God help us, every one
If you are like me, and you are, then people have been bombarding your feed with heartwarming ‘Ted Lasso’ opinions for months. Here’s ‘Ted Lasso Makes Me Want To Be A Better Person.’ Or ‘Ted Lasso Makes Me Want To Be A Nicer Person.’ How about ‘Ted Lasso Taught Me Why Women Don’t Go For Nice Guys.’ And on and on.
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It makes me wonder. I thought ‘Ted Lasso‘ was a sitcom about an optimistic American college football coach who a bitter divorcée hires to unwittingly destroy British premier league soccer team. Instead, apparently, it’s a series of lectures from ‘Wondrium’ about ethics and proper behavior.
But the ‘Ted Lasso’ Christmas episode, which appeared on Apple+ last Friday in the middle of August, is a monstrously saccharine forced dose of good cheer even by the standards of TV Christmas episodes. It features hackneyed heartwarming moment after heartwarming moment, and ruins its one semi-cynical plot line with a gag-inducing homage to the posterboard stalking scene in ‘Love Actually.’ There’s a slow-motion scene of a couple walking down the street holding the hand of a cute little girl to the tune of ‘Fairytale of New York,’ a song about junkies calling each other “cheap lousy faggots.” So this is Christmas.
I prefer my sports TV dark and cynical, like Eastbound and Down or Brockmire, which has the same general premise as ‘Ted Lasso,’ but with a lot more drug use and bathroom humping. But I did enjoy the general fish-out-of-water vibe of ‘Ted Lasso’s’ surprise hit first season. I laughed at Coach Beard’s asides, rooted for grouchy Roy Kent to get the woman over Jamie Tartt, and found myself on the edge of my seat at the ‘Rudy’-like finale. Juno Temple’s Keeley was too Manic Pixie Dream Girl for me, and I didn’t like the karaoke scene in the middle of the season, but I understood the appeal. The show hit some sort of cultural sweet spot.
Season 2, though, has clearly gotten high on its own supply of self-righteous good feeling. The opening episodes were a parade of therapy and manipulative tear-jerking. It features not one, but two, separate wise-beyond-their-years girls. And it takes a stance against the exploitation of the Nigerian coastline by oil companies, about as courageous as saying “war is bad”. Only Roy Kent seems to be up to his old cynical ways.
But the Christmas special is the overdose episode. It went back to the karaoke well, and hard, and also tripled down on the virtue signaling that’s the show’s biggest downfall. ‘Ted Lasso’ is a Hallmark Channel show for Blue Staters. The Christmas episode centers around rich white people graciously delivering Christmas gifts to poor people in the projects. It makes them “feel better.” They are teaching you how to be a better person.
But herein lies the appeal of Ted Lasso. The show is a liberal fantasy where everyone gets along and eventually does and believes in the right thing. Goodwill and tolerance triumph. But what I see in my mostly liberal circles is the opposite. “Rage at the unvaccinated.” “Diseased toothless fuckwads in Wal-Mart.” Ted Lasso is a football coach from Kansas who speaks with a Southern accent. He may be Blue America’s kind and generous TV boyfriend, but the people who love ‘Ted Lasso’ don’t love the real Ted Lasso, whoever he is. Maybe they shouldn’t, it’s not required. But let’s not pretend that the show is anything but tolerance cosplay for people who have forgotten what the word tolerance actually means.
There’s also the irony of a show releasing a Christmas episode in an August during a pandemic where you see the world retreating into itself again. The city where I live is recommending vaccinated people don’t gather indoors. The ‘Ted Lasso’ Christmas episode is a total celebration of doing just that. I’m anticipating another canceled Christmas this year. But at least we’ll be able to gather around the hearth to watch Ted and Rebecca karaoke with the Christmas buskers, who benefit for their wealthy generosity. ‘Ted Lasso’ is a forced march to warmth and goodness, a treacly nightmare from Planet Christmas. Let’s watch the chosen few dance in the fake British snow.