Combined with a dry, deadpan humor vibe that is similar to “The Office”
AppleTV+ has been making some impressive in-roads into the streaming and programming wars, landing 18 Emmy nominations for its first year of programming. This week, I’m taking a look at their first big live-action comedy series “Ted Lasso,” which has already proven popular enough after just three of its scheduled 10 episodes to earn a second-season renewal, and its ambitious animated musical series “Central Park.”
“Ted Lasso” stars former “Saturday Night Live” star Jason Sudeikis as the titular American college-football coach with a thick Southern accent, who gets a wildly improbable call to move to England and take over managing the professional soccer team AFC Richmond with no notice. He jets over to his new life in England with his longtime assistant, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), reluctantly leaving his strained marriage and young son behind in Kansas.
Lasso immediately finds himself in a classic fish-out-of-water situation, since he barely knows the lingo of soccer (aka British football) or its rules. He doesn’t know it, but the team’s bulldog of an owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) has actually hired him in the hopes he’ll be disastrous and ruin the legacy of the team for her cheating ex-husband.
Ted is also instantly mocked by most of his players and the team’s long-suffering fans, who chant “Wanker!” loud and long during his opening game. But no matter how badly things seem to go for him, Ted’s genuine heart and hilarious homespun wisdom always manage to win over even his biggest doubters.
“Ted Lasso” is a terrific series on nearly every level. Sudeikis fully immerses himself in the character (which originated in a series of viral video shorts for NBC Sports’ soccer coverage a few years ago) and is both hilarious and touching in the role. Waddingham is more fun every time she appears on screen, alternately spitting fire in private and pretending to love Ted to his face in a performance that’s a comic tornado.
Several other characters, including key players and one particular player’s girlfriend, are well-drawn and engaging as well. The best part of the show lies in its ability to apply riveting and comical cliffhangers to the end of each episode, drawing viewers into its shenanigans in more riveting fashion than most sitcoms hope to achieve.
“Ted Lasso” has some swearing sprinkled throughout each episode, but it’s not overwhelming or unpleasant.
Combined with a dry, deadpan humor vibe that is similar to “The Office,” “Ted Lasso” succeeds in roping in viewers for an excellent character-driven journey. Rather than dumping all its episodes at once like Netflix, Apple+ is releasing a new episode each Friday (with this week’s marking the fourth in the series).
Central Park” is sweet, funny and highly ambitious
Meanwhile, “Central Park” is a sweet, funny and highly ambitious addition to the present-day renaissance in TV animation. Rated PG, it’s like an actually family-friendly alternative to “Family Guy,” following the adventures of Owen (“Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr., who scored an Emmy nom for his vocals), the ranger in charge of New York’s famed Central Park, and his family.
Owen is Black, and has a white wife named Paige (Kathryn Hahn), who’s a reporter eager for her big break, and two tween kids: Cole (Titus Burgess), who has a great love of animals, and Molly (Kristen Bell), a budding cartoonist. Owen has to contend with the ruthless ambitions of a wealthy old lady named Bitsy (Stanley Tucci), who wants to buy Central Park and build condos on it, and her right-hand woman Helen (Daveed Diggs).
Tying it all together is the all-seeing guide to life in the park, a busker named Birdie, who is constantly spying on the various characters and providing extra insight. Played by Josh Gad (who voiced Olaf in the “Frozen” movies and is also the top producer on the series), he provides a full-throated exuberance to the often-hilarious lyrics that makes this a winning watch.
The plots in “Central Park” aren’t off-the-rails crazy like “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy,” but what they lack in ridiculously audacious plotting is made up for by the stunning wealth of songs in each episode. There’s about a half-dozen per episode, all with funny lyrics and distinctively characterized vocals from the ace cast that also includes Kristen Bell as Owen’s daughter Molly.
All 10 episodes of the “Central Park” first season are already up on Apple +, so it’s easy to enjoy them without any waits.