5 Screenwriting Takeaways: Ted Lasso is The Coach We Need And Likely Never Had
November 23, 2020
Ted Lasso is the streamer no one knew they so deeply needed during Covid times. It’s the best pep talk encapsulated in 30-minute tight sitcom format. Twitter is still abuzz with people just discovering and barreling through the 10 episodes in one sitting as Jason Sudeikis' Lasso spews unrelenting positivity like a fountain of naive love that only a Kansas City football coach can provide. Playing rec sports as a kid is a right of passage (one many young kids are sadly now missing out on during Covid). But it’s unlikely to find a team in life quite like Lasso’s — one where you find team members find their voice, their place on the squad, and a mentor genuinely rooting for you with no cynicism whatsoever. Perhaps this is why Lasso has gained huge traction on the internet — he’s the coach we all wish we had. Now there is even talk that Sudeikis is likely a frontrunner for a Golden Globe, and deservedly so. This is Sudeikis’ showpiece, and there is certainly no show at all without him. Still, to take a character designed to sell viewers on watching NBC Sports coverage and to insert him into a show so rich is no easy task. So, here are five takeaways from the tight, funny, heartfelt, fish-out-of-water story of Ted Lasso.
1. Inspired by reality, and soccer as escape:
Ted Lasso gets hired to coach the fictional AFC Richmond, who are self-described as mediocre. That said, the fictional team has a rabid fan base and are not thrilled to receive a wanker of an American to coach their precious game. The show shot on the field of Premier League team Crystal Palace and even adopted their color scheme. While sadly, there is no real-life Ted Lasso, the nod to Crystal Palace will likely be a satisfying one for real football fans who might tune in to the show. The English know soccer is a great escape, and the show embraces that. It does not ignore that the game is sacred, nor does it hesitate to poke fun at its eccentricities. Additionally, soccer serves as a literal escape for Lasso. He takes the gig so far away from home in hopes that by giving his wife some space he’ll save his ailing marriage. In the meantime, he’ll attempt to save everyone in his path, as well.
2. Honor the sitcom:
Sometimes writers do not have to reinvent the wheel. It’s refreshing to watch a sitcom following traditional sitcom format. Ted Lasso is a clear three acts with a barrage of grounded jokes, sometimes so subtle you miss them. It also has excellent set-up, payoff, and runner jokes throughout the season (think Rebecca loving cookies, or Lasso greeting coach with a new sweet nothing, or how Jamie and Roy might insult each other next, or revealing another juicy layer of the Nathan onion). It’s no wonder the sitcom is so tight as the show has sitcom royalty behind it with creator Bill Lawrence of Scrubs and Cougar Town fame). Additional creators Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly come with incredible comedy chops from the stage and screen. The writers have undoubtedly created a series worth a rewatch for any writer studying the anatomy of joke writing.
3. An excellent antagonist:
Rebecca is owner of AFC Richmond, having received the team in a divorce settlement. Her ex loved the team, so now Rebecca has vowed to destroy it. While on paper Rebecca sounds like a caricature of an antagonist, both actress Hannah Waddingham and the writers ensure she does not delve too deeply into that territory. Waddingham remains only human as she’s ultimately a broken-hearted softie who can’t resist Ted’s charms more than the next man or woman, and maybe, jut maybe she’s a team player after all.
4. Every character has an arc:
The show does an excellent job servicing all the main characters of their team. Team bully Jamie comes by his meanness honestly due to a strained past with his father. The aging Captain Roy struggles with athletic limitations at the end of an illustrious career. Team assistant Nate goes from being bullied to finding confidence in his ideas on how to make the team better. But, of course, these mini arcs are also servicing Lasso and what Lasso does best: relentless optimism.
5. Relentless optimism:
What is absolutely most refreshing about Lasso (the show and the character) is his optimism in the face of constant impossible circumstances. Throw him the most hard-nosed reporter in town, and the reporter soon finds himself rooting for Lasso even though he just about killed him by ordering overly spicy Indian food. Give him a great antagonist in AFC Richmond owner Rebecca and he’ll never fail to bring her cookies. Have him gift books to a team that would prefer to brawl over reading, and soon they find themselves flattered that Lasso would see them in the classic stories he has gifted them. Give Ted Lasso lemons and he’ll give you a tiny green army man his son sent him for protection. In a year of terrible news, we all needed a Lasso. Someone who somehow manages to convince you things will be okay if you just give life your best shot.
Final takeaways: Aside from Lasso himself, perhaps the greatest gift of this show is that it took the time to go beyond skin deep. Nothing about Lasso or his team are what they seem at first glance. The team bully never had someone to cheer him on. The bimbo girlfriend quickly espouses wisdom and disarms anyone who gets to know her. The owner rooting for her team’s demise has a soft spot if you look for it. And Lasso himself will capture your heart if you give him the benefit of the doubt. Ultimately, that’s what Lasso is asking us all to do: Give people the benefit of the doubt. People are always worth more than a passing glance. And maybe if viewers can take that to heart, we can enjoy Lasso soaring in seasons to come — together.
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/