TV shows have always spawned fans, but none quite like Ted Lasso which has started a movement of kindness, taking the star of the hit comedy to The White House to talk about mental health with the President of the United States.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter who you voted for, we all know someone… or ourselves, who’s felt isolated, anxious, alone,” said Jason Sudeikis, 47, who both co-wrote and stars in the show. “It’s one of the many things that we all have in common as human beings… I truly believe that we should all do our best to help take care of each other.”
One of the reasons the show has won acclaim is for the sensitivity and care with which it tackles the mental health subject, sometimes using motivational tools like a ‘Believe’ sign pasted to a locker room wall to inspire, other times using more prescriptive storylines, and always spreading a message of kindness.
“I can’t think of another TV show that makes people want to be better human beings like Ted Lasso does,” says Emmy McMorrow, 40, an actor and comedy writer who launched Ted Lasso tours around Richmond-on-Thames where the show was filmed.
“I actually wrote to Jason Sudeikis to thank him for what he has done for people’s lives,” she says. “I’ve had so many people tell me that Ted got them through some really difficult times especially during the pandemic. I experienced it myself. When I first watched the show, I was in the process of separating from my child’s father. Ted gave me confidence in myself when I really needed it.”
The mental health theme is an important one. When the show’s writers were drawing up their plans for the second season of the show, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics had yet to take place. It turned out the writers were prescient. That summer, just as the second season went on air, Simone Biles, the USA Olympic Gold gymnast, pulled out of the women’s team gymnastics final, shocking the world when she announced to a packed press room: “I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being.”
She was only 24 years old and risked her reputation by revealing her mental health problems in a world that stigmatized them. “Are mental health issues now the go-to excuse for any poor performance in elite sport? What a joke,” tweeted TV presenter Piers Morgan, demonstrating that stigma in real life, exactly echoing the fictional world of Ted Lasso when it was revealed that Ted has panic attacks and is lambasted by the press for them.
Across the internet, there are millions of people who have grown tired of that kind of cynicism and have embraced the Lasso cult of kindness instead. “Ted Lasso has made a difference for a lot of people,” says Chris Yeh, 48, a venture capitalist and author living in Palo Alto, California who hosts Lasso Con, a virtual conference for Lasso enthusiasts. “Ted portrays uncynical human goodness and that’s really inspiring, particularly at a time when the world is really polarised.”
Others talk of how Ted has made difference in their lives. “I’ve always suffered from imposter syndrome. I have ADHD, dyslexia, experienced a lot of trauma, and Ted, who’s the ultimate imposter, made me feel good in knowing that I’ve done the best I can,” explains Noah La Porte, 37, a tech sales rep from Chicago who shepherds a Facebook Ted Lasso Fan Club group with over two thousand followers. “How they tackled mental health in the show is inspiring.”
Generosity is wholly part of who Ted Lasso is. His core belief is that all people are worthy, even the ones who are out to trip him up. He’s optimistic and believes that success is not about winning, but the journey in trying to be the best that we can be. It’s a formula that seems to have captured imaginations.
“We see a huge spirit of cooperation and mutual support within the Ted Lasso community,” explains Jeremy Goeckner, 36, a videographer from Springfield, Illinois, and co-host of Peanut Butter and Biscuits, one of several Ted Lasso podcasts. “Ted’s this character that shows how one little act of kindness can inspire someone else, who can inspire a chain reaction, so you get this whole community of caring.”
Sports psychologist Dr Yori began a Ted Lasso Community Twitter account in October 2020 entitled ‘I am your friend when no-one else is’. He now has over 25,000 followers. “I was going through a difficult period. Ted Lasso’s personality, loving others, encouraging them to become the best versions of themselves is a message I wanted to spread,” says Dr Yori, 33, from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “I never expected to find so many followers.”
Through the internet, the show has created a community of caring that is world-wide. “This show gave me such a feeling of connection and belonging,” says Thea Newcombe, 55, another Lasso Con host, based in Glasgow, Scotland who meets other Lasso fans every Sunday in the ‘Ted Lasso is Awesome’ audio chat room on the Clubhouse app.
First released in August 2020, the show’s timing, arriving onto screens during the pandemic, is speculated to have contributed to its success, although its die-hard fans argue differently. “There’s no denying it was what we all needed at the time arriving, as it did, in the middle of an isolated world where people were hurting, but there is so much depth to the show, I’m sure it would have won praise anyway,” says Marita Barth, 47, a chemistry teacher from Dallas, Oregon, also a co-host of Coach Beard’s Book Club, a podcast about the books hidden within the show.
Back in London, outside the Prince’s Head pub in Richmond, renamed The Crown and Anchor in the show, Emmy McMorrow spreads her arms wide as she leads another tour around Richmond. “Welcome to Lassoland, a place where being kind makes a difference,” she announces, and everybody thanks her. Of course they do. Grace is what Ted Heads do best. Even the US President knows that.
Lucy Broadbent is the author of What Would Ted Lasso Do? How Ted’s Positive Approach Can Help You. Available on Amazon.
Lasso Con: @LassoCon Ted Lasso Community @TedCommunity Peanut Butter & Biscuits @PBBFRN. Coach Beard’s Bookclub: @BeardsBookClub. Ted Lasso Fan Club