An Ode to ‘Ted Lasso,’ the Wholesome Soccer Comedy Everyone Suddenly Loves 1

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

This week:

  • All of America is Dollywood now.
  • My torrid love affair with Ted Lasso.
  • God bless that sad-ass Christmas tree.
  • The Fresh Prince reunion was *spectacular.*
  • The best quote of the week.

Have You Met My Husband, Ted Lasso?

It borders on negligence that I only this past week discovered Ted Lasso.

The Apple TV+ comedy series has apparently been available and waiting since August to charm me, steal my heart, and solidify an unwavering and altogether overwhelming crush on star Jason Sudeikis.

One thing about the pandemic has not just been untold time to consume things you may have missed, but an unhealthy addiction to doomscrolling through Twitter and news feeds. It is through that habit that I’ve seen quite a few people over the last few months say pretty much the exact thing I’m about to: Hey, you know what? Ted Lasso is an unexpectedly great show, and you should watch it!

The half-hour comedy series, as if specifically designed to binge in its entirety on a Sunday afternoon when you’re not really leaving your house because there’s a pandemic lurking outside, stars Sudeikis as the titular Ted Lasso.

He’s an American football coach who’s had some success at a Division III college and is recruited to cross the pond and take the reins of a professional British football (soccer) team. It turns out that Rebecca Welton, the club’s owner, wants to get back at her ex-husband by destroying the team, the one thing he loved. Hiring Lasso, who doesn’t know his offsides from a yellow card, is her master plan.

Things get complicated when Rebecca, like anyone who encounters Ted’s endearing folksiness and aggressive friendliness, warms up to him. (West End musical theater star Hannah Waddingham gives one of my new favorite TV performances as Rebecca.) And his non-traditional coaching approach actually starts to pan out.

Ted Lasso himself is the most “is this annoying or charming?” male character since The Office’s Michael Scott, but the show is so confident in its genuineness and tone that it, somehow, always works. Like my Daily Beast colleague and pandemic warrior Olivia Messer said, it’s “sweet, silly, unexpectedly sentimental,” like Schitt’s Creek “without its early edge that made it hard for some folks to get into.”

I’m not a sports person, which is admittedly why I was so slow to believe I’d like Ted Lasso. But it’s always like Charlie Brown and the football (the only sport I truly understand) for me with these shows. I keep thinking I won’t like something because, ew, sports. And lo and behold it’s Friday Night Lights or Pitch or, now, Ted Lasso, and I’m obsessed. Will I ever learn?

An Ugly-Ass Christmas Tree For Doom Times

It was supposed to be a majestic totem of resilience and a symbol of normalcy. Instead, the Rockefeller Tree arrived in New York this week with a note attached from Mother Nature saying that she has had it with 2020 as much as the rest of us have.

We expected a proud, verdant tower of glory. We got a little guy just trying his best to hang in there, like all of us. And also just like all of us, appearing to have experienced the same stress-induced balding pattern. Charlie Brown’s impact.

Many noted it as a fitting tribute to our times. Beautiful branches fastidiously maintaining social distance, leaving gaping Yuletide holes through which the current holiday spirit of meagerness and despair can swirl, merry and bright. In other words, looking ragged as hell.

The 75-foot Norwegian spruce apparently just needs time to “settle” (don’t we all), according to reports that came out once the busted-looking tree started making headlines. It’s apparently normal to at first look like Edward Scissorhands dropped acid and then went tree climbing for a few days.

And little did I know that, once a year, the Rockefeller tree is outfitted with the most fabulous weave east of Fifth Avenue. Apparently supplemental branches are often added to give a fuller appearance.

Even if all that is true, it can never take away the 95-or-so minutes I spent laughing at the video of the ugly-ass tree being erected.

The Surprisingly Profound ‘Fresh Prince Reunion’

It shouldn’t have been such a shock that watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion Special, which launched this week on HBO Max, was such an emotional experience. The series excelled maybe more than any other comedy series of its era in producing those kinds of moments, so it fit for the cast reunion to celebrate its 30th anniversary (I refuse to acknowledge that number is real).

The headline-making news from the special is Will Smith’s sitdown with Janet Hubert, the “original” Aunt Viv, 27 years after she and the show parted ways, her role was recast, and ugly rumors about her behavior torpedoed her career.

These reunions are so typically filmed with rose-colored lenses on the camera that I never expected such a frank air-cleaning discussion, revealing Smith’s role in making the workplace unpleasant for Hubert when she was pregnant. He also apparently turned the cast against her when she didn’t accept what, we now know, was a “bad deal” to return.

Hubert also talks about the struggles at home she kept hidden at the time, proving yet again that no one knows what anyone else is carrying with them when they make judgments. She also talked about the fated pain of being labeled a “difficult” Black woman in Hollywood because of all this.

It’s funny how sometimes things hit you in ways you never expected. I never would have thought seeing Hubert and Daphne Reid, who replaced her as Aunt Viv, meeting for the first time would make me tear up. They were both so generous in the moment.

But then there are the things you do expect, like all the talk of the late James Avery, who played Uncle Phil, absolutely destroying me. The scene in which Will breaks down in Uncle Phil’s arms after his father leaves him ranks in the Hall of Fame of “Scenes That Make Me Cry Just By Thinking About Them,” and so I was a mess each time the cast talked about it in the special.

Normally these things are so glad-handing and self-congratulatory, it was nice to watch one so poignant. Check it out on HBO Max!

Tiffany Haddish Raises the Small-Talk Game

At the red carpet for the People’s Choice Awards, E!’s Giuliana Rancic politely started her interview with Tiffany Haddish by asking, “How are you?” To which Haddish answered: “I’m successful, how are you?” (Watch here.)

A three-second exchange more impactful than years of self-esteem therapy.

What to watch this week:

Saved By the Bell: I was so excited, and so scared, for this. But it’s good! (Wednesday on Peacock)

Happiest Season: Christmas lesbians! What a treat! (Wednesday on Hulu)

Small Axe: Director Steve McQueen’s new anthology film series is transcendent. (Friday on Amazon)

Animaniacs: Twenty-seven years later, the cartoon delivers one of the smartest reboots yet. (Friday on Hulu)

What to skip this week:

Hillbilly Elegy: A truly horrible movie, and if you ever tell Amy Adams I said it I will deny! (Tuesday on Netflix)