By all rights, the AppleTV+ comedy Ted Lasso probably shouldn’t exist, and it absolutely shouldn’t be as good as it is. After all, the decision to launch an entire show essentially based on a series of NBC Sports commercials promoting the network’s broadcast of English Premier League soccer sounds about as smart as the attempt to make a television series out of that Saturday Night Live MacGruber skit. (Which: Yikes!) And yet, Ted Lasso is not just Apple’s best original program, it’s one of the best television shows on any platform right now, period.
The tale of an American football coach hired to lead an English soccer club, this is a fish-out-of-water story that flips everything you expect from the trope on its head. Rather than punch down by making its infectiously kind and optimistic lead character the butt of a series of jokes he’s not in on, Ted Lasso instead encourages us all to get on his level, insisting that compassion, curiosity, and vulnerability aren’t weaknesses, but rather strengths we can all possess. It’s virtually impossible to watch this series and not want to be the person Ted Lasso believes you could be, is what I’m saying.
The show deftly navigates the often hyper-masculine world of sports with care and nuance, refusing to follow the sorts of arcs that are generally seen in athletic-themed entertainment. For starters, the sports aspect of it of it all isn’t really the point of the show. No one is really watching Ted Lasso for the drama of whether AFC Richmond wins games or not. The players are never set against one another as rivals for Ted’s attention or forced to compete against one another. In fact, the underdog Richmond team loses during the final moments of its season-ending match instead of triumphing in a slow-motion action montage. (They’re even relegated and demoted down a league!)
But nowhere does the show buck expectations with richer results than in its portrayal of Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), former Richmond captain and football legend turned romantic hero and general role model for men everywhere.
On paper, Roy should be little more than a sports movie stereotype: An aging player whose glory days are well behind him, he’s painfully stoic and generally rude to most people around him. And on a less nuanced show, Roy likely would have remained a caricature, a sad man clinging to a past no one cares about anymore, a rough and awkward foil for Ted’s relentless kindness campaign, and a warning to the younger players that follow after him. Don’t be like Roy, that other, worse show would have said. He’s a has-been. A joke.
But on Ted Lasso, Roy’s journey is very specifically not about what’s behind him, but what’s in front of him. He’s a role model rather than a cautionary tale-every Richmond player should hope that they grow up to be half the man that Roy is, and his arc is probably the series’ most satisfying. Season 1 sees Roy slowly accept that there is (and ought to be) more to his life than football, and that the conclusion of his career isn’t the end of the world he fears it to be. But it also slowly reveals the truth of who Roy really is: A man who is willing to humble himself, who can lead from behind in a way that other characters on the show (cough cough Jamie Tartt cough) can’t quite manage, and who models the sorts of behaviors we all wish the men around us would practice. Through his relationship with his adorable niece Phoebe and his slow-burn romance with PR consultant and influencer Keeley Jones, Ted Lasso shows us that Roy is a man of surprising emotional depth, whose gruff exterior covers a not-so-secret heart of gold.
Sure, Roy is often surly and abrupt, he spends a lot of his time onscreen literally growling at others, and he’s got the foulest mouth of any character on the canvas. (It’s not close, either; Phoebe is probably going to pay for college with the proceeds from his £1 pound per offense swear jar.) But though he may sometimes act like he doesn’t care about anything, Roy’s kind and considerate behavior, particularly toward women and those that others tend to belittle or ignore (such as equipment manager Nate), quickly proves otherwise.
?From embracing the lessons at the heart of A Wrinkle in Time to bringing his childhood blanket to a group ritual designed to cleanse the team’s haunted training room of restless spirits, Roy is quietly growing into his best self throughout Ted Lasso’s first season. He steps up and speaks out, becoming the leader his team needs in deeds as well as words. His romance with Keeley is not only utterly charming, but an emotional cornerstone of the series. Progressing from charming subtext to lingering glances and breathless kisses, it’s the sort of understanding partnership we all dream of: a relationship of equals that reveals both characters are much more than they initially appear to be.
Ted Lasso Season 2 takes Roy’s story to the next level, further exploring his journey on his own terms. Officially retired from the sport he once loved, he’s now spending his days coaching (and cursing at) Phoebe’s youth girls’ soccer team, cooking elaborate meals for Keeley, and watching reality TV with the wine moms in his yoga group. He’s still not exactly great at expressing his emotions, but he’s trying, and though we’ve yet to see his retirement press conference, it was apparently open and vulnerable enough to amass millions of YouTube views.
He even begrudgingly goes on a double date with Keeley, Rebecca, and Rebecca’s milquetoast new boyfriend, ending the evening by insightfully (and bluntly) observing that his former boss is worth more than the average man they all just sat through dinner with. Gruff Roy Kent, rude language and all, encouraging women to know their worth? To not settle until they feel the same lightning strike of emotions he does every time he looks at Keeley? Swoon.
Roy is obviously someone who has been taught all his life that his emotions make him weak, that expressing those feelings isn’t a thing the sort of man he’s been told he has to be does. Yet, as Ted Lasso continues, we see that isn’t who Roy truly is at all. He’s a man who feels deeply, whether we’re talking about his love for Keeley, the care he demonstrates for one of his yoga moms’ going through a divorce, his fierce protectiveness toward his niece, or his anxious reluctance to look back at the sports career he left behind. And though he is still learning now to express and process these feelings in healthy and/or productive ways, his growth is undeniable-and undeniably compelling to watch. Television could use (a lot) more men like him.
Lacy Baugher Milas is a digital producer by day, but a television enthusiast pretty much all the time. Her writing has been featured in Collider, IGN, Screenrant, The Baltimore Sun and others. Literally always looking for someone to yell about Doctor Who and/or CW superhero properties with, you can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.
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