Opinion

Is ‘Ted Lasso’ a modern-day legislator?

Five episodes into “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV, and I have concluded that it is the wittiest, best written, and most entertaining show I have watched in a long time. The characters are cleverly curated and superbly acted. Jason Sudeikis is fabulous.

If left at that, perhaps it would be enough to persuade you to binge-watch it this weekend. But I cannot just leave it there, and here’s why:

In the last 20 years, we have witnessed a rapid demise of culture, character, and basic decency in nearly every facet of the world. From the entertainment industry, the political arena, and covering every other area of life, the standards we have today are lower by degrees, in almost every measurable way, than they were at any time in our past.

Even suggesting that we still have standards may be up for debate.

Negative, depressing storylines populate the most popular movies and TV shows. Zombies, serial killers, traumatic life experiences, family dysfunction, win the yearly sweepstakes. Violence permeates our screens, each production having to outdo the one before in moral decay and gratuitous, gory imagery.  Rarely do feel-good shows get any accolades.

Then, out of left field comes the show “Ted Lasso,” Apple TV’s original dramedy now in its second season.

“Ted Lasso” is positive, uplifting, and always leaves you smiling. No problem is too big for Lasso. He turns lemons into lemonade faster than a 6-year old’s first neighborhood stand. His attitude is infectious, and his energetic persona inspires the storylines of every supporting role. It is a veritable 4G gravity pull of positivity.

Hundreds of other critical reviews about the show have made these same observations. But to me, there is more to unpack than just “it’s a good show.”

What if “Ted Lasso” had been the rule over these last few decades, not the exception?

Reflect on The Andy Griffith Show, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, moving on to Northern Exposure, The Cosby Show (before we knew), and Home Improvement. These shows, and a few others like them, were uplifting, funny, and suggested that life was about being a better person, treating people better, and setting good examples for those around you. None of these shows depicted perfect moral virtue but certainly did more than your modern-day zombie/slasher.

Even today’s funny and uplifting shows make noticeable efforts to indoctrinate us politically, convince us that faith and effort are antiquated notions of vanity, that life is unfair, stacked against us, and sometimes not worth living.

But not “Ted Lasso.”

Ted believes that all things are possible. His belief infects those around him and moves them to be better, to do better.

To Ted, no hill is too high, and no person is too small. Everyone, every life, and everything matters.  Ted perfects the idea that doing the right thing when no one is looking defines one’s character.

His power-packed positive value system is permanently pinned to his sleeve, and he proudly walks around with it there all day.

If Hollywood had valued this type of entertainment more recently, instead of exploiting our worst instincts as a human race, if we had fewer zombies, violence, promiscuity, poor role models, and more positive, aspirational programming, would our culture be different?

Would our world be less divisive? Would we default to love instead of to hate, to forgiveness instead of condemnation?

Maybe I am over-stating the power and influence of pop culture, but I do not think I am.

In 1821, English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” His words flew in the face of the otherwise orderly establishment of morality via the legislative process.  To him, it mattered little what kings, lords, and parliaments said were the laws of society; what the poets had to say about such things was all that really counted.

Shelley would undoubtedly conclude that movie stars, singers, and TV shows are today’s substitute for the poets of his age.

And if that is the case, then I hope for more “Ted Lasso’s.”