starring Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Juno Temple
It’s about time Ned Flanders got his own spinoff, and I must say it’s quite the humdinger.
Of course, nobody expected it to be a live action series, where our main character, a successful mid-level college football coach from Wichita, finds himself in charge of turning around a rowdy group of blokes in an English soccer team. It becomes quickly apparent that despite his very clear desire to succeed, our hero has been hired because a vindictive management thinks he will do a terrible job and bring embarrassment to the team. It’s even more quickly apparent that this is not what is going to happen.
The titular character, played by Ned Flanders as interpreted by Jason Sudeikis, is a model citizen out of Kansas with an overwhelmingly positive attitude and way too much can-do for their own good. Lasso doesn’t do the diddly talk, but he sure sports the cookie-duster mustache and a penchant for an overwhelmingly boring wardrobe. His manners are impeccable, and his brazenly American friendliness is something the British have a difficult time accepting at face value. For someone who successfully coached American football, he has a surprising lack of toxic masculinity, instead using his powerful dad vibes to keep the team in line. He is the man that Michael Scott (the adorably terrible boss from The Office) imagines he is being when he tries some awkward ploy to boost employee morale.
Sudeikis is not holding up Ted Lasso on his own; he has a solid supporting cast of actors that have well-written characters to portray. Of note are his assistant Coach Beard, the other American in this enterprise (played by a taciturn Brendan Hunt) that provides a perfect foil for Lasso’s over-the-top exuberance, and outspoken team model Keeley Jones (Juno Temple), a brash character that uses her directness to keep everyone moving towards their inevitable conclusion whether they’re an oblivious American or a repressed Brit.
Ted Lasso is a stark contrast to a lot of the streaming-service series being produced today. It’s a lot closer to the traditional half-hour sitcom format of network TV than anything else I’ve seen recently, not just in production values but also in its “fun for the whole family” approach. And yet, this show is not at all simple or simpering. I’ve only seen a half-dozen episodes, and I’m finding myself happy to live in this universe without supernatural monsters, moral gray areas, cartoonish awkwardness, or someone getting a syringe in the neck every other episode. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still watch the aforementioned with fascination, but it’s nice to every now and then step into a world where the decent people are the winners.