The water cooler talk right now is both virtual and limited: Office politics? Minimal. Sports? Crippled. Vaccinating? Don’t ask, don’t tell. So streaming media is about it. What that means is that your tennis buddy – socially distanced, each of you serving with your own balls, distinctly marked – becomes one of your best sources of what to watch, along with your wife’s Pilates clients.

Enter Robert, who, if he wasn’t already extremely valuable as a drill partner with whom discussions of the intricacies of the buggy whip forehand are perfectly normal, is the recipient of the 2021 Grateful Paul Stokstad award for his encyclopedic recall of media moments as obscure and iconic as “jump the shark” and “What do the Simple Folk Do,” as well as “you can’t touch this.” 

For some of us, movie quotes and media memories are how we identify and categorize real life events, even if so simple as my exasperating tendency to hit drop shots. (Sorry, Robert, that last one was irresistible).

So of course it was Robert who suggested a viewing of Ted Lasso.

For those of us who treat most streaming video options with the dismissive swipe left mentality of a dating app, I had passed over Ted Lasso a number of times. Considering that my choices after viewing are either celebrated, more or less approved, or reported to have been merely endured by a spousal co-viewer, taking a risk on what appeared to be some kind of soccer show was not a likely go.

But Robert recommended it with a surprising “worth it,” so we gave it a try.

You can just hear the concept pitch on the show: “Low-tier US Football coach is hired to coach a professional Soccer team in England, and his irrepressible positivity wins out against impossible odds.”

The inherent comic situations that such a concept engenders are all played to the maximum  level of  fun. Just considering the horror of rabid British soccer fans at such a travesty it’s easy to see how this might go, and in many ways the show as if writes itself.

What’s surprising, however, is the degree to which the principal players in the show are gifted with real feelings to deal with, and significant back stories that add depth to what might otherwise be a cartoon. The brassy power executive team owner deals with public humiliation from an ex-husband. The egocentric star athlete is chased by the ghost memories of an abusive father. And the main character is himself facing a divorce.

These and other surprising moments hint at a brilliant writing and directing team behind the talented cast.

Comic and former showboat athlete Jason Sudeikis plays the walking positive affirmation title role, supported by Hannah Waddingham as the power figure CEO, Juno Temple as a B-list sexpot with heart, Brendan Hunt as Lasso’s sidekick Coach Beard, Brett Goldstein as an aging former soccer great, Phil Dunster as the cocky superstar, Jeremy Higgins as the browbeaten assistant to the CEO, Nik Mohhammed as a locker room assistant with ideas, Anthony Head as the ex, and James Lance as the seen-it-all journalist.

Worth a watch, and guaranteed spousal-viewing safe.