Updated: Jul 15
Growing up, my sister and I loved having sleepovers. No, not those cute sleepovers where the little sister asks to sleep in her big sister’s room. We shared a room, and the nightmares of that hellscape still haunt me.
We loved having sleepovers so our friends and one of us could sleep away from the other and veer into the safety and quietness of The Red Room.
Note: The Red Room, a play on redrum (murder), was my cantankerous Father’s charming way of deterring family friends from wanting to stay with us. This did not work. Today, the magic still fails; the Room repels all but one, not due to the dad pun, but to the neon sign that says “enter at your own risk.” The murderous-colored walls yell out for help as it now hosts Hurricane Isabella. But no help will come, as the area is a disaster zone deemed too hazardous to enter by the Red Cross.
But back in the past, my friends and I were often awakened by the blaring of football matches and my Father’s bark. Sharing a wall, the living room funnels the sound into the Red Room, and my father’s voice—breaking all laws of physics—miraculously becomes louder as it echoes through the wall.
This was my friends’ introduction to football. And to all the Americans, I mean “soccer,” a blasphemous word in our household. I couldn’t tell you my introduction to football. But if I were to guess, it would be the utter excess of Chelsea (Chelsea Football Club, not Chelsea Pier) accessories around the house. Individually, we all had our own shirts (specifically Lampard’s number 8 Jersey and an array of general club shirts of various colors), I have a loyal Chelsea hat, and my father and I have matching pennies we’ve flattened and imprinted with the logo after a stadium trip. Still, none of that compares to my Father’s private collection.
My Father is a hard man to shop for. You can’t get him clothes because he won’t like them, or at a staggering 6’3 (and shrinking), pants will be too short, and shirts won’t touch his wrists. He doesn’t wear watches, bracelets, rings, or any other jewelry. With countless gift possibilities nixed, every birthday, Father’s Day, and Christmas had one theme: Chelsea.
Our old car used to have a Chelsea air freshener hanging from the reverse mirror. When the scent faded, he replaced it with an old shirt tag. In his defense, it was a prestige logo with a premade hole, so it was just meant to hang. But this is the tip of the Chelsea paraphernalia iceberg. Every mug he has ever had has to be large enough for a proper cup of tea, but to truly be perfect, it must also have a specific color scheme and logo. Our bags, pillows, and socks all have different decades of the blue lion. But if that wasn’t enough, our apartment wifi is dedicated to his football team. However, he resisted and chose a wifi password completely unrelated to football.
But, my Father has failed as I want a new hat with another football team's logo.
And? He shockingly semi-approves of this team.
I know! I, too, am baffled.
To all the football gurus out there, you won’t find the team on any Premier, Championship, or Champions League roster. You’ll just find AFC Richmond on Apple TV+.
Despite growing up playing, watching, and living in a football-centric household, I never really learned the complex rules of the sport. No. The winning success was not being yelled at and badgered until I understood, a classic British form of teaching (at least that’s what my Father believes). But, I learned through the protagonist––Ted Lasso––own necessity to learn.
Now I know not only the regulations of the sport but also the culture behind it. The writers carefully crafted this, as the club manager Ted Lasso discovered the game, his new team, and cemented the fundamental rule: you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.
The series takes a deep dive into the players off the pitch and the people supporting them. In many ways, football isn’t the point of the production. Like many idioms, the show uses the world as a playing field to teach real-life lessons by creating an equally ultra-realistic setting that is somehow equally surreal, as no reality could come together in such a perfect way.
Which begs the question, how can one properly describe its brilliance? More importantly, how the f*** do I have an original, clever take on a clever and original show? See!? I can’t even use new adjectives.
Well, to start, I will complain. After all, I am a gold-star complainer. But before I start, I will warn that there will be spoilers, though I will try to limit them as much as possible.
One of my favorite things to highlight or complain about is diversity. A program created by four white guys leaves room to complain about. Starting there, the show feels divided into three segments, also known as seasons. Season one is a brilliant masterpiece…truly delving into the core of the leading characters…who are all mostly white. While I love Ted (Jason Sudeikis), Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), Keely Jones (Juno Temple), Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), and Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed) .
Okay, I don’t love all of those characters. Coach Beard being one—I find he adds very little to the show, and his featured episode in season 2 pushes the plot nowhere, which would be fine if it added intrigue to the character. Alas, kind of like Batman and Robin. He’s there when Batman (Ted) calls but has no real storyline or personality…I think. I never got into Batman. Why is he a bat? He doesn’t have echolocation and can only fly his private jet. But depending on the actor playing him, you might need a rabies shot…or a type of antibiotic or other medication.
Veering back on track, my other least favorite character and the leading(ish) character of color: Nathan Shelley. And while we initially interact with Nate the Great more than the other supporting actors of color, the show has a very interesting character arc.
In season one, Nathan becomes Nate the Great. But his confidence is reliant on the approval of these white characters. In season two, where we see a wide range of character growth from many of the supporting characters of color, Nathan becomes the Wonderkid. But he deems this approval as a sort of mocking. And through the use of truly superb motifs, the Wonderkid becomes a dipshit. This is not any formal title like the others. But the series villainized Nathan’s character. And while there’s a ‘Come to Zava’ moment (this is the show’s version of ‘Come to Jesus’), Nathan is redeemed. The arc results in villainizing the most prominent character of color. And as Nate the Great falls, the diversity quota is filled by other characters of color.
Fan favorite Sam Obisanya, for example, blossoms beautifully in season two. We learn more about his history, and he pushes AFC Richmond to interact with racially conscious companies. More importantly, he has a love interest that I still want to happen. Season two also features our first woman of color, Doctor Sharon (Sarah Niles), who is a sports psychologist. She helps all the players throughout the season grow and become better people, which allows them the freedom to reach their potential. Here, the audience engages with small snippets of who each footballer is.
Thankfully, Ted Lasso’s supporting cast is extremely diverse, so the season has this rush of diverse storytelling. However, it is an example of how series created by white men can incorporate people of color but also end up selecting mostly white characters for their featured protagonists.
Diversity doesn’t start or end with race. We see non-racial diversity in season three as the show incorporates queer storylines to already familiar characters. But as audiences learn that these three characters are, in fact, queer, it makes the show feel like they are ticking the box:
Season One: White People
Season Two: People of Color Matter! #NoRacisminFootball
Season Three: Queer Characters Love Queer Characters! #PRIDE
Now my description feels kind of clunky, but watching the series incorporate these issues felt equally blunt. While two characters are out in the story world, the audience cannot confirm their assumptions until season three. That is, of course, if audiences have ‘gaydar,’ for lack of a better word. We live in a cisgender and heterosexual world, so many people’s natural bias is inclined toward this majority. It is important to mention it before the third season as these characters feels like a diversity quota rather than authentic queerness. Or, writers need to show at least that they have thought out all the characters’ sexuality and are not just writing it into the show.
However, I do not believe that this had much forethought, as race falls to the background of season three (with the exception of Sam) as the queer storylines take their place. If Ted Lasso wanted to highlight diversity, the show would have incorporated the intersectionality of race and queerness. Rather, the show features only white members of the LGBTQ+ community.
With all my many complaints noted, I do have to say I love this show. I have spent an embarrassing amount of hours forcing my friends to watch, hooking them on the series, and then rewatching it in full with them.
Season one promotes cleverness and wit over demeaning jokes that punch down minorities. The following season delves deeply into mental health, specifically men’s health and the toxicity of professional sports. It features an interracial relationship, which rarely happens on screen. And all this magnificence is highlighted by the set, costume, hair, and makeup by utilizing these everyday film tools to support the series' themes. Season three is just a big love letter to the series and characters. In every season, the series features an array of non-toxic men, but season three goes above and beyond (by ‘above and beyond,’ I do mean what should always happen, but the bar is low.) After a player’s email gets hacked, the criminal leaks his ex-girlfriend’s sex tape. All the players—yes, I mean all—come together as they privately delete all of their dirty photos, images, and emails of women from over the years.
In season one, we have one of the most bratty antagonists who actively works on himself to be THE character you root for at every turn. Another character begins a broken-hearted, vengeful mastermind of deceit and morphs into this angelic, beloved badass who finds love again. Models become moguls, players become family, and audiences become fans.
Yes, I have complaints about Ted Lasso. But for all of you who really know me, don’t I complain the most about the things I love?* My dislike for aspects of the show is outweighed because of its positive impact on our world as it instills us to believe. The heart of Ted Lasso focuses on removing toxic masculinity from the workplace and personal relationships. The series highlights the love in bromances and the respect that is established when men hold men accountable for their actions, beliefs, and statements. These moments show the complex emotional capabilities of man and the beauty of their kindness.
Ultimately, my love and dislike can be boiled down to this: Ted Lasso is life, and Ted Lasso is death.