“Ted Lasso” took home seven Emmy awards this year after receiving 20 nominations, more than any comedy has ever received in its first season. But while the series has been critically lauded for its originality (Variety recently praised the risky storytelling of Season 2), the idea of “Ted Lasso” had been percolating for almost two decades before its premiere.
Co-creators, writers and stars Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly first conceptualized the character of Ted Lasso in Amsterdam in the early 2000s while performing in the comedy troupe Boom Chicago, according to an interview with Hunt in the Daily Beast. They then debuted the character on-screen in the form of an NBC Sports ad in 2013.
Sudeikis, who plays Ted and also executive produces, first learned the rules of soccer from Hunt (Coach Beard), who developed an obsession with the sport in Amsterdam. Between backstage conversations and games of “FIFA” on the troupe’s communal PlayStation, the pair thought up an American football coach hired to lead a team of English soccer players while knowing nothing about the sport, according to the Daily Beast interview.
NBC Sports acquired the rights to air the UK’s Premier League soccer matches in 2013 and needed a way to hook in American audiences. Enter Sudeikis and Hunt, Sudeikis having just concluded a decade-long tenure on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” They created a series of promos that garnered millions of views on YouTube and helped establish a solid viewership in the States.
Though the promos accomplished what they set out to do, Sudeikis found that Lasso wasn’t leaving him. Something about the character continued to resonate with him, and his then-partner Olivia Wilde encouraged him to create a TV series about him, according to Sudeikis’ recent GQ profile. Sudeikis, Hunt and Kelly got together in 2015 and wrote a pilot episode along with an outline for the first season. But the script sat on the back burner for two years — until Sudeikis got to talking with “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence in 2017, who liked the idea, read the script and came onboard, as Sudeikis told Sports Illustrated. They sold the series to Apple TV Plus in October 2019, and the rest is record-breaking history.
See the first iteration of “An American Coach in London” below.