Ted Lasso is a 10-part football comedy hitting Apple TV+ on 14 August. Horrible Bosses star Jason Sudeikis plays the title character, an American Football coach who leaves the Kansas college team he’s managing to take charge of a struggling Premier League club – the fictional AFC Richmond.
It’s a culture clash comedy that also takes a few jabs at the beautiful game. But the heart and soul of the show is Ted himself, a relentlessly upbeat go-getter who believes in the power of positive thinking, and who sees the good in everyone.
Lasso isn’t a wholly new invention however. He was created for a series of adverts NBC Sports ran in 2013 to promote their Premier League coverage. In those promos he took charge of Tottenham Hotspur and briefly trained the likes of Gareth Bale and Kyle Walker before his lack of footballing knowledge resulted in Ted being fired.
The campaign was so successful that Lasso returned a year later in another series of promos following his journey from terrible football coach to terrible football pundit. And that’s when Sudeikis saw the potential for doing more with the character.
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“When we went from the first commercial to the second commercial, something that unlocked for me was Ted’s enthusiasm and his optimism” explains Sudeikis. “Getting chased out of Tottenham as quick as can be during the commercial, which was a fun ending. He loved the sport. He loved his time in London, and I just thought that that was so fun.
“Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly and I, who are also writer-producers – and Brendan plays Coach Beard on the series – then spent a week in the summer of 2015 at my home in Brooklyn, to see if this idea that I had could be fleshed out in a pilot.
“Which is about 85% of what we ended up using, with some great additional touches and wisdom that [producer] Bill Lawrence put on there. But then we also beat out a six-to-ten episode season and we realised this has legs, as they say. With boots on, no less.”
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That idea stayed an idea, however, until Lawrence – producer of Spin City, Scrubs and Cougar Town – approached Sudeikis with a different show. “He had this project that wasn’t quite right for us” continues Sudeikis.
“But we hit it off, and there was mutual respect there, and making each other laugh. He’s whip-smart, and he said ‘If you ever have anything’ and I said ‘We have this idea.’ He knew the commercials and we were off and running and it only took two years from then, as these things go. So those were the steps along the way.”
We also asked the show’s cast how they think Ted Lasso would really fare in the Premier League. Brett Goldstein – who plays AFC Richmond’s captain Ray Kent – is optimistic about Ted’s chances: “I think that the show is a fair, realistic answer to that question, because I think he would arrive and everyone would think this is insane, and then I think slowly his magic would work, just by the relentlessness of his charm I suppose. At some point you go ‘I guess this guy’s for real.’”
Jonathan Swift, who plays Richmond’s Head of Operations, also thinks the show has got it right: “I think he might have the same result. Even though it’s a bizarre concept, I think the same result would happen. I think he would go through the same process of finding the Brits very tough, football not being a place for warmth and geniality and homespun folksy stories. So he would have a struggle.”
Phil Dunster, who plays cocky striker Jamie Tartt, is less convinced: “If I learned anything in my GCSE Sports Science, it’s that obviously you’ve got positive and negative reinforcement in coaching. There’s like a sliding scale of it that you can employ, and he’s just all positive, joyous, and I think he goes for the whole holistic approach to it, and I think that a Premier League team – as you see in the show – is very suspicious of someone who is that enthusiastic.”
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Brendan Hunt, who co-created the show and also plays Coach Beard, believes Lasso would win people over, but ultimately fail: “In reality, probably poorly. Because I think it’s helpful as a football coach to know the rules of the sport. But part of me thinks Ted knows what he doesn’t know in a way, which is its own kind of wisdom, so he would surround himself with the right kind of people to get the tactics sorted and everything, and in the end he would count on his own innate abilities as an inspirer of people.
“And then we’d go 38 and 0.”
Ted Lasso streams on Apple TV+ from 14 August, with new episodes debuting weekly on Fridays on the streaming service. Watch a trailer below.