Photo By: Noah Nickel via Apple TV+
The Apple TV+ original comedy Ted Lasso has been growing in popularity since it’s premiere in August 2020. The show, which follows a fictional English soccer club known as AFC Richmond, seems to resonate with both sports and non-sports fans alike.
The general premise of the show is that it follows the titular Ted Lasso, a former American football coach who makes the bold decision to hop across the pond and try his hand at coaching soccer, a sport which he knows virtually nothing about. Other featured characters include Coach Beard, Ted’s stoic, yet eccentric assistant coach, Jamie Tartt, an arrogant and troubled hotshot young star, Roy Kent, a grizzled veteran of the game, and Rebecca Welton, the powerful owner of AFC Richmond.
The writers of Ted Lasso have made a concerted effort to really flesh out each individual character, and to dive deeper into the character’s motivations. This element is what transforms Ted Lasso from a relatively silly sports comedy into a show with more heart than most. This focus on character development has been furthered in the show’s second season by the introduction of Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, Richmond’s new team therapist.
While much of the show’s action is driven by Richmond’s performance in the English Premier League, viewers may look deeper to find that the actual on-the-pitch events are often used simply as a plot device to set character action in motion. Even still, the show uses events and action from inside the sporting world to draw parallels to the conflicts that it’s characters experience outside the stadiums.
This in turn makes a larger statement about sports, by highlighting the overall lessons learned and value gained through membership of a team. For example, when the issue of player-coach mentorship features prominently in an episode, you find that the writers are using the plotline to dive deeper into a character with long-standing parental or familial conflicts. On the field discussions about player spacing leads to a character’s revelation about how to properly give space in a relationship. An assistant coach’s newfound assertiveness will inevitably affect how they react to situations outside of the sport.
These are just a few ways in which Ted Lasso uses the sport of soccer as a tool to teach both it’s characters and it’s viewers some valuable lessons. This is sure to be one of the reasons why the show resonates in the hearts of viewers of all levels of sporting fandom. Despite all of this, there are plenty of inside references, jokes, and even cameos for those diehard soccer fans as well.
The impact of Ted Lasso’s relentlessly clever pop culture references can not be overstated when discussing the show’s popularity as well. The soundtrack features songs from well-known artists like Mumford & Sons, Lizzo, and The Lumineers, as well as nostalgic hits from The Rolling Stones, Oasis, and A Tribe Called Quest among others. The show follows the modern trend of employing a licensed soundtrack prominently in big moments throughout its first two seasons.
Coach Lasso’s witty remarks and retorts also often feature references to celebrities, pop culture events, or other well-known movies and TV shows. The decision to not shy away from rooting the characters in a world otherwise identical to our own goes a long way to further improve the show’s accessibility.
Ted Lasso’s ability to transform a plot about a fictional soccer team and its key players into a show about human growth, love, and relationships remains it’s strongest characteristic as it nears the end of it’s second season. Here’s to many more seasons yet to come.