Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.
If there was one thing I didn’t expect to happen going into 2021 it’s that I would find myself caring about a game of football. But thanks to Apple TV’s brilliant original comedy, Ted Lasso, it happened. Anyone who knows me knows how very little I actually know about or care for football, so Ted Lasso wasn’t really on my radar, but I figured if Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit could get me so invested in chess, anything was possible.
Jason Sudeikis plays the titular character, an American football coach who led his team to a Division II National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship. Following this success, Lasso takes up an offer to coach AFC Richmond, a UK-based football team who are in the Premier League. The club’s owner, Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), hires Lasso in an attempt to drag the club’s reputation down as a way to get back at the club’s previous owner and her now ex-husband (Anthony Head), since the club is the only thing he loves.
Lasso, blissfully unaware of Welton’s ulterior motives, dives into his new job with both feet with the help of his close friend and fellow coach, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt). As Welton had hoped, the players and fans don’t take too kindly to their new American coach and things appear to be going according to her plan.
Going into this show knowing very little about football, I felt I was on an even playing field with Lasso and Coach Beard – who learn the game as they go. The worry of not being able to keep up with any football-related humour or jargon did cross my mind as I sat down to watch the first episode, but it quickly became evident I needn’t worry. “I think I literally have a better understanding of who killed Kennedy than what is offside.”
Jason Sudeikis absolutely sells the unbearably optimistic and charismatic titular character. It could have been really easy to dislike Lasso as much as the AFC Richmond fans do, but Sudeikis works his charm, delivering one of his best performances to date and you can’t help but love him. Thankfully, Lasso isn’t just a one-note character, as the show explores the personal reasons he took the coaching job in the first place and delivers some unexpected emotional punches.
Hannah Waddington is superb as the deliciously devious club owner, Rebecca Welton, who thankfully is allowed to become more than just your average two-dimensional villain of the piece and goes on a journey of her own throughout the season. Despite trying her best to hate Lasso, even she finds herself struggling to keep up her strong defence as he delivers homemade biscuits every morning and tries his best to get her involved in the team at every opportunity.
The show also sports a strong supporting cast that all bring a little something different to the field. Frequent visitors to Cineworld will recognise AFC Richmond’s up-and-coming star striker Jamie Tartt, played by Phil Dunster who features in Cineworld’s Unlimited Car adverts. Tartt is a young, cocky player who knows how good he is and believe he’s the only one keeping the fans are coming to watch. Tartt often butts heads with the team’s captain Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), who he mocks for being too old and past his prime following his Champions League win with Chelsea 8 years ago. Tartt’s lack of team spirit and Kent’s struggle with his anger and self-doubt are immediately obvious to Lasso and he knows these two are key to changing the team’s fate in the Premier League.
Assisting Lasso and Coach Beard with getting to grasps with football and the players is the team’s kit man Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed). Nathan’s lack of self confidence means he has sat back and kept his head down whilst working at the club and is often the subject of bullying and pranks by the players. Much to Nathan’s surprise and delight, Lasso often consults him to help understand the game, the team, and on the odd occasion British lingo. As Lasso helps builds his confidence, ‘Nate the Great’ as he is dubbed by Lasso, proves he is more knowledgeable than previously given credit for and becomes an integral part to the team.
The music used throughout this season, including the main titles, are written and performed by Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, whose instantly recognisable voice is a welcome surprise.
With ten 30-minute episodes, Ted Lasso is perfect to get stuck in to at any time and whilst it’s incredibly bingeable, it’s also something you can just stick on when you’ve got half an hour to yourself and need a good laugh. And I assure you, you will get some good laughs from it.
Five days after arriving on Apple TV, Ted Lasso was renewed for a second season – a sure sign that Apple were very happy with the comedy’s reception. Then in October, Apple confirmed they’d already renewed the series for a third season. With the season finale ending as it did, there’s a lot of opportunity for season two to explore new struggles for the team, introduce new characters, and focus more on the different players in the team that didn’t get much screen-time this time around.
Featuring a delightful and talented cast, an enjoyable and accessible plot, and Jason Sudeikis with a moustache, Ted Lasso is an absolute joy to watch and well worth making a start on if you’re looking for something new to watch this new year, even if football isn’t your usual thing. You’ll also find yourself with some new favourite quotes thanks to Lasso and his words of wisdom, my favourite of this season being; “You know what the happiest animal in the world is? It’s a goldfish. It’s got a 10 second memory. Be a goldfish.”
AFC Richmond, you’ve got yourself a new season-ticket holder and I look forward to you bringing your A-game next season. Because I’m Richmond ’til I die.