In 2013, when the American channel NBC Sports acquired the rights to broadcast the English Premier League (EPL) matches in the United States, the network asked actor Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses) to do a promotional video to help pique Americans’ interest in the game they call soccer.
In this video, Sudeikis plays an American football coach named Ted Lasso who gets hired to train the Tottenham Hotspur Premier League team. Of course, Ted – who knows nothing about “soccer” – gets everything wrong, much to every Englishman’s chagrin.
In other words, the ad was a hit.
So much so that Sudeikis wanted to turn the almost five-minute sketch into a series.
Seven years later, his dream has finally become a reality.
A 10-episode series titled Ted Lasso debuts on Apple TV+ tomorrow, with Sudeikis in the titular role. The show was developed by executive producers Sudeikis and Bill Lawrence (Scrubs), with Joe Kelly and Brendan Hunt.
The first episode details Ted going from a successful but small-time American college football coach in Kansas to becoming the new coach of Richmond football club in Britain.
While Ted may not know much about English football (well, next to nothing, really), he firmly believes in the integrity and the goodness of the game.
Luckily too, Ted’s assistant, Coach Beard (Hunt), is knowledgeable with football terms and rules.
Ted Lasso may be a half-hour comedy, but both Sudeikis and Lawrence were serious about getting things right.
Filmed entirely in London, mostly in the Richmond area, the majority of Ted Lasso’s cast are British like Hannah Waddingham, Juno Temple, Jeremy Swift and Nick Mohammed.
On top of that, the series’ technical adviser is English football coach and former player Chris Powell who got semi-professional footballers to appear alongside actors to make up the players.
Lawrence, in a video interview with StarLifestyle, recalled that just the name of the character alone made him laugh the second he heard it.
“Ted Lasso, to me, is one of the all-time great character name creations, it rolls off your tongue. So, kudos to Jason on that. I’ve never said that to his face; Ted Lasso is an all-time great character name.”
Sudeikis, who was also participating in the same interview from another location, laughed and said, “I appreciate that” before explaining how he came up with the name.
“It was just something that, when we did the commercials, I just said very quickly the first name that came to mind. And I’m a big fan of matching up a first name with a noun as the last name, ” said the former writer and performer on Saturday Night Live.
“But if I were to be real artsy-fartsy about it, I think, you know, Ted has the ability, the spirit and sort of the charm to corral people, much like a lasso does. It’s mostly just a silly name (laughs), but I’ll act like it was all intentional,” Sudeikis added.
Besides the name that has a touch of Americana to it, what ultimately sold Lawrence to the idea of a series was that Sudeikis was keen on adding layers of emotional depth to the character, and presenting Ted’s point of view, which is filled with optimism, curiosity and hope.
Lawrence elaborated: “The burden of getting this thing set up is people would think, ‘Oh, it’s just going to be like the commercial’ that it’s going to be boldly funny but more of a sketch than about the character.
“And I remember when Jason first came in, he was talking about Ted Lasso as a great version of an American abroad, someone who might be inherently curious, someone – for me, because I’m an old guy – who is almost Will Rogers-esque (an American humorist) in the way he looks at the world.
“Jason would always say he’s ignorant without being arrogant; ignorance with curiosity of ‘I don’t know how this works, but I want to find out.’
“That is so much more refreshing for me to see as a producer, compared to maybe how I would assume Americans are occasionally perceived abroad, especially now.”
According to Sudeikis – who not only acts and produces Ted Lasso, but is also the show’s head writer – he’s very much like the character he plays when it comes to football.
“I like to think that one of the things I’m smartest about is trying to make sure I’m the dumbest person in the room at any given time.
"A lot of times, any of the questions that I have are just me as Jason asking ‘so what is that’ and then Brendan and Joe will explain it to me in American terms.
“And that’s pretty much how I navigated some of the more complicated elements and references.
“That’s why one of the fun parts about the show is that you don’t have to be a football fan or a soccer fan to enjoy it. But, if you are a fan, we tried to maintain a level of verisimilitude towards the proceedings.
“As one person said to us about the commercial, ‘You did everything wrong, absolutely right’.”
Ted Lasso is available on Apple TV+.
Did you find this article insightful?