard nine times, and God’s name is taken in vain six times. “H—” is used three times, while “d–n” is used twice. Other expletives such as “pr–k” and “tw-t” appear as well.
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.”
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.
Lauren Cook is serving as a 2021 summer intern for the Parenting and Youth department at Focus on the Family. She is studying film and screenwriting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. You can get her talking for hours about anything from Star Wars to her family to how Inception was the best movie of the 2010s. But more than anything, she’s passionate about showing how every form of art in some way reflects the Gospel. Coffee is a close second.
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.
This is truly a family show that feels both real and aspirational.
Apple TV+’s take on Isaac Asimov classic sci-fi series takes some unwanted liberties with the source material.
Patriarchy, political agendas and natural survival all drive this series. But so do gender, violence, heavy language and sexual content.
The Big Leap is a show about a show. But the show itself may show too much.