Writer/showrunner Bill Lawrence has entered the streaming series world with the Apple+ comedy “Ted Lasso.”
Premiering Aug. 14, it follows Ted (Jason Sudeikis, the show’s co-creator and star), an affable American college football coach who’s hired to run a Premier League soccer team in the UK — despite having no knowledge of the sport or the region. The British press, players, and fans are all skeptical about Ted, and for good reason — it turns out the team’s owner, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham, “Sex Education”), secretly hired him in hopes he would lead the team into failure so she could avenge her soccer-loving philandering ex (Anthony Head, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”)
“I didn’t have to do much research about soccer because Jason and I are Ted Lasso — we don’t know the game,” says Lawrence, 51, best-known for “Scrubs” and “Cougar Town.” “We did hire some British writers who knew the fan world of British Premier football. [Jason and I] both love sports and wanted to do our version of an iconic sports movie.
“Every American grows up watching ‘Rocky.’ We wanted to do that classic underdog story.”
“Ted Lasso” was filmed in and around London, using Selhurst Park Stadium, home of Crystal Palace Football Club, for its action scenes.
“The first burden for anybody who’s made a sports movie or TV show is that it’s really easy to make one that looks fake,” says Lawrence. “The football aspects of it needed to look real. We were lucky enough to use real venues.”
The Ted Lasso character originated in ads that Sudekis did for NBC Sports’ coverage of the English Premier League in 2013.
“I had seen those videos Jason did a few years back when he was promoting the Premier League,” says Lawrence. “Years later, I was chasing him down to do a TV show [together] because I think he’s an iconic funny leading man and affable actor. And he said, ‘I get recognized more as Ted Lasso when I leave the country because football is so big overseas.’ ”
The rest is history, as the duo set about fleshing out the character and his story into a 10-episode series.
Ted strolls into the UK with an upbeat attitude and a thick Midwestern twang. Initially, he’s viewed as a joke — but slowly his genuine nature starts affecting everyone around him, from the team to Rebecca.
“I don’t want to take any shots at cynical snarky comedy because I’m a comedy writer, I do it myself,” says Lawrence. “With this, we wanted to make a hopeful and optimistic show and a character that embodies kindness — maybe at a time when it’s nice to have escapist entertainment.
“If I met Ted Lasso, we’ve reached a time and era that my initial reaction would be, ‘There’s no way this dude is this sincere!’ And then you feel like a jerk a week later,” he says. “That was kind of the basis for this show. Even when he’s ignorant, he’s curious. That’s where Jason and I overlap.
“He knew I had a history of doing shows with emotional depth and heart to them.”