Big wins at the Emmys for 'Ted Lasso' – the show Christians love but disagree about

This year’s Emmy Awards ceremony has just wrapped up in Hollywood and everyone’s favourite guy – the irresistible Ted Lasso – had a win.

Apple TV+ hit Ted Lasso won this year’s Emmy award for Best Comedy Series. Actor Jason Sudeikis, who plays Ted Lasso himself, received the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

After receiving a whopping 20 award nominations ahead of the 73rd annual ceremony – 13 of which were in the major categories – the feel-good comedy series had a big night in the comedy field.  It took out both the Outstanding Supporting Actor and Actress categories, with Brett Goldstein (who plays Roy Kent) and Hannah Waddingham (who plays Rebecca Welton) each receiving awards.

Ted Lasso has been widely touted as a kind of soothing balm that viewers across the world needed during the COVID-19 pandemic’s lockdown last year. Christian commenters have been especially keen to sing the show’s praises.

“Someone in that writer’s room must be a believer in Jesus” – Rob Seddon

Ted Lasso is striking, in this particular time, because it shines a light into our own darkness. For those of us who are not natural optimists, who tell ourselves that we do not have the ‘gift of encouragement, or perhaps even sinfully run toward cutting down others in the name of ‘speaking truth’, Ted offers the bright alternative of what we are called to be: life-givers, who love well, and hope well,” writes Michaela Flack for Christ and Pop Culture.

“Slow to anger and rich in love, the out-of-place hero of the Apple TV series captures the curious kindness of Christ,” remarks J.R. Forasteros.

In his piece for Baptist News, Greg Garrett considers a pivotal scene from the show’s first season.

It’s the scene where team owner Rebecca Welton confesses to Ted that she brought him to England “explicitly to fail so her ex-husband could know the despair of his beloved football team tanking”. Rebecca tells Ted “how she had undermined him over and over again, how their entire relationship was a lie”.

“Ted sits with that for a moment and then he declares: ‘I forgive you’. As we would say in my family, it’s an incredibly Jesus-y moment,” Garrett notes.

And then comes Garrett’s kicker: “We don’t act like this. But we should.”

Many others have picked up on the show’s “Jesus-y” moments and wondered what their source might be.

“Someone in that writer’s room must be a believer in Jesus. And if they’re not, they have tapped into something that is eternally true because Ted looks to the people around him how every follower of Jesus is supposed to look to people in this world but so seldom do,” asserts Rob Seddon in his boldly entitled ‘There’s a new TV show that will make your life better”.

Yet while everyone agrees that Ted Lasso is heartwarming viewing, Christians have a range of opinions about whether it should serve as an example to follow.

“In an age when the hypocrisy of religious leaders and their myopic focus on culture war issues causes grave scandal to many Christians and non-Christians alike, we might do well to look to other examples of what Christian discipleship looks like in action – even when the terms ‘Christian’ or ‘religion’ or ‘faith’ never appear,” says Daniel P. Horan, in “The anonymous Christianity of Ted Lasso”.

Justine Toh is more measured in her assessment. She reflects on the show through the lens of author Stephen McAlpine’s advice to Christians: “Be the best bad guy you can be” – i.e. if secular mainstream casts Christians as villains, focus on being a good neighbour to everyone.

“Yes, Ted Lasso is just a TV show and not a handbook for Christians to cheerfully accept being misunderstood, marginalised, or pegged as the villain,” Toh writes. “But the show isn’t a bad model for what it looks like to be cheerful even under pressure. Bad guy Christians could do a lot worse than looking like good guy Ted Lasso.”

“Ted Lasso offers the promise of a Christless kind of Christianity.” – Mike Frost

Aussie Baptist Mike Frost is more hesitant, despite readily acknowledging, “I love Ted Lasso. And I don’t just mean the comedy series from Apple TV. I mean, I love Ted Lasso the man.”

It’s the show’s Christmas special in season two that has caused Frost to ponder.

Ted Lasso seems to suggest we can have all the things Jesus taught without having to bother with Jesus himself. But in the gospels, the birth narratives frontload the kingship of Jesus,” Frost writes.

“Angels praise him, foreign astrologers honour him, simple men and women declare him to be the promised one. Even a local king attempts to assassinate him as a rival. The message is clear: a heavenly king has come to establish his kingdom on earth. And that kingdom will be characterised by joy, peace, healing, justice and deliverance from oppression. But the benefits of the kingdom are only possible in relationship with the king.”

Frost acknowledges, “Some might say I’m nit-picking here” and that it isn’t a Christian show.

“I don’t expect Ted Lasso to start preaching the gospel,” he says.

“I’m just saying the complete lack of any reference to anything remotely religious or Christian seems glaring when the show itself is so, well, Christian. And that seemed all the more glaring in a Christmas special.”

Frost considers a thought by author Mark Sayers: “Today, we want the Kingdom without the King”.

“Ted Lasso offers the promise of a Christless kind of Christianity – a world of repaired relationships, multiethnic banquets, and renewed souls – with no reference to Christ himself,” Frost notes with concern.

Christianity Today‘s podcast host and journalist Morgan Lee makes no bones about what the show does not offer its viewers: “Ted Lasso doesn’t have much to say about religion, or where ultimate hope might be found”.

“But,” Lee adds, “his persistence in his joy makes him attractive, especially for those in his life who have given up.”

More importantly, Lee notes that “the show has begun to suggest that Ted’s optimism may actually be masking deep hurt and pain” in season two. And in this tension, Christians may well find inspiration.

“Our love for the show perhaps exemplifies our hunger for a space where trauma, joy, forgiveness and community can coexist. And during a time of death and division, the church has a unique chance to be the messenger of the most consequential good news. How do we avoid the pitfall of shallow optimism and offer a greater gospel?” Lee writes.

“The call of the Christian life is a complex one. It calls us to both joy and sorrow, both hope and lament. It calls us to a posture of wisdom, one where we discern when to sit in solidarity with friends who mourn, when to speak truth, and when to call a brother or sister to hope (Ecc. 3:4). In the gospel, the contradictions Lasso’s creators attempt to portray meld harmoniously together. Maybe we can show our friends the real-life thing.”