Last weekend, my family and I binge-watched the first season of Ted Lasso. I planned to write about it this week, but Vanity Fair published an interview with show co-creator Bill Lawrence that captures the essence of what I wanted to say:
Vanity Fair: Ted Lasso was such a bright spot, something so many people looked forward to when, frankly, there were a lot of painful things in the world to deal with. I don’t think you could anticipate any of that when you were devising the show and shooting it, but can you talk to me about what it was like to see that reaction as it debuted?
Bill Lawrence: Look, we certainly couldn’t have predicted the dumpster fire that was going to be the last year-plus. I can tell you what Jason [Sudeikis] and I and [cocreators] Joe Kelly and Brendan Hunt [who costars as Coach Beard] and the whole writing staff talked about beforehand, which was that the world discourse, specifically on social media and in politics, had gotten to such a cynical, dark place that it was just pervasively gross. We even joked in the writers room that if I was to meet someone like Ted Lasso in real life, I wouldn’t be happy. My first assumption would be, I can’t wait for a week from now when this person reveals himself to be an asshole like everybody else.
That’s the shocking twist. He’s for real.
When that person turns out to be actually kind and forgiving and empathetic and lovely, then you’ve got to look at yourself.
Ted Lasso offers a counterpoint to the cynical posturing that’s pervasive online — especially on Twitter.
Yes, we face big challenges. The pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Social inequities are pervasive. Political polarization is very high. Inane conspiracy theories are rampant. We’re suffering from obvious effects of climate change. And to make matters worse, our news media seem incentivized to accentuate bad news. So, the list of problems is long.
But we’re not the first generation to face big challenges. A cursory review of history reveals calamities, poverty, injustice, illness, etc. at levels we can’t imagine. And yet, our ancestors rolled with the punches. They even made art in the process.
What I loved about Ted Lasso is that it offers a compelling model of optimism and composure in a realistic context. Which is to say, coach Lasso’s world isn’t trouble-free: like us, he faces reversals, betrayals, makes mistakes, etc. He breaks down. He suffers.
The show’s primary draw is his reactions to these setbacks. Rather than carp about his troubles in 280 characters, Lasso looks for ways to do the right thing — gracefully, cheerfully, and often at a high personal cost. He seeks advice. He empowers others. He accepts responsibility. It’s a refreshing change from the pervasive tone online.
At its best, Twitter is a great place to learn from and interact with some of the smartest and most knowledgeable people in the world. But at its worst, it’s an outlet for frustration, resentment, anger, judgment, and victimization. We can do better. Following coach Lasso’s example would be a good start.