Exile

I don’t really remember why I originally decided to subscribe to Apple Plus; I have a love/hate relationship with the entire company, frankly, but after using their products for nearly twenty-five years I’m sort of resigned to using them until the day I die (but reserve the right to complain incessantly about them). I have a ridiculous amount of streaming services that I already pay for–Hulu, Prime, Netflix, CBS All Access, DC Universe, HBO MAX, Disney Plus (and I really need to trim that down, seriously)–and so why on earth would I add another? I honestly don’t know, but there it is, and I’m paying for it. We originally tried watching an Octavia Spencer show she did for them, but as much as we love her and as talented as she is, the writing wasn’t worthy of her talents and we abandoned the show. We then tried Defending Jacob–I mean, come on, CHRIS EVANS–but it, too, began to strain credulity and credibility and despite it’s amazing production values and CHRIS EVANS, we finally abandoned the show. Having had two disappointing experiences with their series in a row, we kind of decided to avoid Apple Plus and I was at the point of pulling the plug when I remembered I wanted to give The Morning Show a try–and we fucking loved it.

And then a friend recommended Ted Lasso.

I like Jason Sudeikis; the film where he played a drug smuggler and hired a stripper played by Jennifer Aniston to play his wife, and then hired two kids to play their kids was surprisingly funny and enjoyable (even if I can’t remember the name of it) and I vaguely remember him as a Saturday Night Live alum (sorry, but this century the women have far overshadowed the men for the most part), but the premise of the show didn’t sound terribly promising to me, frankly; an American college football coach is hired to coach a major league soccer team in the UK, despite knowing nothing about soccer or England or anything. It was, I thought, kind of a stupid premise; I may not follow soccer or know much about it, but even I know it’s the most popular sport in the world and the Brits go nuts about it. It also was that most tired of sitcom premises, once you boil it down to its nuts and bolts and foundation: fish out of water. How many times have we seen this already, and in every possible variation? And soccer–a sport I don’t follow, don’t really understand, and generally never get terribly excited on the few times I’ve watched it?

But the friend who recommended it also said it was very much in the spirit of Schitt’s Creek, which might just be one of my favorite sitcoms ever, and so we gave it a whirl.

And we both found ourselves completely enchanted by the end of the first episode.

And in all honesty, I didn’t think we would last. Ted is from Kansas–the football team he coached to a championship that drew the eye of the Richmond soccer team owner was Wichita State–and has that “aw shucks good golly” type of Midwestern personality that is such a stereotype that it’s almost painful to watch, and there was a fear that this show would be painful to watch; a sweet, unassuming, good-hearted Midwestern American having to deal with the cutthroat British media, angry fans who can’t understand the decision to hire him, and I thought to myself, oh this is going to be one of those things where he wins and everyone grows to love and appreciate him.

It is so much more than that–and not just because he doesn’t win (spoiler). We soon find out two important, key things about Ted and his new job that explain it, in that weird, cartoonish sitcom way: the team’s owner, Rebecca, got the team as part of a divorce settlement from her horrific ex-husband, Rupert–a cheating, slimy piece of shit who is horrible to her–and as the only thing he actually cares about is the soccer (football) team, she wants to destroy it while he watches helplessly as it happens. What better way to ruin a team than hiring someone who knows absolutely nothing about the sport to be its coach? But why would Ted take the job? It turns out that Ted’s marriage is also on the rocks, and the marriage counselor he and his wife are seeing have suggested they put some distance between them–just as the job offer came through, so Ted takes it.

And Ted isn’t a stereotype at all, as I feared; as played by Jason Sudeikis, he’s just one of those genuinely kind people, almost completely without guile; he believes in his players and he believes in the goodness of people–and as everyone gets to know him, his kindness and caring begins to break through with the players and everyone he encounters. The media is brutal to him, but he just smiles and appreciates them for doing their job. Rebecca is consistently undermining him with the team, setting him up to make sure the team fails. But Ted’s eternal optimism and belief in people starts pulling the team together, creating a true team atmosphere. One of the sweetest episodes is one where he spends the day with a journalist who is one of his harshest critics, Ted Crimm; and watching as Ted’s optimism and kindness slowly begins to win the reporter over, to the point that he writes an absolutely glowing column about Ted–concluding with his belief that the team will be relegated (moved to the minors) but that he won’t gloat when it happens, because he can’t help rooting for the guy.

Like Schitt’s Creek, the show is about the characters, their relationships with each other, and their personal growth. Even Rebecca (played brilliantly by Hannah Waddingham, perhaps most famous as the ‘shame” sept from Game of Thrones), the mastermind of this cruel scheme with Ted set-up as the butt of the joke, is understandable; we see how much Rupert has damaged her, and awful as what she is doing may be, we understand her pain and root for her to get through it all, and watching Ted slowly beginning to win her over–as well as Keeley, the former supermodel who begins the show involved with team star (borrowed from Manchester City) Jamie Tartt, and gradually realizes she deserves better and falls for someone more her match; Keeley is a terrific character, who immediately sees, gets, and understands Ted’s worth, and watching her friendship with Rebecca grow is also delightful to watch. The show is never side-splittingly funny, but the humor is there…and so are the human elements that sometimes make you tear up.

Because Crimm is ultimately right–you can’t help rooting for Ted, and by extension, you can’t help rooting for the team, the characters, and the show. The acting is top-notch, and even the minor characters are completely lovable–I love Jamie Rojas, the Mexican player who is always happy and always saying “football is life!” and Nate the equipment manager in particular; even the fans, whether it’s the ones in the stadium chanting “Wanker!” at Ted or the ones in the local pub, are fun to watch and again, fun to watch them grow into an appreciation of their Yankee coach and his methods.

I love this show, and I can’t wait to see the second season.

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