There are a lot of great TV shows out right now, but so few of them I feel like recommending to people because they’re usually serious or depressing.
There is one that I do feel confident in passing on to other people (unless you have a problem with profanity) — The Jason Sudeikis-starring comedy “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+.
In this dark year, I’ve seen people flock to funny, positive hang-out shows like “Parks and Recreation,” “New Girl,” “Schitt’s Creek” and “Cheers.” This is firmly in that feel-good category, where it’s so positive that you’re almost anxious to find out when it will become cynical or snarky. (It never does.)
Based on, of all things, a series of NBC Sports ads for UK soccer’s Premier League, “Lasso” centers around the titular character, a former U.S. college football coach who’s brought to the United Kingdom to lead the faltering, fictional English Premier League team, AFC Richmond.
In “Major League” fashion, Lasso’s not brought to the league because of his skills with soccer, of which his knowledge is middling at best. Rather, he’s there because Hannah Waddingham, the team’s owner, is in a contentious divorce with her husband, the team’s former co-owner, and she knows if Richmond’s season is tanked, it will hurt him the most.
What she doesn’t expect is Lasso is a source of pure, unbridled optimism and joy. He doesn’t care about winning as long as his team improves as people and athletes. If he loses his job, so be it. He’s strictly there for the team.
Lasso’s mindset frees up the series immediately to be less about the games, which rarely are depicted onscreen, so sitcom fans with a sports aversion can enjoy it, and more about the clashing relationships between the team members, like the stern, aging star Roy Kent and the swaggering, boisterous Jamie Tartt, and the rise of the team’s kit man, Nathan Shelley.
All of this is fairly standard sitcom fare. But it’s the way “Lasso” does it, with such endearing positivity, along with some heartfelt performances, that just feels extra comforting right now.
Where many sitcoms tend to either bend towards making the audience cringe and feel uncomfortable or jam a message in that’s often done in a hamfisted fashion, “Ted Lasso” posits what if a show was just nice and encouraging without being sappy or pandering? It’s the rare kind of program that I could see people docking points from because it’s almost too optimistic.
When “Lasso’s” streaming platform, Apple TV+, launched, it boasted star-studded shows with actors like Jason Momoa, Hailee Steinfeld and Chris Evans. But the positive energy of “Lasso” seems to be surpassing all of that star power, with some help from Sudiekis’s “SNL” and “We’re The Millers” fame, and making it a flagship show. It’s certainly deserving of that and if you’re not subscribed to it, worthy of taking on the platform’s seven-day free trial.
Just a warning, “Ted Lasso” is rated TV-MA for profanity and some crude humor.