Exclusive: Bill Lawrence on the Success of ‘Ted Lasso’ on Apple TV+

[Update: 22 December 2020] Ted Lasso Executive Producer Bill Lawrence has revealed that the show may stop after its already-commissioned third season, according to various outlets. The comments were made on a podcast with former Scrubs stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison. It only goes to reiterate what Mr. Lawrence told The Mac Observer in the below interview back in September. “Mr. Lawrence revealed that the original pitch was for a three-season arc,” I reported at the time. It is then perhaps not much of a surprise that the show will finish at the end of that arc.

The season finale of Ted Lasso is now available to watch on Apple TV+. The show stars Jason Sudeikis playing a character originally conceived back in 2013 as part of an advertising campaign for soccer on NBC –  a college football coach who crosses the Atlantic to manage a Premier League soccer team.

Ted Lasso: Standing Out ‘Amongst Dark Edgy Dramas and Snarky Comedies’

I’ll be honest, when I heard there was going to be a full series I was dubious it would work. However, it has been an unexpected breakout success for Apple TV+. The times we live in certainly require some of the kindness and humor displayed in the show. “We said to [Apple] when we pitched it that it was kind of a cynical, edgy time and that the main character would be inherently optimistic and hopeful,” executive producer Bill Lawrence told The Mac Observer. ” We hoped that even amongst dark edgy dramas and snarky comedies that would stand out.”

It most certainly does stand out. Yes, some of the soccer references do clang to British ears, but it just about stays the right side of the line.

Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple in Ted Lasso

There are also standout female characters. Newly divorced club owner Rebecca develops from being a cliché at the start of the series, a trope Mr. Lawrence says the writers deliberately exploited in order to shift the narrative, to a character many can empathize with. Similarly, Keeley breaks away from being simply a “footballer’s girlfriend” and we see that she is smart and business-minded. Mr. Lawrence attributes the development of these characters in large part to talented female writers working on the show.

More Than Just Escapism

To claim that providing escapism from the real-wold is the only reason Ted Lasso has proved popular would be unfair. It is a subtly written, well-acted, comedy. You feel a lot better after spending 30-odd minutes in the company of the coach and his squad. It’s the TV equivalent of having a nice warm bath at the end of a tiring day. Far from regaling tales of Apple interfering in the process, (despite your correspondent’s deeply unsubtle attempts to get him to do so…) the former Scrubs writer appears to have enjoyed collaborating with the tech giant. “They really embraced our show from the start,” he explains. “they were in on the fact from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be a silly, kind of sketch-like comedy.” While Mr. Lawrence says he loves shows like that, Ted Lasso was always meant to offer a bit more depth, a mission it has undoubtedly succeeded in.

Second, and Maybe Third, Season on Way

The good news? Not only is a second season on the way, but Mr. Lawrence revealed that the original pitch was for a three-season arc. The third has not been officially confirmed for Apple TV+, but all the signs are pointing in the right direction. Because while Ted Lasso might offer some light-hearted humor in troubling times, it is also a welcome break from the often highly serious shows that dominate Apple TV+. “I think any new streaming site has to start with what they consider brand strategy, and Jason and I were certainly aware Apple seemed to be leaning into dramatic hours,” said Mr. Lawrence.

Jason Sudeikis Ted Lasso
Jason Sudeikis stars in Ted Lasso

Indeed, while he is clearly uncomfortable saying so out loud, Mr. Lawrence admits that “we lucked out that the world is such a dumpster fire right now that people could use a healthy dose of optimism.” Bill Lawrence, Jason Sudeikis, and their show do exactly that.

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