Cast: Jason Sudeikis (“Saturday Night Live,” “Horrible Bosses”), Brendan Hunt (“We’re the Millers,” “Horrible Bosses 2”), Hannah Waddingham (“Game of Thrones,” “Winter Ridge”), Nick Mohammed (“Intelligence”), Jeremy Swift (“Downton Abbey”), Juno Temple (“Year One,” “Dirty John”)
Airs: The comedy premieres Friday on Apple TV+.
The premise: Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is a small-time college football coach from Kansas hired to be the manager of a professional soccer team in England, despite having no experience coaching soccer.
The character of Ted Lasso was first created in 2013 as part of a series of videos for NBC Sports that promoted the network’s Premier League coverage. Sudeikis serves as executive producer on the series along with Bill Lawrence (“Scrubs”).
Highs: Welcome to jolly old England! A place where cookies are called biscuits, cleats and car trunks are both called boots and soccer teams are treated with an almost religious reverence. It’s also the home of a soccer team in turmoil.
A knowledgeable and devoted fan base is on the edge of their seats, completely confused as to why AFC Richmond owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) has decided to hire an American to lead her Premier League club.
At first glance, Ted Lasso looks like a prototypical American rube. A former football coach for the Wichita State Shockers, Lasso, who has never set foot in England, loves barbecue sauce, has a knack for spinning hokey colloquialisms like a dad from an ‘80s sitcom and has no soccer knowledge.
At his first press conference, he has to be told by the media that soccer matches are played in two halves, not four quarters, games can actually end in ties and there are no playoffs. When asked if he knows what a goalie is, Lasso answers, “The fella with the big Mickey Mouse hands by the net.”
It’s hard to imagine Lasso making a worst first impression, which is exactly what Rebecca Welton was hoping for. Angry after a bitter divorce, she wants to destroy the one thing her philandering ex-husband actually loved, AFC Richmond, and hiring Lasso is having the desired result, or so it would seem.
Lasso comes across as a blend of Michael Scott and Ned Flanders. Exceedingly polite and enthusiastic, he likes to have fun and make friends. He also doesn’t take himself, or it appears his job, too seriously. This leads to him often being underestimated by almost everyone he meets. He’s easily dismissed. Ironically, Ted Lasso might actually be a genius.
While initially met with contempt from players, fans and the press, it doesn’t take long for Lasso to win people over, including the audience. Incredibly thoughtful and always learning, he treats everyone he meets with kindness and respect. Lasso actually cares what people have to say, from the equipment manager who gets picked on by the AFC Richmond players to the fan in the street who yells “Wanker!” at him. Once he shows people he’s willing to listen no matter how abrasively a message is delivered, Lasso is able display his true gift — emotional intelligence.
Lasso is a great coach not because he’s a strategic mastermind or an adept taskmaster. What makes him so successful is he thoroughly enjoys making people better. Lasso’s can-do attitude is hard to believe, but once his sincerity becomes clear, audiences will find themselves rooting and laughing with, and not at, this lovable American.
Lows: It will take a couple of episodes to get a feel for what kind of character Ted Lasso is, so during that time you’ll probably be undecided on what this show wants to be. Most sitcom characters, especially those on network TV, aren’t particularly layered, so Lasso can appear one note. But once you see how much more there is to the character, you’re sure to be hooked.
Grade: (A-): In a time where people are more pessimistic and divisive than ever, it’s sometimes hard to believe there’s a person in the world who can always be patient, optimistic and genuine, even a fictional one. But Ted Lasso is exactly that. This is the type of person you’d want to be around, which makes this the feel-good show of the summer.
Gazette TV critic Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.