It’s always a risky endeavor to proclaim something a likely winner until it actually happens. There are so many ways things can go and absolutely nothing is a lock until the votes are tabulated. That being said, this weekend’s presumptive Outstanding Comedy Series winner is Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso, and we wanted to take just a moment to celebrate this very special show and what it means to so many.
At the end of the tumultuous summer of 2020, Jason Sudeikis and his glorious mustache tiptoed onto the pop culture scene with critical acclaim and a glowing amount of fanfare. Apple TV+ was still the new streamer on the block, a year after their flagship drama, The Morning Show nabbed eight Emmy nominations (and one win) in its first season. Their library of original series is not nearly as vast as Netflix or Amazon or Hulu, but it was clear early on that Apple was committed to a combination of quality and star power.
And along came Ted Lasso, a character who was originally developed years ago for NBC, when the network first won the rights to broadcast premiere league soccer in the United States. There were two spots originally, about a division two college football coach who finds himself way out of his element, coaching a sport he’s never played in a country where he only technically speaks the language.
The Ted Lasso of those NBC spots was a little bit daft and a little bit conceited. When he became the fixture of his own comedy series, Sudeikis and the brilliant writing staff lovingly rounded some of those edges, smoothed away the obnoxious, unearned American bravado, and turned him into a sort of wise, comforting dad at a time when we desperately needed someone to help us get through the chaos. And so we followed along as this perpetually optimistic man embraced opportunities, pushed aside harsh critical voices, and showed us that putting on a happy face can (usually) make life easier and more enjoyable. Ted is a guy who assumes the best in people, tries not to judge, and forgives easily.
This is not to say that he, or his life, are anywhere close to perfect or that he always gets it right. A pivotal moment in the first season proves that his giddy, “it’s just a game” attitude has limits. We also see him break down in key moments, suffer from crippling anxiety, lose his temper unexpectedly, and overlook troubling behavior from people around him.
Ted isn’t perfect and we were never told he would be. Instead, he’s a man with hopes and dreams, flaws and missteps. He’s a complete, well-rounded character who shows us that it’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to not get it right every time. Sometimes it’s okay to walk away and collect ourselves. And he shows us that we should take what comes. Embrace challenge, not worry about what the rest of the world thinks, and accept others for exactly who they are, rather than who we wish they were.
In a world that is becoming ever more divisive, Ted Lasso — the character and the series — is a unifying force. He is a reminder that even when we disagree with one another, we are people and almost no one is all good or all bad. We enjoy the show because it’s hilarious and heartfelt, smart and unexpected. And, I believe, because we still have hope that the world can be better. That people can be better. That we can be better.
In the middle of a pandemic, a crazy election cycle, reckonings for past wrongs, and other major events, Ted Lasso showed up on our televisions and in our hearts right when we needed him. He invites us to believe, to do, and to care. Whether the series wins seven Emmys this weekend or two or zero, the only way to erase the cultural impact he has had is to be entertained and then turn off the TV and ignore the invitation.