…with one key difference.
Ted Lasso was a bright spot in the chaotic wasteland of 2020. If you’re like me, then you never wanted the series to end. I had zero expectations going into it, and maybe that was part of what made the show so great. I’d actually never even heard of it before I decided to watch, but I got a year of free Apple TV+ after I begrudgingly bought a new iPhone last year (R.I.P. home button) and figured I might as well watch one of the seemingly-endless number of new streaming shows available in a half-hearted attempt to keep up with the zeitgeist. Plus Jason Sudeikis is cool. I’m still not over the Olivia Wilde split, though. And she’s dating Harry Styles now? What is going on?! How does Jason even begin to process that? I can’t even process that.
But back to Ted Lasso…
After the first episode, I was skeptical. The show seemed too genuine, too saccharine, too sincere. There had to be a catch. When were we going to find out that Ted was actually a murderous psycho or that he had a foot fetish or was at least just a bad dude? I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but after episode two I realized that the whole point of the show is that there is no other shoe. There’s no ulterior motive, it’s just fun. And for the first time in a long time, I found myself actually enjoying a new TV show.
I’ve worked on a couple of TV shows in my time. I’m no one special, but I’ve been in writers’ rooms before and seen how the sausage is made and most of the time, the focus is on conflict. How can we get more of it? Make this relationship as dramatic as possible? Drag this feud out just long enough so that our viewers will stay hooked but not get annoyed?
Endless conflict is almost a cliche at this point, but you won’t find that on Ted Lasso. The show doesn’t shy away from conflict (or cliches!), but they decided to go with the innovative approach of: “What if we just write a funny, genuine character and enjoy living in his world for a while? Hell, maybe he’ll even be somewhat emotionally mature!” Mind blown.
Here’s the thing about conflict: it’s entertaining, but it’s also exhausting. And aren’t our lives exhausting enough at this point? I want my TV conflict like I want my potatoes: simple. Just give me some salt and oil. Get out of here with your chili and cheese and mayonnaise – it’s fun every once in a while, but too much of it gives me a stomach ache. We’re all starving for simplicity nowadays and Ted Lasso delivered.
I bet you’re wondering when I’m going to mention Michael Scott. Probably should have done that earlier, but I got really sidetracked by that whole Harry Styles thing and better late than never, right?
Like every other human on planet Earth, I’m also a big fan of The Office. I’m sure that I’m also not the first person who was reminded of Michael Scott while watching Ted Lasso’s antics. The two have a lot of similarities, but about mid-way through the season I was struck with this realization: Ted Lasso is Michael Scott, with a drop of self-awareness.
What made Michael Scott’s cringe-worthy bone-headedness bearable was the fact that he was completely unaware of how offensive or awkward he was being at any given time. He genuinely believed that his co-workers loved him. So much so that he bought his own “World’s Best Boss” mug. If Scott had been self-aware, he would have been a villain.
Ted Lasso knows that pretty much everyone hates him when he first arrives in jolly old England. Sure, he’s unaware of his boss, Rebecca’s, secret plan to sabotage him at every turn. But his determination to win her over by baking her cookies every morning shows that he at least knows she’s not his number one fan. Yet he keeps trying to befriend her all season long because, like Michael Scott, Lasso is an eternal optimist. That is the core of who they both are and what makes them both so lovable.
If Michael Scott had an ounce of self-awareness, his jokes would have landed better because he’d know when he was making everyone feel awkward. To be fair, pretty much every single “That’s what she said!” joke did land, but it was always at the worst possible time, so you still had to cringe.
Ted Lasso’s jokes land sans cringe because he knows his audience. I didn’t intend that last sentence to be meta, but now that I read it back over, I mean it in the meta-sense as well. Lasso’s quips might not always be appreciated by his co-workers, but they never fail to make viewers smile:
“All right, fellas, you gotta remember, your body is like day-old rice. If it ain’t warmed up properly, something real bad could happen.” – Ted Lasso
Every once in a while, Michael Scott would impart profound wisdom. The problem was, he never knew when he was doing it. And often times, when he would try to give genuine advice, he would fail, which is how we ended up with iconic TV moments like this:
Ted Lasso’s simple nature and soft Southern lilt makes it so that when he imparts wisdom, we don’t always realize he’s doing it at first. It settles in slow, but we get the sense that Lasso knows a lot more about life than he’s letting on. He certainly knows more than us and we look up to him. Despite his difficulties, Ted’s in a good place because he believes in himself and most importantly: he believes in others despite all odds.
The world needs optimism and humor and sincerity now more than ever. We all need a Ted Lasso.