Arts & Leisure

How “Ted Lasso” ropes you in

JASON SUDEIKIS (center) heads a great ensemble cast in “Ted Lasso,” a badly-need antidote to a world of rude divisiveness (Apple TV).

By Jim Tortolano

In a world of flashy, high-concept, computer-generated entertainment, it’s difficult to stand out, to rise above the crowd and the noise.

So how do we account for the unparalleled success of the schmaltzy old-fashioned cheerfulness of “Ted Lasso,” which has received a Buick-full – that’s 20 – Emmy nominations?

No special effects to speak of. No mega stars to attract the idle curious. No violence or gratuitous bed antics to titillate the sadly vicarious.

Aside from this Apple TV+ show’s many virtues – great scripts, a wonderful ensemble cast of real-seeming people and Jason Sudeikis’ stellar (but underplayed) performance as Lasso – there’s more to this success story, a lot more.

We live in an extraordinarily cynical and disillusioned time. A big chunk of people have lost confidence in the news media, science, government, religion and just about anything else you can name.

Without a common reference point, anything can be true. The Other Side is no damn good, and they feel the same way about you. Grumble. Fight. Insult. Accuse.

And yet, there’s a feeling out there, too, that maybe we have gone too far in choosing up sides and believing in next to nothing, especially as regards other human beings.

“Ted Lasso” appears on the cultural scene as the antidote for all that. In case you are not “Lasso-wise,” this is the story of a relentlessly upbeat American football coach hired to run an English soccer team. To make the logical climb even steeper, he has not Idea One about how soccer (what they call “football” Over There) is played, nor any of the terminology of the sport or uniquely British aspects of the English language.

After stiff initial resistance from fans and players, Lasso’s enthusiasm and subtle knowledge of human nature begins to win folks over, and his team begins to win games.

The incessant yelling and complaining of too many coaches’ parallels our cultural and political world. Do you have to be loud and obnoxious to be heard? Do you have to demonize your rivals to compete successfully, on the “pitch” or in the wider arena of ideas?

“Lasso” makes the opposite case. In one of the seminal moments of the show, Ted is matched up against an obnoxious billionaire in a darts contest. The overconfident moneybags looks on smirking as Ted issues a gentle monologue as he takes aim at the board.

“All my life, people have underestimated me,” he says. He notes that they were judgmental but never curious. “If they had been curious,” Ted says, “they would have asked questions, like ‘have you played much darts?’ “

At that point Ted buries a dart dead center in the bullseye.

This show has hit the bull’s-eye not only in entertainment but also as a wise commentary on our angry society. Stop judging. Be curious. And, maybe, be a little bit quieter and kinder. In today’s rude landscape, that stands out.

“Culture Crashhh” is an occasional column about how entertainment, arts, fashion, etc. influence and reflect our society.


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