Lasso shares some of the same principles and problems as other founding television dads
Ted Lasso is a good TV dude. But is Ted Lasso a good TV dad? The kindhearted American football coach, who wins over his harshest critics coaching British football, has quickly become a television icon. The show “Ted Lasso” swept the 2021 Emmy’s. And the Apple+ series has been streamed more than a half-billion times. People watch because the show fills them with joy—mainly because of the positivity generated by the mustachioed leading guy. But there’s a darkness behind that bright light that illuminates everyone around Ted. It concerns me as a father. I care about Ted, and I want him to be the best dad he can be. But is he a good dad?
I would love to get a beer with Coach Lasso. We’d banter about pop culture. I’d say Tom Hanks in “The ‘Burbs.” And he’d say, “Sorry, but I gotta go ‘Big.’ It’s Tom at his Hanksiest.” Then we’d agree that 1993 was the greatest year in hip hop. At the end of the night, I’d go home to give my girls’ goodnight kisses. Poor Ted, though…he’d just go back to his flat and drink more to keep that darkness at bay.
Ted Lasso is a complex character. He appears wise yet finds himself on foolish paths. He appears to take care of those around him, but not himself. He loves his son but he’s absent. I watch Ted Lasso as a father and I see other iconic television dads in how he faces conflict, how he connects with others, and how he makes big life decisions—all good and bad.
MIKE BRADY / “The Brady Bunch” / MORALISTIC
Mike Brady once said, “Alone we can only move buckets. But if we work together, we can drain rivers.” That sounds like pure Lasso to me—and it’s no surprise. These two TV dads have a lot in common. They’re both down-to-Earth. They both have heroic levels of patience. And they can both instill life lessons from the slightest dilemma. The big difference is, Mike Brady drops his knowledge while kneeling one-on-one with his kids. Ted Lasso can’t do that for his son. But he does drop some Ted knowledge on others. You can see he genuinely enjoys helping other people become the best version of themselves they can be. He proves week-after-week that he has the tools to be a good dad.
DON DRAPER / “Mad Men” / ABSENT
Don Draper is absent for most of his children’s young lives. He’s either drunk and missing a birthday party, ditching his kids, or forgetting about them on his weekend to host. Maybe that’s what Ted Lasso was like when he was living with his son and ex-wife, Michelle—and why they got a divorce. We don’t know yet. When Henry visits at the end of Season One, he and Ted have a wonderful time together. But that’s just a sliver of their lives. Being a good dad is not just about shining during your kids’ fun moments—it’s also about being a guiding light during your kids’ dark times.
PHIL DUNPHY / “Modern Family” / EFFORT
Phil Dunphy is a one-man Neverland. He doesn’t want to grow up. He wants to stay young and connect with his three kids. He learns dance routines, plays the latest pop music, and often sides with the children over his wife. Phil calls it “peerenting.” Ted Lasso also craves relevance. He absorbs pop culture and distributes it with lightning round-style cadence. It pays off for both. That’s their charm. They show that they care by how hard they work to make others happy.
CLIFF HUXTABLE / “The Cosby Show” / KINDNESS
There’s a reason Cliff Huxtable was TV’s most beloved dad for about a decade: He’s a good man. Ignoring the monster who plays Dr. Huxtable, the character is kind-hearted and imbues a sense of optimism around him. It’s no surprise his house gets so many friendly visitors. People want to see Cliff. Ted Lasso is also kind-hearted. He has a bit of an edge but ultimately, he wants what’s best for those around him. Ted’s also optimistic that that people will become their best selves and patiently waits for it to happen. Dr. Huxtable shows the same positive outlook about his children and their friends—even Theo’s best bud Cockroach. We mostly see Ted showing this parenting skill to his team and friends. It’s something he’ll eventually have to do in person if he wants his son to truly benefit from his gift.
WALTER WHITE / “Breaking Bad” / SELFISHNESS
“I am not the one in danger, Skyler, I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!” It’s a chilling line, delivered by a good man turned evil. Walter White tells his wife he gave up being a good dad and husband, because he found something he’s better at. I watch Ted Lasso and I cannot stop thinking about this quote. We know Ted Lasso left his family to coach in Richmond. We don’t know why. Was it his ego like Walter White? Was he willing to pursue a tougher challenge at any cost? Part of being a great parent is making sacrifices. It is possible Ted was unwilling to compromise—and when Hannah Waddingham came knocking, Ted picked his own needs over his sons’ needs.
ANDY TAYLOR / “The Andy Griffith Show” / BURDENED
Andy Taylor was being folksy long before Ted lassoed us in with his charm. Like Ted, the small-town sheriff keeps the people of Mayberry grounded—especially his son Opie. Also, like Ted, Sheriff Andy does this with a burden he keeps hidden. There’s not another lawman in the region. He has a lot of good people to look out for, but you wouldn’t know it from his outward demeanor. He tells his deputy once, “I don’t carry a gun because I don’t want the people of Mayberry to fear a gun. I’d rather they respect me.” I don’t think you can find a better analogy for Ted Lasso’s coaching and parenting style. Sheriff Andy never showed his cards. Neither does Ted. He’s a shoulder to lean on, often bearing that burden without a word.
PHILIP BANKS / “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” / GROUNDED
Philip Banks’s presence is the rock that keeps his family stable—especially for Will (Smith), who has an absent father. Uncle Phil draws the lines and lets Will color inside. When Will’s scribbles go outside those lines, Philip Banks is there to clean up. Ted Lasso doesn’t draw lines like Uncle Phil. He lets others walk their own paths, but he is there to guide them from danger—and when they go astray, Ted is there to help. Philip Banks uses what he learned growing up on a farm in the south and on the streets of Baltimore to guide his kids. Ted’s history is less clear. It is apparent he’s made mistakes and he actively wants to make sure the people he cares about do not make the same mistakes. In coming seasons, I’d like to see how he uses his wisdom to help guide his son.
Ted Lasso: Effusive but Elusive
We never see the full picture of Ted. He gives us glimpses into his character. You think it’s a throwaway line, then it comes back later to reveal a little more about him. Like when he said, “I think a fella should only take as long as the tune ‘Easy Lover’ by Phil Collins and Philip Bailey to get dressed in the morning.” Later that episode, we saw a snippet of Ted getting ready to the song “Easy Lover.” That song means something to him. He’s giving people little peeks into his self but still keeping them at arm’s length.
It’s clear that mental health issues are taking a toll on Ted. It’s unclear why they developed. Near the end of Season Two, we found out his father killed himself when Ted was just sixteen. It’s possible he fears he’ll tread the same dark path as his father—and moved 4,400 miles away—to protect his son from the emotional pain he would cause if he did the same thing to himself. It’s hard to say, though, because Ted carries that burden alone. Of course, according to Ted, maybe he isn’t alone. He may have been speaking about his own pain, and given us another peek beyond his defenses, when he told his team, “I promise you there is something worse out there than being sad, and that’s being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.”
Ted Lasso is an absent parent and sometimes selfish. He carries a great emotional burden. But he wants to connect with others and help make sure they’re the best they can be. Ted Lasso is a complex father and role model, who is flawed, but trying his best. That’s what makes him such a great TV dad—and that’s what lassoes us in each week.
Love this. And love the comparisons. I do feel
Ted can’t be a dad from there and no matter what, it’s affecting his son. 😦 More will be revealed!
Season three is now in production!