How ‘Ted Lasso’ Went From NBC Sports to Apple TV+

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Ted Lasso premieres on Apple TV+, a comedy series about a football coach from Kansas who ends up coaching a Premier League team in England, where soccer is of course known as football. Jason Sudeikis plays the clueless Lasso. 

The show “is based on pre-existing format/characters from NBC Sports,” said Apple TV+, and that got me wondering how NBC Sports helped launch an Apple TV+ series. 

It turns out a series of NBC Sports short films, starring Sudeikis as Ted Lasso, helped promote Premier League action on NBC Sports. In the films, the moustachioed Lasso becomes manager of Tottenham Hotspur. Knowing nothing about soccer, he doesn’t last long in the role. 

The first clip, “An American Coach in London,”  came out in 2013 and shows Lasso learning about soccer as he makes his way in London. “Ties and no playoffs?” he wondered about English football at a press conference. “Why do you even do this?”

That clip has 14.2 million views on YouTube, so I’m not exactly sure how I missed it. 

Upon learning that one of his players is from Wales, Lasso wondered, “How many countries are in this country?”

His players call him Wanker, which he takes as a term of affection. “I think it just means great,” Lasso said. “A nice guy...a kind heart.”

Sudeikis of course was in the Saturday Night Live cast from 2005 to 2013. 

In 2014, a 6-minute clip, “The Return of Coach Lasso,” was shown on more than 19,000 movie screens, and Lasso starred in 30-second sports across the NBCUniversal network portfolio. It features Lasso doing studio work for NBC Sports back in the States, alongside Arlo White and Rebecca Lowe. Lasso has some trouble with the concept of relegation in English soccer. He coaches a girls team, and brings a “Premier League level of standards” to the girls, he said, coaching them on how to flop for non-existent penalties, and how to celebrate after a goal. 

Former U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard turns up in the video. 

At the end of the clip, Lasso has hooked up with another Premier League team. “I just got asked to be the head coach of Lychester,” said Lasso. 

“You mean Leicester,” said his interviewer. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the L.A. Times and New York magazine.