Pictured: Jason Sudeikis stars as Ted Lasso, in the so-called sitcom on Apple TV. 

If this show’s universal appeal and awards recognition means anything, it’s that we crave kindness, yet retreat too often to vengeance or apathy

by Paul Moomjean
paulmoomjean@yahoo.com

Watching former President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing has been quite the emotional experience. Seeing those who thought to raid the Capitol in bear suits and with a Confederate flag was so overwhelming. Then watching the video montages of politicians using such violent antagonistic language about the two halves of America was just as disappointing. The divide is great. The language vile. In a world where the ethos of “fake news,” “fake elections” and “fake political promises” drowns out the rest, finding some hope and kindness feels impossible. Yet alas, I come bearing good news. After seeing all the television nominations from the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, one show popped up on all lists called Ted Lasso. I hadn’t heard of it, even though I am an Apple+ subscriber. I binged Season 1’s 10 episodes, and a few days later watched them all over again. In a world trying to knock down everyone, this is a show about second chances, forgiveness and building each other up — something we need now more than ever.

Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis stars as a beloved American Division II football coach hired by an English soccer club called AFC Richmond, even though he’s never coached soccer and doesn’t know the rules. This premise will reveal itself to be more complicated when we learn that the new owner is purposely sabotaging behind the scenes to get back at her cheating billionaire ex-husband, who lost the team in their recent divorce. Yet, while Ted might be ignorant to being a pawn in her post-marital chess match, his lovable Midwest earnestness gets the better of everyone upset by his new hiring. He’s a cross of Forrest Gump and Mr. Rogers, throwing out inspirational -isms and heartfelt hugs like tomorrow won’t allow it. 

What makes this character so interesting is that he is what we want Americans to be. He’s the opposite of the worst of us. Let’s put it this way: He probably would never have a provocative Twitter account. He’d fire no one. He simply wants people to be the best version of themselves. The creators told The Wrap that that was their objective. What happened next was producers Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Joe Kelly and Brendan Hunt went out to create a person who they “wish was the representative American” beyond our shores and borders.

“We said, if we’re still going to have Ted be a clueless guy about soccer, he can’t be ignorance with arrogance; he has to be ignorance with curiosity,” co-creator Lawrence said. “And that kind of just really translated into being an openhearted, open-minded nice guy.”

The show’s emotional center is watching everyone reject and belittle Lasso’s approaches, only to have them melt like butter on an English muffin.   

Even TV critics weren’t fond of Ted Lasso, disliking the show the way the show’s characters disliked Ted, and only coming around over time. Miles Surrey of The Ringer: “Well, I have to eat my words. Ted Lasso the sitcom . . . seriously rules. The series has no right to be as good, funny, and moving as it is. And yet I devoured all 10 episodes in a single day while frantically messaging my editor in disbelief that this is one of my favorite new shows.”

I have been in and out of the entertainment industry since 2006, and I studied film in college. What popular shows and movies reflect is where we are as a country. If this show’s universal appeal and awards recognition means anything, it’s that we crave kindness, yet retreat too often to vengeance or apathy. But if the last 12 months have taught us anything, all we have to have is hope. As everyone points fingers at everyone else, we need more Ted Lasso’s and fewer Trumps and Pelosis.  

Akos Peterbencze of Medium sums it up well. He too wanted to give into cynicism, but gave into love and kindness: “I grew to like this annoyingly optimistic buffoon. That’s what a full-hearted person does to someone. Every time Lasso faces rejection, he just tries harder and harder until he tears down the walls standing between him and the person refusing to give him a chance.”

As 2021 continues to deal with what 2020 brought us, may we take the little steps to love thy neighbor, pray for those who trespass against us, and let the people who want to go know we’ll never stop loving them. We can start by watching a sitcom. What a very American thing to do.