How 'Ted Lasso' went from a viral promo to everyone's feel-good favourite to Emmy darling
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By Bethonie Butler
“Ted Lasso”, the beloved Apple TV Plus series about a plucky American football coach tapped to helm a different kind of football team across the pond, had a championship showing at the Emmy Awards on Sunday night.
The show's freshman season won several major awards, among them best comedy series and best lead comedy actor, which went to star Jason Sudeikis.
“Ted Lasso” was nominated for a whopping 20 awards going into Sunday night's ceremony but didn't pull off the historic sweep that found “Schitt's Creek” winning all seven major on-air comedy awards at last year's Emmys.
But Hannah Waddingham, who plays the owner of the team Lasso takes on, won best supporting actress in a comedy, and Brett Goldstein, who plays potty-mouthed footballer Roy Kent, won the trophy for best supporting actor.
The accolades are fitting for “Ted Lasso”, itself an underdog of sorts, having become a fan (and critic) favourite after debuting to little fanfare on Apple TV Plus last year. The series arrived on the platform seven years after Sudeikis first debuted the character – in a series of NBC Sports promos.
Here's everything you need to know about Ted Lasso's journey to becoming an Emmy darling.
In 2013, NBC Sports tapped Sudeikis, fresh off a 10-year run on “Saturday Night Live”, to help the network promote its stateside coverage of England's Premier League. The concept revolved around an American football coach hired to run an elite soccer, er, football team despite not knowing the basic rules of the game.
"Football is football no matter where you play it," Sudeikis said in a news conference scene in the promo, which the New York Times noted had "been viewed nearly three million times on YouTube" before the network's coverage debut.
A year later, Lasso was out of a job – at least in the Premier League – as NBC Sports rolled out a promo featuring the charming coach recounting his experience in London and sharing footage of his new gig: the St Catherine's Fighting Owls ("Whooo? The fighting owls"), an all-girl Little League team.
Sudeikis teamed up with “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence to create “Ted Lasso” the series, which landed on Apple TV Plus nine months after the streaming service's debut and, eventually, became the platform's first real hit.
In the series, Lasso coaches a team called AFC Richmond but his knowledge of soccer is as limited as it was in those NBC promos. At a news conference in the series pilot, Lasso mistakenly refers to the game's "quarters" before a journalist reminds him that there are halves in soccer.
The show found early fans through the same type of word-of-mouth-following “Schitt's Creek” enjoyed in its early Pop TV days, but it wasn't until this year that the series lost its underdog status. The sweet show's profile only grew amid widespread isolation and grief during the pandemic, and Sudeikis took home the best actor trophy at the Golden Globes in March. (And as it turns out, soccer players like the show, too.)
Now in its second season, “Ted Lasso” has been renewed for a third.
If you've heard nothing else about “Ted Lasso”, you've heard that he is super nice. Critics have both praised and debated the show's earnest brand of humour, but there's no denying its influence: The show won a Peabody Award last year for "offering the perfect counter to the enduring prevalence of toxic masculinity, both on-screen and off, in a moment when the nation truly needs inspiring models of kindness".
And yes, he really is that nice – at least according to Lawrence.
"Ted Lasso is one of those people that we've all met that, because of the time we live in, your initial reaction is that there's no way this guy or girl is this sincere and this optimistic, this nice of a human being," Lawrence told TV Insider last year.
"And then you start to be mad at yourself because as he or she grows on you, and you realize 'Oh my gosh, this is real'. "
While Ted Lasso didn't triumph in all the comedy categories, its record-breaking number of nominations led to several first-time wins, including Sudeikis's, continuing the underdog theme.
When the show's best comedy win was announced, Lawrence and Sudeikis took the stage with an elated cast and crew.
"The biggest thank you from this group is to the people who watch," Lawrence said.
All told, “Ted Lasso” took home seven Emmys, including three awarded at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend.
But as the character's verified Twitter account reminded us on Sunday, there are more important things than trophies.
"Winning is fun," the AFC Richmond coach tweeted, "but if you find a family along the way, you can't lose."