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.

Only the Young

And it’s already Wednesday! Well done, everyone, for making it this far.

Okay, so it wasn’t as big of a deal as usual, since this is a short work week (huzzah for Labor Day!) but there it is, you know. And it is a Wednesday, nevertheless, and we should be truly grateful that we have again made it to the midway point of the week, even if was relatively easier (comparatively speaking) this week than usual. But you know what? It’s still Wednesday, and I may–just may–take this Friday off and have another three day weekend. How’s about that?

I was very tired yesterday; we were busy during clinic hours and since I had to get up early, of course I had insomnia Monday night. So by the time I got home from work I was very tired–too tired to really think about starting to read Babylon Berlin, or to work on the book much–I did get a bit into the seventh chapter, but still, not very far–but I did decide to rename my story “After the Party” to something else: “No Place Like Home,” which I am still not crazy about, but it’s much better than “After the Party,” which is one of the lamest story titles I have yet to come up with, and I was quite happy to change the name of the file and folder on my computer, as well as print out the thousand words or so I’ve written on it with the new title on it, so I can get rid of the old print out and can deny to myself that I ever gave a story such a shitty title. It’s also a bait-and-switch story; it starts out going in one direction and then completely switches gears; the problem is I’ve gotten to the gear switch and am not entirely sure how to drive it in the new gear.

I really hate when that happens.

Then a friend on Facebook recommended everyone watch a show I’d had my eye on, Ted Lasso, and I clicked on the Apple Plus app, queued up the first episode, and was immediately entranced. The premise of the show is one of those that seems sort of predictable, like Schitt’s Creek was as well; a small-time American college football coach is hired to manage a major league (Premier league? I don’t really follow soccer, my apologies) team in England that has been fairly mediocre for a time. My first thought, when I first saw a preview for it, was why on earth would anyone do such a thing? And again, like I did initially with Schitt’s Creek, I thought, so of course his small time ways will be mocked and the Brits will be brutal with him and then he will win them over and they will become champions and I’ve seen this before, so I didn’t make it a priority to watch until last night, when I saw my friend’s post about it, so I thought, well, let’s give it a whirl.

Wow.

I’ve been a fan of Jason Sudeikis for a while now; not the oh I have to see everything he’s in type but the I’ve certainly enjoyed everything of his I’ve seen; the movie We’re the Millers was surprisingly sweet, funny, and enjoyable. The premise of the show goes a bit deeper than what it appears at first; a loathsome British billionaire has been divorced after thirteen years by his long-suffering wife, and in the settlement she got his soccer team; which is his pride and joy, and she has hired Ted Lasso for no reason other than she wants to punish her loathsome ex by driving his beloved team into the ground; her exact words are “burn it to the ground completely.” She manages to somehow play off the mysterious coaching hire very well–and Game of Thrones fans, I had to look her up because she looked familiar to me; imagine my surprise to see that Hannah Waddington, who plays her and is stunningly beautiful, tall and sexy; PLAYED THE SEPTA, the one who followed Cersei on her Walk of Shame ringing the bell and saying “Shame”–and the character of Rebecca, whom she plays, is pretty awful; but you also understand why–which is a credit to the show nd the writers, frankly. Horrible Malcolm publicly and openly cheated on her for years, playing out in the tabloids, and often she is mocked and humiliated by them as well. She treats her assistant, Higgins, terribly; but Waddington also plays her so well you also can’t help but feel for her even as she is terrible.

But the key to the show is Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso, who is the kind of person who always looks for the best in everyone and genuinely is a nice guy; no matter how rude or nasty someone is to him, he sees their humanity and rather than thinking what a dick or what a bitch, he thinks how can I get through to this person? And he does it with kindness, by treating everyone with respect and dignity. The show walks a very tight rope, as it could easily descend into schmaltzy sentimentality, but it never does, and that’s not an easy trick by any means. The show follows Ted as he slowly begins to win over everyone in Richmond (the town where it’s set) and the team, by being a genuinely kind person. There’s a very strong episode where Ted spends the day with a very cynical journalist who can’t quite figure out what the point of hiring this buffoonish-seeming American could possibly be; a coach/manager who flatly tells the press he doesn’t care about wins or losses. The point of the interview is, of course, so that this cynical journalist who has asked him pointedly insulting questions at press conferences can write a hit piece on him that will further damage the team, and it was all set up by Rebecca; but as the journalist, whom he always treats with respect and kindness and appreciation, spends the day with him and watches him interact with people, he’s won over. He writes the piece, and he still thinks Lasso is going to fail managing the team, but its not a hatchet job at all; the final line of the piece winds up being something along the lines of “I still think he is going to fail, but I am not going to enjoy watching it the way I thought I would.”

The show sneaks up and hits you in the feels, the same way Schitt’s Creek did, and it makes you laugh and it makes you tear up because you find yourself loving the characters so much, and caring about what happens to them. Six episodes have already aired, and we blew through them all last night; the next will air on Friday, and I am already looking forward to it.

It’s also wonderful watching the character of Rebecca, so determined to avenge herself on her husband, becoming conflicted with her plan because she isn’t really the icy bitch she thinks she is, and responding not only to Ted’s kindness but that of other characters.

I do recommend it highly.

And Archer comes back next week!

I have to also add that Apple Plus is really upping their game. The first two shows there we tried to watch didn’t hold our interest and we abandoned them after a couple of episodes–the story and the characters didn’t hold out attention, despite how well the shows were produced. But The Morning Show and Ted Lasso are exceptional television, and the previews for the service’s adaptation of Azimov’s Foundation series looks amazing, airing in 2021.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Check out Ted Lasso; if you liked Schitt’s Creek, this is right up your alley as well.