It’s ironic that so many people snapped up the American self-image on a show that has its roots in a mildly condescending joke about ugly Americans. The character of Ted Lasso was born out of a pair of cheeky NBC Sports promotional videos from 2013 and 2014, when the network bought the rights to broadcast Premier League games. The Ted in those old places is arrogant and clueless, parading across the football field in short shorts and aviator glasses. The joke is that he’s trying to force an American way of doing things on the British, without any self-awareness: when his players start calling him a “wanker,” he assumes it’s a sign. of respect.
The Apple TV + series arrived six years later, a passionate project of Sudeikis, who partnered with Bill Lawrence, the creator of the upbeat sitcoms “Scrubs” and “Cougartown”. And while some dialogue from the original NBC promotional spots is lifted almost verbatim – jokes about how Ted doesn’t realize British football can end in a tie and can’t capture the concept of ‘offside. – the mood and the meaning is completely different. The character has taken a subtle but important change: now his naive optimism represents not self-centeredness, but openness of heart. This version of Ted fully acknowledges that he doesn’t know anything about the game the rest of the world calls football. He understands what it means to be called a wanker, but he accepts the jab as part of a trainer’s job. And there is a poignant situation in his situation: He accepted the job because he promised his hapless wife that he would give her space – a whole ocean of his own, if that helps.
The characters around Ted, meanwhile, start off as cynical and combative as anyone on social media these days: an aging football star, bitter that his best days are behind him; an arrogant franchise player who won’t share the glory with his teammates; a billionaire team owner who is consumed with the fury of her brave ex-husband. (The show’s vanity is that unbeknownst to Ted, she hired him to lead the team in the ground.) Ted knows how hard it will be to reach them. But he tries anyway, with a relentless positivity and a positive American attitude that some viewers have taken as a statement of intent. In one Slate Review titled “Ted Lasso Makes America Good Again,” Willa Paskin wrote that “the series offers a calming vision of a State Code Red American as a kind and gentle internationalist, as well as a world in which American soft power still works and still works. good.”
In truth, people overseas might not be as charmed by Ted Lasso as we Yanks; The Guardian filmed the show last August, as did a Irish Examiner The sports columnist who lamented “lazy American stereotypes” and wrote that “this show could do more for Anglo-Irish relations at this very difficult time in our history than the Clintons ever did.” The idea that kindness could be an American export hasn’t been fully taken into account in recent years – certainly not when the head of state is insulting everyone in sight.
But on this side of the Atlantic, “Ted Lasso” has racked up awards, sparking fanfictions and inspiring clothing lines on Etsy, based on some of Ted’s most upbeat posts. The show’s audience has grown steadily, increasing through word of mouth. And throughout its growth, the show has managed to transcend culture wars, which is even more surprising given the timing of its original release: August 2020, at the heart of a tense presidential campaign that has been explicitly presented, by one side, as a battle for kindness over wickedness.
The fact that the show was never considered partisan owes not only to its apolitical content, but how Ted’s pure morality seems to transcend boundaries – anyone could see it as a reflection of the better version. of themselves. The people of the Midwest saw themselves portrayed, authentically, as an American ideal. (“As far as seeing Kansas reflected in the media, in Hollywood, it’s not something you see often,” said Coleman of the Kansas governor’s office. It means a lot to people to see the reflection. ”) Religious were drawn to a show that wears its morality up its sleeve: A column on the Baptist News Central website last year cited a scene on forgiveness as“ an unbelievably Jesus-y moment. Coastal media reveled in the sheer surprise of enjoying a series that wasn’t filled with anti-heroes or comically terrible people; Miles Surrey, a Brooklyn-based critic for The Ringer, called the show “subversive in its hope.”
And everyone seems to agree that the show is an antidote to a deep cultural problem. There is a growing idea that we have reached a national level of bile, a time when every negative thought can be instantly triggered on the world and picking fights on Twitter has become its own sport, and whether you blame Donald Trump or woke him up. on the left you can recognize that it has gone too far. For a politician, trying to do the best job possible in the midst of an ever-changing pandemic, the desire for some grace is overwhelming.
Of course, to be in politics is to invite judgment – and Baker acknowledged that public life has never been easy. He read a lot about Abraham Lincoln, he told me, “and my God, the things people said about him… it was brutal, just brutal. And in Washington, where partisanship is still as bare as ever, it’s hard to believe any appreciation of “Ted Lasso” will keep villainy at bay.
But perhaps if states are laboratories for democracy, they can also be laboratories for decency. Coleman told me that when Governor Kelly issued his April Fool’s Day proclamation thanking Ted Lasso for representing barbecue sauce and “his efforts to find empathy and common ground with everyone.” , a prominent member of the Kansas Republican Party tweeted that it was the first thing I ever agreed with her. And Baker said after giving his speech, he overheard other governors telling him that they could now watch the show as well. Now, as vaccines move from scarce to abundant and states like Massachusetts begin to ease restrictions on Covid, Baker is optimistic that the times will change, “people are starting to feel more. positive and more balanced ”. He told me he follows a lot of health sites and came across a study on the emotional and physical benefits of hugs. Ted Lasso would be on it.