Opinion – Luciana Coelho: ‘Ted Lasso’, leading comedy at the Emmy, is successful amidst lack of optimism

“Ted Lasso”, the comedy that leads this year’s Emmy nominations, to be delivered this Sunday (19), is not a good series. Not that it’s bad — there’s a decently tied script and a captivating protagonist. But there are no big flashes, it’s not hilarious, it’s not thought-provoking and it can be irritating.

Which explains, then, its remarkable success, especially when considering the relatively limited reach of the streaming platform that produced and launched it, the Apple TV+? Optimism. An unshakable, overt and hypnotic optimism.

“Lasso” is a quixotic comedy about a football coach who is hired to coach an English team with passionate fans and mediocre results after a video of him doing a victory dance with his team from deep Kansas, USA goes viral.

Without knowing anything about real football, he accepts the invitation and crosses the Atlantic accompanied by his Sancho Panza, who is responsible for coach Barba. The intention of the president of the team, however, is not to lead him to glory, but to disgrace, and thus muddy the name of the adulterous ex-husband, his predecessor in charge of the club.

Like all good Quixote, Ted is unshakable. No matter how inhospitable the environment. Does the crowd despise you? Does the team not respect you? Does the woman leave you? The boss tries to sabotage him? Is the star player an asshole? Everything is fine. Gradually, his determination makes the players — from the most hardened to the most dazzled — believe they can triumph. That’s where everything goes right—or wrong, depending on your point of view.

It would be the classic tale, with that half-fake American veneer that anyone can overcome any adversity, added to some grace on top of football and the figures that populate it. What makes the difference is Jason Sudeikis, comedian from two great schools of humor, the Second City theater company and the long-lived sketch show “Saturday Night Live”.

A familiar face and voice — he starred in five comedies alongside ex-“Friends” Jennifer Anniston and a few dozen productions — Sudeikis hadn’t, until then, a great character to call his own. Ted Lasso changed that game. The caipirice on screen, half Peter Sellers —to honor the series’ English setting—, half Frank Capra, only works because, despite the genre’s natural exaggerations, it’s genuine and respectful — the actor actually grew up in Kansas, where he began his career.

It is a nod to what is positive in human nature, already half forgotten after a cycle of crises in the world whose apex was the pandemic. Not rooting for him would require a risky fatal level of cynicism.
Season two’s premiere was Apple TV+’s most-watched episode, surpassing Anniston’s “The Morning Show” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant” and garnered other awards. Proof that optimism is really lacking.

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