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‘Ted Lasso’: How the Apple TV+ Hit Stood Out by Not Looking Like a Traditional TV Comedy

Cinematographer David Rom and production designer Paul Cripps started shaping the look of "Ted Lasso" by disregarding typical sitcom sets, set-ups, and styles.

Ted Lasso Jason Sudeikis Apple TV+

Consider This: Conversations highlight television’s award-worthy productions through panel discussions with the artists themselves. The above video is presented by Apple TV+, produced by IndieWire’s Creative Producer Leonardo Adrian Garcia, and hosted by TV Deputy Editor and Critic Ben Travers. 

When Apple TV+ gave the greenlight to make a 10-episode first season of “Ted Lasso,” for once, the production team didn’t have to start from scratch — not technically. The series was inspired by a series of shorts Jason Sudeikis made years earlier, in character, as the lovable American football coach who takes his talents to London as a Premiere League soccer coach.

“We looked at the original shorts that were made, clips and stuff, and the only thing that was really said was, ‘We don’t want it to look like that,'” cinematographer David Rom said, recalling the first guidelines given to him about the look of the series.

The only other note: “‘We don’t want it to look [like a] documentary or too much like ‘The Office,'” he said. “It was a useful guide, but more about what they don’t want it to look like.”

So it was up to Rom as well as production designer Paul Cripps to build the world themselves, if not from scratch, than pretty close to it. Based on guidance from showrunner and executive producer Bill Lawrence, as well as fellow EPs in Sudeikis, Jeff Ingold, and Liza Katzer, the director of photography and designer set out to make a distinctly non-sitcom, sitcom.

“When everyone came over [to England], it became more clear that Jason really wanted the show to take more of a drama/comedy feel,” Rom said. “They wanted it to be more film-like. […] We kept suggesting ideas; things that would counter the look of those tropes in [other] sitcoms. Things like handheld, which we started using a bit and then ended up using nearly throughout. [With] things like the locker room, the idea was to be handheld, free, sort of ‘Friday Night Lights’-style so we could roam around and look about.”

Rom used wider lenses and a shallower depth of field to create striking images that stood out from other television comedies. Meanwhile, Cripps worked on designing spaces like team owner Rebecca Welton’s office — where Cripps recorded our interview, as you can see in the video above — and the Richmand club’s locker room, which was built after the crew visited real football clubs like Chelsea, Fulham, and Tottenham.

Cripps took into account the different sizes and common themes, like the use of slogans and graphics, while also appreciating the competitive atmosphere.

“The away locker rooms are interesting [too] because they make them as uncomfortable and un-relaxing as they can for the away teams, which is quite instructive to how they try to psyche out the opposition. One of them we went into even had urinals in the center of the room,” he said.

Both Cripps and Rom emphasized the collaborative nature of their experience on “Ted Lasso,” whether it was working with each other to develop stages and spaces or speaking with the actors and producers to make sure certain ideas translated as intended. There was a scene in a later episode where Ted has a panic attack in a crowded nightclub, and Rom praised the creator and performer for wanting to hash out how that might look with his D.P.

“Jason really wanted to talk to me,” Rom said. “I had some ideas like ‘Requiem for a Dream’ or ‘Pi,’ where we’d actually attach the camera to him, and that would give him a disconnected, out-of-world experience, but he was very sure he wanted nothing like that. It was very good to talk to him about that. […] Very quickly I think we agreed [on] the style, the natural, claustrophobic feel of those places, and not to be overlit — to have a journey through that space and see the increasing panic reaction.”

In the panel above, Rom and Cripps discuss how they boarded the series to begin with, what kind of color scheme they wanted to incorporate, how to balance cheery, bright colors with a more realistic tone, and, of course, the soccer matches themselves, where more magic than normal came into play. Watch the full panel above for all that and much more on the look of “Ted Lasso.”

“Ted Lasso” is streaming now on Apple TV+. Season 2 is in production.

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