31 Pilots in 31 Days: Ted Lasso

When it was originally on: 2020-present

Original network: Apple TV+

Where you can stream it now: Apple TV+

Had I seen it before: Yes! I love Ted Lasso and have seen it in its entirety.

What IMDb says: American college football coach Ted Lasso heads to London to manage AFC Richmond, a struggling English Premier League football team.

Why I picked it: I’ve been impressed with how quickly Apple TV went from “what? Apple has original programming?” to actually being a legitimate player in the space. It’s always exciting when a new streamer/tv channel is in their early stages and just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, and some great shows have come out of HBO, AMC, Netflix, and Hulu all going through this phase at different points.

Apple’s an anomaly though when you consider that one of the first shows to really put them on the map is a wholesome comedy. At the time of this writing, I don’t think Apple has a bigger hit than Ted Lasso, and it’s not for lack of darker, more dramatic offerings. Maybe this was just because a warm show centered around a nice person whose niceness made everyone around him nicer was what the world needed in 2020, who can say. Either way, it’s hard to think of a recent hit that has won over critics, awards voters, AND the general populace quite like Ted Lasso has.

What I liked: This pilot finds so many quick, simple ways to tell you what a great guy Ted Lasso is. There’s the way he insists on carrying his own bags because “we packed them, we can carry them.” There’s the way he asks for Nate’s name AND remembers it the next day when no one else seems to care about Nate at all. There’s also the great one-liner when Rebecca asks if Ted believes in ghosts and he says “yes, but mostly I think they should believe in themselves.” They sneak these small-scale “save-the-cat” moments in here and there without it ever feeling like they’re drawing too much attention to it. It makes Ted seem nice nice, rather than just TV nice.

One of the genius bits of Ted Lasso is how Rebecca gave Ted the job as a means of deliberately sabotaging the team. It’s wonderful that we can enjoy the show without having to ask “but who in their right mind would give Ted the job?” but I also like how the pilot isn’t too quick to reveal that information. There’s a press conference before that reveal where the English press is grilling Ted and we realize just how unsuited for the job Ted is. Rebecca comes to his aid and points out that Richmond wasn’t even that good a team to begin with, and say what you want about how Ted doesn’t know soccer, but at least he’s won a championship this millenium. Rebecca is so sincere in this moment that when she later admits to Higgins that Ted is part of a ploy to burn Richmond to the ground, I’m almost impressed by her duplicity. We can’t blame Ted for not seeing through her because she spent the first half of the pilot duping us as well. We also can’t blame Rebecca for holding such a grudge against her cheating ex and the club either after what she’s been through, and all this makes Rebecca a villain so smartly written she almost feels too interesting for the fluffy comedy we’re watching.

There’s also a brilliant scene where Ted is on the phone with his wife who’s back in America. We only hear Ted’s side of the conversation which just makes it feel even more lonely. We hear him say things like “I’m giving you space” and “I love you…. you don’t have to say it.” We know he’s going through marital issues and this also quickly answers the question of “Why would Ted agree to this gig in the first place?” and gives him his own conflict to deal with that could go on for a while. It would be easy for Ted Lasso to run out of steam after Ted assimilates to the UK and the well of “American-doesn’t-understand-England” jokes runs dry, but giving Ted ~Big Life Problems~ to deal with outside of soccer gives the show the depth it needs to avoid that.

What I didn’t like: I wish we got a little bit more insight into the players in this pilot. They’re introduced, but most of what we do learn is told-not-shown. That said, since I’ve seen enough of the show I can assure you this problem doesn’t stick around too long, and Roy kent and Jamie Tart will feel like real characters soon enough.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes! It’s a charming show and I just want to spend more time around Ted Lasso.

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