Sometimes, when it comes to titles, something as generic as a character’s name fails to spark the imagination. But that’s not the case with the new Apple TV+ comedy Ted Lasso, in part because it’s a rare thing, to see a TV show match so perfectly with its central figure. Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), the cheery mustachio’ed American suddenly transplanted to England to coach a professional football (AKA soccer) team, is all about doing the best job possible and making people happy while he does it. And that also feels like the goal of this show.
Inspired by a series of NBC Sports ads that the Saturday Night Live alum made in 2013 and 2014, Ted Lasso features a largely British/international cast for this fish-out-of-water story, which begins with Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) deciding to hire Ted as a replacement for the experienced but gross coach previously employed by her former husband. Her reasons for hiring Ted aren’t exactly above board, but she’s also not prepared for what she ends up getting: A golden retriever of a human being with a magnificent mustache, who just wants to be everyone’s friend and “doesn’t really care too much about wins and losses.”
Ted’s attitude towards the scoreboard is just one of the elements which define this as a fish-out-of-water story, though the emphasis here is less on how Ted has to adapt to his new surroundings and more on how he substantively changes the lives of his co-workers and the players for the better.
In short, this might be one of the most kind-hearted shows to premiere in quite some time, and that coupled with a classic underdog sports tale makes it a deeply endearing experience. Part of that is the way the writers, including Sudeikis and Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougartown) don’t present Ted with all too many clear antagonists — instead, the majority of the conflict seems to arrive organically as a result of complicated personalities or unexpected circumstances or the sport itself. (Ted Lasso might not make a football fan out of you if you’re not one already, but for those who do enjoy yelling “GOAAAAAAAAAL!”, there are many lovingly filmed and genuinely thrilling moments of gameplay spread across the episodes.)
Ted isn’t a flawless human being, but he is inherently good, and the kind of energy is something that you can not only depend upon, but also trust to serve as a solid foundation for seasons to come. The biggest flaw in Ted’s aw-shucks attitude is the fact that why, exactly, he’s willing to take on this challenge is never made totally clear. He’s just game for whatever life deals out, telling his ever-loyal companion Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) that it makes sense to take this chance, because “if you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”
Much of Ted Lasso‘s draw does come from the innate charisma of Sudeikis, but the supporting cast does include some solid performers. Waddingham, who recently appeared in the extremely dissimilar Krypton and Sex Education, is a formidable foil for Ted while also still fundamentally a human being, one with the potential to grow and change. It feels like Nick Mohammed is everywhere this summer (you can also catch him right now in the Peacock original series Intelligence and Hitmen), but he’s a scene-stealer as the eager “towel boy” who Ted sees great things in (in part because unlike Ted, Nathan actually knows the rules of the game). And Juno Temple, as a career footballer’s girlfriend who’s beginning to worry about aging out of the job, is a great deal of fun, especially as Keeley gets more and more agency.
So much of Ted Lasso might be deemed aggressively pleasant, trading urgency and tension for the comfort of being able to believe that everything will ultimately be okay. In many ways, this show is like a warm hug from a close platonic friend, companionable and safe… and perhaps too easy to take for granted.
After all, it’s a rough world out there. Stories of goodness are worth cherishing. (As is that mustache.)
The first three episodes of Ted Lasso are available now on Apple TV+. New episodes will debut weekly on Fridays.