A Writer Looks At Ted Lasso
And the value of brilliant dialogue
There is just something special about this show that centers on an American football coach recruited to be the manager of an English premier league football (i.e. soccer) team, despite having no experience with the non-American kind of football.
The show brings the best of both English and American sitcom culture into one place. Aspects such as the English cultural loathing of embarrassment that was so deeply explored by shows like Fawtly Towers and IT Crowd. This contrasts with the relentlessly optimistic American shows with characters often having little sense of embarrassment like The Mindy Project and Parks and Recreation.
There is no doubt the acting in Ted Lasso is top notch. Brett Goldstein and Hannah Waddingham are particular standouts. While I have never personally been much of a fan of Jason Sudeikis, he is outstanding in this show. I have always found him to be a bit smarmy, but that bit o’ smarm actually works perfectly in his portrayal of the titular character.
After watching the first season end to end, and then watching it again, I was left wondering what is it about the show that makes it work for me? What makes this show different?
Of course, as a writer (though not for the screen), the first place I looked to was the writing.
The first episode of the first season introduced Ted Lasso and his sidekick Coach Beard (played by Brendan Hunt) on an international flight headed to England. Immediately the jet lagged Ted, a colloquialism spitting machine with a bit of a southern twang, was out of tempo with the serious and straight-laced AFC Richmond front office.
It was the tension that carried the series’ first season. The hard edged Rebecca vs the squishy and charismatic Ted. The barely suppressed rage of Roy Kent vs the irresistible charm and heart of Keely. The utter assholishness of Jamie Tartt vs the gentle vulnerability of Sam Obisanya.
The writers created Ted to be the buffoon, solid in his values, but also deeply flawed. There is both a viciousness and a heart to the storyline. I am not the only viewer that saw the subtle (and not so subtle) influences of both the UK and US version of “The Office.”
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The crisp dialogue, the sense of humor, the gentle self-effacing delivery, it all works in Season 1 and made the show a top hit for Apple’s television service.
So of course, Season Two was hotly anticipated. Season 1 left the viewers wanting more of this unique show and the moment the first episode of Season 2 landed, I was not alone in streaming it right away.
Honestly, the first episode of Season 2 left me flat. The tension was gone. From Ted walking into Rebecca’s office and receiving a Norm-from-Cheers quality “Ted!” to the absence of Jamie to the weird story line of Dani Rojas accidentally hitting the team’s mascot with a ball.
It felt dull and predictable and utterly without tension. If everyone now loves Ted and he’s no longer the fish out of water, what’s left? I felt the writers had let all of us down.
The second episode of Season 2 left me feeling like the writers may actually be genius. I realized that the peace and harmony, that lack of conflict, well… that was written to perfection.
They wanted everyone from actors to viewers to feel that sense that everything is now great and nothing is wrong. No tension here. It was only after watching the second episode twice that I realize this was a calculated move by the writers. A set up for what’s next.
I honestly have no idea where the rest of this season is going, but that is half (or more) of what makes watching Ted Lasso so satisfying. The quality story telling makes it unpredictable, but we’re happy to go along to see what happens next.
For the most part, I should not be surprised that the writing for Ted Lasso is so good and the dialogue is so sharp. One of the co-creators and a current writer is Bill Lawrence who created Scrubs. Another writer is Joe Kelly who was a writer for How I Met Your Mother.
Sudeikis, Goldstein, and Hunt also add their comic chops to the writer’s room and what the whole team is doing is quietly groundbreaking.
Recently, I read that Bill Lawrence has said that the show is only planned to run for three seasons in total, in part due to the availability of Sudeikis, but also in part because the show’s narrative fits a three season arc.
“But the story that’s being told — that three-season arc — is one that I see, know, and understood. I’m glad that [Apple] are willing to pay for those three seasons. As far as what happens after that, who knows? I don’t know.” — Jason Sudeikis
And even as much as I enjoy the show and feel like I want to know these characters forever, I admire the foresight of the writers to know that this story is best told in three acts, and doesn’t need more. Too often we see shows that try to keep that magic going long after it is gone. It rarely works.
Yet another reason for this writer to appreciate what the Ted Lasso writing team is doing.
For now I’m just counting time until Friday when the next episode drops.
Karen Fayeth was born with the eye of a writer and the heart of a story-teller. From her New Mexico roots she is constantly evolving through global experience. Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Currently, she is working on a collection of her many short stories titled, “A Delicate Pain”.