When Ted Lasso first arrived on our screens in the summer of 2020, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
TV audiences who had been through tough experiences in their own lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and had also been starved of real football matches while teams were locked down – couldn’t resist the story of the relentlessly optimistic American football coach brought to the UK to train the fictional AFC Richmond.
After charming viewers, the success of the series continued during awards season earlier this year, with Jason Sudeikis, who plays the lead role and co-created the show, going viral for picking up his Golden Globe while wearing a tie-dye hoodie.
More recently, the series earned 20 Emmy nominations – including a whopping six for supporting cast members – and a second series has just launched.
Sudeikis told Sky News’ Backstage Podcast it was almost straight away that he realised they were on to a winner.
“The show premiered on a Friday and then on Monday we got a call from Apple saying, hey, we want to do a second season,” he says. “In this day and age of no longer having Nielsen ratings or box office earnings showing up on a Monday morning, that was a little bit of a tell.”
But it was the impact the programme had on social media that really brought home to Sudeikis how much it meant to fans, particularly after a speech in episode six given by Ted, which re-purposes a real press conference moment by NBA star Allen Iverson in which he talks about missing practice.
“When that started to permeate, like sort of started to spread around the internet [and] social media culture, that was something that really resonated then,” he says. “Then we started getting messages back and people saying things to us.
“Our more active writers and producers and cast members that are more inclined to using social media, when they started getting certain messages about how much people were enjoying the show and feeling thankful for the show, that was really moving and telling.”
Production for the second series began in London in January, marking the first time the cast and crew could mark the success of the show together. However, the strict COVID regulations that productions had to adhere to meant those celebrations were sadly muted.
“We all had to wear masks and we weren’t allowed to hug, so it was sort of anticlimactic,” says Brendan Hunt, another of the show’s creators, who plays the enigmatic Coach Beard.
“It was like going to Christmas with the family but you’re all wearing hazmat suits – it’s hard to open presents!”
Hannah Waddingham, who plays the club’s fabulous owner Rebecca, agrees. “The COVID police, as I called them, were literally… you’d see someone and you’d want to go, ‘Oh my God, what about the show’s success?’ and they’d go ‘no, no, no, stay apart’.
“I desperately wanted to give Nick Mohammed a squeeze, playing Nate, or just rub his cheeks or something because he’s so brilliant in it, and you just couldn’t get anywhere near anyone. And it continued like that for the whole of season two.”
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For Sudeikis – who is often asked about where he ends and Ted Lasso begins – the reaction from fans to the show, and the character, has been welcome.
“It’s actually been really, really nice getting back here to the States, Brooklyn specifically, and walking around, going to see the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays and having, you know, fathers and sons, when I’m there with my son, stop and asking for photos.
“And, you know, I always said yes before, but I don’t feel pressured to do it now – I just feel like I like what they’re stopping for. And the messages that they exchange of appreciation and really caring about this show has been really cool.”
The second series of Ted Lasso is streaming on Apple TV Plus. Hear our review on this week’s episode of Backstage, the film and TV podcast from Sky News.