If you thought that there couldn’t possibly be a more cringeworthy portrayal of British culture than Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, then just wait until you see Ted Lasso.
But despite all the awkward cultural clichés – which initially had Brits dismissing the show – Ted Lasso has gone on to become a sleeper hit, providing viewers with the perfect slice of silly escapism. And now it’s back with a second season, this time being met with rave reviews.
The show tells the story of the all-American Football coach, Ted Lasso, who is hired by a struggling British ‘soccer’ team, AFC Richmond. Lasso makes his way across the pond, and we enter a whole world of ‘Cor blimey guv’nah!’ British stereotypes. If you think we’re exaggerating, there is a scene where the club owner offers Lasso a drink, before revealing there is only tea. As you likely already predicted, Lasso turns his nose up at it, saying it tastes like ‘hot brown water’. Public Service Announcement: us Brits are as addicted to coffee as the next person (or country), and tea is delicious golden nectar.
However, once you get past those bits, and have turned off your need for humour to be wry and sardonic, there’s a right gem of a show here. It’s very sweet, essentially following a good guy doing good things, with an uplifting story of a football club returning to its former glory. But all the sweetness doesn’t take away from the humour – the jokes flow, often returning and being repeated throughout the season, and as we get to know the show’s characters more and more, the gags get even funnier. And despite the title being the name of our leading man, the show actually gives plenty of room for side stories, particularly in season two. All in all, it’s a cheery, charming watch.
But reviews for season one didn’t quite reflect that – In The Independent Ed Cumming discusses the NFL adverts that the show is based on, saying the series is ‘less sharp than the original promos,’ but he does say, ‘there are other compensations.’ With overall a positive view, he ends by saying: ‘Ted Lasso ropes you in, even if it’s more by likability than laughter.’ Considerably less positive is The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee. He says of the series: ‘with so many better, smarter, funnier comedies available, it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to come back for more. It’s yet another fizzled opportunity for Apple.’ Savage.
Unsurprisingly the Americans are a bit more complimentary. Mike Hale in The New York Times says that the show ‘has been filmed and assembled with style and professionalism,’ but does admit that it ‘plays out the clichés of both the inspirational sports tale and the fish-out-of-water comedy.’
However there has been a stark shift in opinion since then, with season two’s reviews being overwhelmingly positive. Lucy Mangan of The Guardian gives it five stars, saying “the most joyous show on TV scores again,” whilst Benji Wilson in The Telegraph says “Sudeikis’s performance is masterful, showing that good men have depths too, and kindness can be just as interesting as meanness.”
First shown August 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.