It got a two star review in The Guardian and I absolutely concur with many of the criticisms (jokes about tea, shots of Tower Bridge), but there’s something strangely… what’s the word? Not compelling, not gripping, but, yes, nice, even moving about Ted Lasso on TV+.
Obviously, I’m never far from a nervous breakdown these days, and I am a little bit fragile as a result of having to return home early from France with every single warning light flashing in the car for the whole journey, but it turns out Ted Lasso was just what I needed.
Yes, its premise is dumb, hackneyed, wafer-thin, and I’m not sure about the casting and the broad brush strokes of the characterisations, and I’ve got zero interest – in the normal run of things – in sport or fiction about sport.
But here’s what it’s like. You know how there are some people (musicians, actors) who you just love because they’re obviously decent human beings? It doesn’t matter how grubby the media are, or how nasty the world becomes, these people seem to have an inherent goodness that just cannot be tarnished. MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger is one such. Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Gregory Peck, LeVar Burton: others than come to mind immediately.
And the main premise of Ted Lasso is that Ted Lasso, the character, is such a fundamentally decent human being that he (eventually) wins even the nastiest, most cynical, most suspicious people over to his side. Which is what makes him, in the premise of the show, a great coach – regardless of whether he knows anything about the sport in question. That’s the set-up: new Premiership team owner is determined to run club into the ground, so she hires an American coach who knows nothing about football. Yes, it’s basically the plot of The Natural and Ted Lasso is Roy Hobbs. And, sure, I reckon Robert Redford belongs on the list above.
And I’m watching it, fully expecting it to be as two-star as The Guardian suggested, and I find myself just really enjoying it. He’s so nice! He’s surrounded almost completely by cynical suspicious people who are undermining him at every turn. But look! He’s winning them over! One by one by one… and it’s just… I need this.
And here’s the intellectual content. Maybe the one-star review is based on just one episode? Because maybe part of the show’s genius is that – just like Ted Lasso himself – the show wins you over. Perhaps we’re meant to recoil, in episode one, from shots of Tower Bridge and jokes about tea. Perhaps we’re meant to be on the side of those who shout, “Wanker!” at Ted Lasso everywhere he goes. And perhaps, if we open our hearts to kindness, we are meant to – grudgingly, at first – be won over.