There’s been plenty written over the last few months, particularly on this very site, about Apple TV+’s breakout comedy “Ted Lasso,” a feel-good sitcom built around a persistently positive American college football coach who is hired to lead an English Premier League team, despite having no experience with the rest of the world’s version of football. Hilarity ensues.
The series, which has already been renewed for second and third seasons, has clearly been a word-of-mouth hit, having debuted in mid-August and continuing to spur chatter in the many months after. Readers familiar with IndieWire’s TV podcast “Millions of Screens” know that two of the show’s three co-hosts, specifically TV Deputy Editor Ben Travers and Creative Producer Leo Garcia, have been cajoling their third co-host, TV Awards Editor Libby Hill (a.k.a. me) to watch the show for weeks.
As revealed in this week’s episode, I acquiesced and deemed the show a delight, but it did spur some introspection about why I had been reluctant to begin the show in the first place, despite the glowing reviews, my affinity for sports and TV (“Friday Night Lights” for life), and a general enjoyment of projects overseen by executive producer Bill Lawrence.
Here’s what I came up with.
Peak TV has been responsible for a lot of terrible developments (Quibi) and a lot of wonderful developments (diversification of storytellers; most things that weren’t Quibi). As more and more stories made their way to the airwaves featuring the experiences of people that weren’t mid-to-upper class white men of a certain age, the more obvious it became that this is what TV had needed for awhile.
Coupled with a changing sociopolitical climate, it became more obvious than ever how much of Hollywood storytelling (and, honestly, most everything else) came from the minds of white dudes, from the pocketbooks of white dudes, starring white dudes, for white dudes. For me, that meant seeking out those shows not set in that specific point-of-view, as those were the stories I’d been hearing my entire life.
So when “Ted Lasso” appeared on the scene, I was admittedly reticent. Lasso, the character, is just a nice guy. He’s positive and uplifting and kind. He comes from the middle of Kansas, with his character pure, his earnestness intact, just looking to do good in a world that he embraces with open arms.
But this is fiction. Rather, this is fantasy. After the last few years, full of coronavirus denials and Trump rallies and police violence, I’m not sure it’s possible for a person like Ted Lasso to exist, much less come from the center of the country. Beyond that, I was certain I wasn’t interested in seeing another story of a white guy, failing upwards, despite putting little-to-no effort into becoming more knowledgable about his field, while profiting off of his underlings’ hard work.
“Ted Lasso” is able to overcome all of these narrative shortcomings, but only just. Thanks to the persistence of my co-workers, I didn’t miss out on a show that really is very sweet. But it made me realize that there is a lot more driving our choices when we make those decisions on what shows to watch and which to skip. I didn’t necessarily realize the reasons I was reluctant to start on “Lasso,” but in retrospect it has spurred me to completely reassess my other viewing habits. Am I choosing things based on implicit bias? Do I seek out things similar to my experience or different? If I made a conscious effort toward modulating what I gravitate toward, would that make my entertainment choices more or less diverse? And in diversity would I be more likely to cultivate a well-rounded diet of TV telling more interesting stories from more points of view?
I don’t think I was wrong to resist “Ted Lasso,” and I don’t think I would have suffered a huge loss if I’d never checked it out. But the most valuable thing I got from the series was a reminder about the implicit bias of the unconscious mind.
In this week’s episode of IndieWire’s TV podcast “Millions of Screens” we dig deep into “Ted Lasso,” touching a bit on this topic, but in a far more entertaining way. Plus, Ben and I discuss “Never Have I Ever,” as well as “Tales from the Loop” each of which made the IndieWire best new shows of 2020 list.
In keeping with ongoing social distancing mandates, this week’s episode was again recorded from the comfort of everyone’s respective United States-area apartments, and we’re again offering viewers a video version of the podcast, as embedded above.
“Millions of Screens” is available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can subscribe here or via RSS. Share your feedback with the crew on Twitter or sound off in the comments. Review the show on iTunes and be sure to let us know if you’d like to hear the gang address specific issues in upcoming editions of “Millions of Screens.” Check out the rest of IndieWire’s podcasts on iTunes right here.
This episode of “Millions of Screens” was produced by Leonardo Adrian Garcia.