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Ted Lasso’s Therapeutic TV Teachings

Warning: Mild spoilers for Season 1 ahead.

I’ve been a TV connoisseur for as long as I can remember – early memories center around my family, crowded onto our couch, watching entire anthologies of old superhero cartoons in one sitting. I downloaded my first VPN with my mom and sister so we could watch “Downton Abbey” while it aired in the UK. I was so devoted to “The X-Files” in my early teens that I had full episodes of dialogue memorized, could tell you what season and episode number a specific moment happened within, and waxed poetic about it as often as I could. I’ve laughed until I couldn’t breathe while watching “Derry Girls,” “Schitt’s Creek,” and “Veep;” cried until I couldn’t breathe while watching “The West Wing,” “Stranger Things,” and “Broadchurch;” and yet, I’ve never experienced a show that knocks the breath out of me so wholly as “Ted Lasso.” Not only is it the best show on TV right now, but it’s the best show I’ve ever seen, period. And I’ve seen a lot of TV. 

What exactly is it about “Ted Lasso” that makes it so unique? From the surface, it has elements of many successful TV shows: it’s funny, heartwarming, and inspiring, with likable characters who experience realistic character growth. And yet it presents these elements in a way that few TV shows have ever dared to do – by resorting solely to reckless optimism while simultaneously acknowledging the pessimism the world feels. It fully tackles topics of mental health, community building, and trust in ways that seem effortless amidst the comedic nature of the dialogue.

From the first moments of the first episode, the viewer is captivated by the exuberant title character, a DII college football coach recruited to coach an English Premier League team despite having no soccer experience, and by the boundless joy with which he interacts with those around him. Ted cracks jokes with his assistant coaches, treats kit managers with the utmost respect, and refuses to let the hostility of the team get in the way of trying to create success on and off the pitch. However, it becomes apparent that Ted isn’t as joyful as he always acts – he is experiencing a painful divorce, suffers from panic attacks, and must deal with betrayal from those he thinks he can trust – and yet his kindness and optimism never falters on the outside. 

The cast of teammates and coworkers that Ted encounters contain similar multifaceted natures, and we can witness how Ted’s infectious kindness changes their behaviors. Team owner Rebecca Welton goes from a scheming, cold executive to a woman who recognizes the parts of herself that drive people away and makes an effort to change for the better, becoming who Ted thinks she can be. Gruff captain Roy Kent lets his guard down as, under Ted’s leadership, he realizes what he must do to become a good leader and a better man. Young player Sam Obisanya grapples with his fear of failure and life in a new country as Ted cheers him on and teaches him to move past his mistakes. Star Jamie Tartt works to balance his ego and the expectations Ted has for the team. It’s clear that the image that Ted sees of every one of these characters, and all those characters I did not mention, doesn’t always match with the impression that others (or even the characters themselves) see. Ted chooses to see the best in people, even after they’ve given him no reason to believe that they can change. It’s this optimism that inspires me to be kinder to those around me, to let difficult things roll off me, and to see the beauty and opportunity for growth in huge losses. 

But it’s the infectious glee that Ted presents to those around him, compared with his own inner suffering, that strikes me the most. Despite his pain, Ted doesn’t stop putting others above himself, even when he really should. It’s a bit too familiar to me. I see myself in the ways that Ted cracks jokes to make others laugh even when he’s feeling down; the ways he pretends his anxiety isn’t eating him up from the inside; the ways he goes above and beyond to make others feel valued because he’s experienced people doubting him time and time again. 

Ted Lasso, the man, presents to us the question of what we want to be versus what we are. Do we want to put others down to make ourselves feel better, or do we want to appreciate others for the unique role they play in someone else’s life? Do we want to beat ourselves up after mistakes, or do we want to learn from them and “be a goldfish”? Do we want to put love above fear? Do we want to make forgiveness our lead motive? Do we want to be brave?

While the show isn’t marketed as a philosophical one, I’m left after each episode feeling a bit like I’ve had a therapy session. I think about my roles in others’ lives, how I can show that same kindness that I show to others to myself, and how I can put my best foot forward each day. I think about what we can do to right the wrongs we’ve done to others or how to forgive those who’ve wronged us. I think about relationships and love in all their forms; the power of teamwork; the ways that a small act of kindness can change the world we live in.
The show makes me believe that there are truly good people left in the world and that growth is possible. It makes me believe in “Believe.”

Grace Curtin

Bryn Mawr '24

Grace is a political science major from Northern Virginia. When not studying, she enjoys bullet journaling, reading, and yoga. She can frequently be found cheering on the Philadelphia Flyers or yelling at the TV while watching "The Bachelor."
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