A reader gave me one of my favorite reviews. He liked Swift Horses Racing because my characters were a mixed bag.
Sometimes they made good choices, sometimes they made really bad ones.
“I like that,” he said, “Because people aren’t just one thing.”
This past year, one of my favorite shows has been Ted Lasso (on Apple TV). This show, based on a series of funny NBC commercials for the British Premier soccer league, is about an American football coach who goes to England to accept a job coaching a professional football (soccer) team. Ted Lasso, a folksy optimist, wins over the skeptical team, its owner, and a journalist who wants to poke holes in Ted to see if he’s real.
Season One of the show introduces you to Ted and the Richmond Greyhounds, a team struggling to keep their standing in England’s Premier league. They’re losing match after match. Ted knows almost nothing about soccer, but he’s convinced that uniting the team—with kindness and teamwork–will save them. He posts a handwritten sign in the locker room: BELIEVE.
Every character’s dealing with something, and it affects what they do. Rebecca’s just divorced the team’s former owner, Rupert Mannion, a world-class cheater and narcissist. Jamie Tartt has an abusive father. Sam Obisanya misses his Nigerian homeland. Coach Beard is in a relationship with a selfish, flighty woman he can’t seem to leave. The team’s former equipment manager, Nate, also has a bad dad and isn’t taken seriously when he’s promoted to assistant coach, because he’s a brown man.
And beneath his smiling, perky demeanor, Ted Lasso himself is hiding a secret.
There are two things I love about the show. One thing is, people are generally kind to each other. After Ted comes to Richmond, people become kinder. People are made aware of their brokenness, through being around Ted, despite his imperfections. Even Higgins, head of football relations, is freed from being the reluctant lackey of former owner Rupert Mannion. We find out Higgins has an amazing marriage, and his house is totally where you want to spend Christmas.
The other thing I love about the show is, people aren’t just one thing. Just as in real life, people are combinations of good and bad. Of wisdom and cluelessness (Coach Beard is a great example of this). Sadness and humor. Power and weakness. They stumble around with their sharp edges, sometimes wounding other people. They do terrible things (Wow—that last episode of season 2). But the characters’ brokenness doesn’t invalidate the good they do.
You know since you’ve followed the show this far, there’s hope for redemption. That redemption usually doesn’t come in a sappy way, but in a kind of best-case, real-life scenario.
Accelerated and condensed to fit within the bounds of a 30-minute episode, of course.