Winter TV Awards: ‘Ted Lasso’ Could Be Apple TV+’s Golden Boy

"Ted Lasso" is great, but does Apple TV+ have any other contenders?
Ted Lasson Jason Sudeikis Brendan Hunt Nick Mohammed Apple TV+
Nick Mohammed, Jason Sudeikis, and Brendan Hunt in "Ted Lasso"
Apple TV+

2020 is now firmly in the rearview mirror, and we’re headed full steam ahead into the heart of the Winter TV Awards season in earnest. With that in mind, there’s little doubt what Apple TV+ is thankful for as Golden Globe nominations lurk just around the corner.

“Ted Lasso” seems like the gift that keeps on giving for the streamer, now entering its second year of existence. Inspired by a series of promos for Premier League football — soccer to us brutish Americans — airing on NBC Sports, the series centers around its titular character (Jason Sudeikis), a college (American) football coach from Kansas who takes a job coaching an English Premier League team, unaware that his hiring is predicated on the assumption that he would tank the franchise.

Developed by Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Brendan Hunt (who also appears in the series as Coach Beard), and Joe Kelly, “Ted Lasso” is Apple TV+’s first unequivocal hit, appealing to critics and audiences alike, as buzz for the series has only grown since its debut in mid-August. The secret to the show’s success appears to exist in its messaging, which leans hard into hope and espouses positivity and kindness at every turn.

But it’s not all sunshine and lollipops for Team Lasso. Characters face very grounded struggles familiar to anyone in their late thirties or early forties, issues around divorce and relationships, parenting and aging, professional fulfillment and success. While early episodes present Lasso in almost cartoonish fashion, Sudeikis quickly pulls him back from the brink and stabilizes the character in vital fashion.

“Ted Lasso” is about sports in the way “Friday Night Lights” is about sports, which is largely in name only. What the Apple TV+ show is really concerned with is how adults build friendships as they age and rebuilding support systems rather than wandering alone through the wilderness. Considering Lawrence’s TV track record, which includes ABC’s “Cougar Town” and NBC (then ABC’s) “Scrubs,” the focus on heartfelt adult relationships in “Ted Lasso” comes as no surprise, just as Sudeikis’ warm-but-nuanced portrayal of Lasso seems effortless for the actor who spent most of his childhood growing up in Kansas.

Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery
Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery in “Defending Jacob”Apple TV+

This buzz, which is so, so difficult to cultivate this year, feels organic and invaluable to Apple TV+’s awards hopes after an underwhelming Emmy season saw the streamer take home a single award out of 18 nominations. As flashy and star-laden as “The Morning Show” was, it never appeared to evoke the impassioned response it needed to thrive.

At this juncture, Sudeikis and the series seem like surefire nominations at the Golden Globes, in addition to potentially breaking through at the Writers Guild Awards, among other accolades throughout the upcoming season.

But with all that in mind, what other shows could the platform have in contention when nominations are announced?

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of other shows with breakthrough potential amidst the admittedly limited offerings of Apple TV+. Those series available during last year’s November launch are ineligible for the upcoming awards and others, like the second season of “Dickinson,” didn’t debut until earlier this month. Meanwhile shows including “Defending Jacob,” “Little Voice,” and even “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” with its amazing quarantine episode don’t seem as though they have the momentum to make a strong showing in the coming months.

Still, there’s always “Ted Lasso,” the show that Apple TV+ is so confident in that it’s renewed not just for a second season, but also a third, indicating that they have high hopes (and high expectations) for the series moving forward. We’ll see how quickly that investment pays off in the weeks to come.

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