One reason Ted Lasso is so popular is its good vibes. Or that’s how people see it, anyway. In truth, it can get pretty dark. The football coach played by Jason Sudeikis may be freakishly optimistic, but parts of his life are in tatters. He’s been dumped. He has panic attacks. He’s not always doing that hot. Co-creator Bill Lawrence, who developed the show with Sudeikis, has been adamant about pointing this out. And in a new Variety interview with him and fellow showrunner Chuck Lorre, he made the point even finer.
“We’re grateful and gracious to people that have found helpfulness in a show that we know is about empathy or forgiveness — the things that we really cared about,” he said. But it needed more than relentless optimism:
“We knew it would not work unless it had pathos in it as well. And when you take the episodes apart and say, this is the most optimistic and upbeat and hopeful show in the world, what happens? This poor guy’s wife that he’s desperately in love with leaves him and he is prone to massive panic attacks that he can’t deal with unless he’s helped through them by another kind soul and he doesn’t know why they’re happening. Jason [Sudeikis] wrote the seventh episode of “Ted Lasso” and said, “I’m going to write a real rendition of what it’s like for this guy to face overwhelming anxiety and a panic attack in a way that makes you know he’s not Mister Rogers.” I think that’s what cracked the show.”
Lawrence says he loves “snarky character comedy,” like Veep. He even admits he’s not like his latest show’s hero. “If I met someone like Ted Lasso, I would assume that it’d be two weeks until he revealed that he was actually an asshole. It’s how cynical our discourse had gotten. And then, two weeks later, if he turned out to be someone kind of spirit and empathetic and forgiving, then you have to look at yourself. And so that’s where we started.”
Ted Lasso, he says, also fits in with Lawrence’s other series, such as Spin City, Cougar Town, and Scrubs. “All my shows seem to have these male friendships with guys that are open and honest with their feelings, fears and insecurities in ways that I, as a repressed WASPy type dude from Connecticut, wish I could be,” he said. “On Ted Lasso, Jason Sudeikis and I were talking when we were breaking down the show, and I’m like, ‘These guys should talk way too honest and openly about their feelings so that you don’t have the toxic masculinity.’”