Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.
Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.
This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, but I will not be looking at the traditional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.
After beng interested ever since hearing good reviews upon it’s initial release, and with a new series releasing very soon, I finally opened the wallet to pay for yet another streaming service and I’m now here with a review of season 1 of Ted Lasso.
Released in 2020
Distribution (UK) Apple TV+
Starring Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Phil Dunster, Nick Mohammed, Juno Temple
Synopsis Ted Lasso, an American college football coach, is unexpectedly recruited to coach a fictional English Premier League soccer team, AFC Richmond, despite having no experience coaching soccer. With everyone doubting him and a changing room that includes some large characters, can Ted’s charm and positivity win people over and help him overcome his lack of experience to keep AFC Richmond in the Premier League?
Let me start by making clear, I’m not the kind of guy who would usually sit down and watch a comedy series like this. Nothing against them, but there are so many movies and series that I have missed over the years that I would prioritise, but much like Friends, How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, I would happily sit down and watch if I had a little bit of time to waste and it was the best thing I could find by flicking through the TV channels. So while I was hearing great things about the show, I doubt that I watched it were it not for the sports aspect.
And yet by the end of the first episode, I was already in love with the show and absolutely hooked. While the characters are very much caricatures, it allows you to instantly understand them without too much exposition, which then allows the show to immediately look at how it is going to grow these characters in the new situation. Jason Sudeikis as Ted is all sweetness and optimism, so much so that you can’t help but chuckle at his blind optimism and some of his answers to the most basic of footballing questions, but this gets balanced out so well by Brendan Hunt’s Coach Beard, who seems straight-laced by comparison in his own quirky way, while also being as if he has memorised everything about football. And the trio gets completed by waterboy Nate (Mohammed) who is that classic example of a real football fan with an understanding of the game and managed to make it into the business, only to end up in a role that seems a dead-end. Mohammed plays him well as lacking the confidence to speak up—which really makes sense as he is the victim of bullying for the early part of the season—but his deep knowledge of the players is invaluable for a person like Lasso who focuses on improving his team as people as well as players.
Moving through the supporting cast, Waddingham is incredible as Richmond’s owner and one of the main antagonists of the season, who goes on a great emotional journey through the season to actually become really likeable, while Jeremy Swift is great as her kind and largely unwilling lackey. Within the squad, there is a clear focus on a handful of players. Goldstein is hilarious as grumpy veteran midfielder and Richmond captain Roy Kent (based on Manchester United legend Roy Keane), Phil Dunster strikes the perfect balance between being an unlikeable shitweasel but also someone who we want to see grow as he plays Jamie Tartt, the young star striker on loan from Manchester City. Toheeb Jimoh shines as Sam Obisanya, who really feels to me like the heart of the team as the show goes on, as he grows in confidence and improves as a player. And the final mention here has to go to Juno Temple, who plays ageing model and Tartt’s girlfriend, Keeley Jones, who surprised me by how important she ends up being to the show and so many storylines, rather than just being the usual caricature of a WAG. And that’s not all as we have a series of other recurring characters who also perfectly fill their roles as the fans and press.
While the funny moments will always be the ones that people talk about most, the show has that key component that the best comedies have: pathos. And a damn good blend of it too. Were it just 30-40 minutes of jokes and laughs each episode, it would get stale quickly, but the show balances the highs of these jokes with a much more serious side. We have Ted going through a divorce while another character moves on from their own very public divorce as she was replaced with a much younger woman. We have a clique of bullies within the team. And through it all, we have the risk of relegation threatening the team. And while the show focuses on positivity, it does not mean that every storyline has a happy ending. And that is key to not just making this feel believable, but it is also key to forcing characters to grow and adapt.
From a sports perspective, the action is limited, often to shots at the start and end of the match, and when we do see gameplay, it is a big reminder that these are actors not professional footballers, but that is to be expected and was not enough to take me out of the show, even when we had key moments for the show playing out on the pitch. The use of Selhurst Park (home of current Premier League team Crystal Palace) really helps for the believability of the team being a Premier League/Championship level club, even if the training ground seems far too small for a team of that level (they film at the SkyEX Community Stadium, the home ground of Hayes & Yeading United F.C. who are a semi-pro club playing in England’s seventh level). With people from the community being used for the broadcasts and the odd throwing in of current football names (eg Pep Guardiola), it helps to create that sense of realism while terms, names and cameos are not too common as to put off people who are not fluent in football.
All in all, I’ve loved season 1, and I’m off to see what season 2 has to offer!
A few final thoughts on the series:
- [Spoilers for the season 1 finale] Roy’s injury and leaving the pitch to a crowd singing his song really hit me hard. The level of pathos and heart was perfect, while the writers were smart enough to know not to ruin the moment with a joke. 3 minutes of perfection from a sporting series.
- I think the decision to create a fictional team rather than use an existing one was a smart call as this allows all of the caricatures and stereotypes of a football club at risk of relegation without insulting any real team.
As I’m so late to the show, season 2 is already available to watch, while season 3 (which I believe is intended as the final season) is due to release shortly.
Given the way that season 1 ended, I’ll be very interested to see how season 2 goes as we see the club play through another season of football, especially given how the season ended for a couple of characters—Tartt and Kent in particular! I expect most of the current characters will continue, with a couple maybe growing into a larger role, and the cast then expanding by giving more focus to a couple more team members or new characters. Dani Rojas seems the obvious example of a player due more time as he looks set to be the star striker going into the next season, while [spoiler for the season 1 finale] the heavy hints that Roy will be retiring and Isaac McAdoo taking over the captaincy surely means that he will have a larger role.
Personally, while I will be gutted if the show ends after 3 seasons, I will always prefer a show that gives itself a set number of series and looks to stick to it, rather than just going on until its eventual cancellation. Having the plan and sticking to it helps to keep the story on track and means that we don’t get any sudden character changes as writers start running out of ideas 6 seasons in.
What did you think of this series? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!
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