I’m late to the party, but I recently watched the first season of Ted Lasso, and the first six episodes of the second season of the show, and I’ve got to say, it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen on television in a while. And yet, I’ve been seeing articles that suddenly, everyone hates Ted Lasso. I haven’t read the articles, because I really enjoy Ted Lasso and if other people want to hate it, that’s fine with me, but I just don’t understand why they date it.
I’ll tell you why I love it instead. I love the optimism of the show. I haven’t been able to stomach dramas for a long time because they are just too dramatic for me. Superhero shows (and movies) have taken a darker tone lately. I totally get that the reality of the world is darker than our fiction sometimes perceives it, but my entire reason for the rare instances when I do watch shows is to escape from that darkness. I admit it. I need a break. I want to escape and live in a different world for a little while. Ted Lasso fit that bill perfectly for me. There is little that gets Ted down (although he is not immune to moments of high anxiety). He always has a nice thing to say about others. He is cheerful and funny and I wish more people were like him. Heck, I wish I was like him.
After watching a few episodes, I find myself speaking with a drawl to my kids, trying to sooth them when they are upset. The only other show that can fill me with that kind of optimism is the the Dick Van Dyke show. Why is it that there is a such a negative reaction to this kind of optimism. Do people find it bland? Unrealistic in the midst of a global pandemic? I’m baffled by this.
My perception of things is that at some point, television programs went from being pure entertainment to having to be deeply reflective of the times they represent. They had to have arcs that carried them through more than 22 or 42 minutes. They had to be laced with cliffhangers and gimmicks to keep eyeballs returning each week. But they never really needed any of that. I think of my favorite shows growing up: shows like Magnum, P.I. or MacGyver or M*A*S*H1. They were episodic in nature, meaning each episode was a self-contained unit. It was like dipping into an anthology or short story collection. No need to know what went before or came after. They were bite-sized chunks of entertainment.
That is not to say that the shows did not reflect their times, but they did so by their very existence, not by overt action. Reboots highlight this. Looking at a reboot of a show from twenty years ago, we think of the original as dated, when it simply reflected the times in which it was made. I often think of the difference between Lawrence Olivier’s Henry V, and Kenneth Branaugh’s Harry the King as a good illustration of this. Ted Lasso in many ways captures the essence of the times we live in, but takes a step outside the norm to portray an optimism which runs against the grain of most of the shows I’ve seen over the course of the last decade.
Maybe Ted is a little too perfect. Maybe he is ignoring his own pain. Maybe the show doesn’t reflect the realities of life in the 2020s. So what? It makes me happy to watch it, and that’s more than I can say about most television shows I’ve seen lately.
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- Pure coincidence they all begin with an M. ↩