Squawk Box: Ted Lasso/Mare of Easttown

When Foundation dropped on AppleTV a few months ago, I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger on the two-month free trial that came along with my shiny new iPhone. There were plenty of shows I was interested in on AppleTV- mainly Foundation, but also For All Mankind and eventually, just randomly, I decided to give Ted Lasso a whirl. 

I raced through the first three episodes and then immediately realized that the Missus may like this show as well, so we started over from the beginning and raced through both of the seasons together. 

The ultimate fish-out-of-water story, Ted Lasso is the story of an American football coach, Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) who is hired by the new owner of Richmond F.C, the recently divorced Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) who 'won' the team in her recent divorce from her wealthy husband Rupert (Anthony Head.) Bitter and wanting revenge on her ex-husband, she has hired Ted to run the team into the ground. Ted seems to be unaware of all of this- he comes across as unsophisticated and out of his depth, but he is also smarter than he looks and absolutely loves coaching. He cares more about people than wins, figuring correctly that if you take care of the people, the wins will sort themselves out.

His charm and genuine niceness gradually begin to win people other, starting with Leslie Higgins (Jeremy Swift), the Director of Football Operations who is aware of Rebecca's initial plan, but gradually becomes more sympathetic to Ted. Ted connects with the members of the team, working to get the best performances out of Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), the young up and coming striker, and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) the aging midfielder who is getting close to retirement. With his long-time assistant and friend Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) to help balance out Ted's personality, Richmond F.C. pulls together- but despite that, at the end of the first season, they're relegated out of the Premier League. 

The second season gets down to the nitty-gritty of who Ted Lasso is and what makes his kick, thanks to the arrival of sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) but even as Ted battles through his issues on the field and off, he doesn't realize that he's been alienating some of his colleagues in the process, including wunderkind Nate (Nick Mohammad) who ends up leaving the club at the end of the second season. 

This show could have gone off the rails quite easily- to be honest, Ted Lasso doesn't seem real at first. There's no way anyone could be that nice or that genuine in real life, but gradually, little by little over the course of the first season and then even more so into the second, you learn why he is the way he is and it feels real and earned.

This is one of those shows that I have to be sort of vague about because it's that good. The characters are incredible, the cast amazing and the evolution of the writing is perfect- even more so when you find out that they've only planned this to go three seasons. I love when shows know when to quit while they're ahead and while I don't know what they've got in mind for the third season, right now this show is writing and acting on a superb level, and if they maintain that for once more season this is going to go down as one of the best shows on television. Overall: I fell in love with this show- it's easy to do if you like soccer, but even if you have an idea about soccer and hate sports, this is still a show that you will enjoy. The characters are just that likable. It's funny, well-written, sweet, and genuine. My Grade: ***** out of *****

Mare of Easttown is the polar opposite of Ted Lasso. A seven-episode limited series over on HBO, it stars Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet), who is a Detective of the Easttown PD- a rough around the edges suburb of Philadelphia. As the series opens, she's ordered to reopen the year-old investigation into the disappearance of a young girl by the name of Katie Bailey, when the girl's mother, Dawn complains to the news about the unsolved case. She resents the fact that the Chief wants her to bring in another Detective from the County to have a set of eyes to look at the case. She's still coming to terms with the death of her son, the dissolution of her marriage, and the fact that her ex-husband, Frank is getting married and has invited her entire family to the engagement party, while she is being honored for the 25th Anniversary of her state championship win with the high school basketball team- amongst her teammates: Kate Bailey's Mom, Dawn.

In the face of all of that, another young teen- this time, a teen mom, by the name of Erin McMenamin turns up dead in a local creek.

With the chaos of her life colliding with the pressures of her job, Mare has to start pulling on threads to solve a murder, not realizing that they lead to truths that people want to keep buried and the ultimate truth about what happened to Kate Bailey and who murdered Erin McMenamin might be closer than she thought.

Well, it's a crime show- so I don't want to go too far down the rabbit hole of the plot because I really don't want to risk spoiling anything for people who haven't seen it- but Kate Winslet is incredible in this. She oozes exhaustion. Her accent- and I can't speak to the accuracy of the Philly/Philly suburbia accent- seems to be on point. Her family- especially the always excellent Jean Smart as Helen Fahey, her mother, and David  Deman as Frank, her ex-husband are good foils and bounce of her hard-bitten Detective quite nicely- the former is especially good.

The crime show of it all is suitably meat and attention-grabbing. It's a tense thrill ride with plenty of surprises, false trails, and red herrings before revealing the truth. But what I really liked about this show is the evolution of Mare herself--  the show drags her through professional and personal shit before leaving her in a better place by the end of the show. She doesn't exorcise her demons, but she is a little less tired. And while that's not 'peace' per se, it's an ending that feels real and earned.

Overall: I love me a good limited series- the fact that this is seven episodes long is perfect. You get a complete story and a story told well, to boot. Kate Winslet is incredible. Jean Smart is perfect. It all just works, really, really well. If you're looking for a nice, digestible show to get through without having to worry about multiple seasons or a time commitment, this is perfect. If you're a sucker for crime dramas, murder mysteries, or thrillers this is a show worth watching. My Grade: **** out of *****

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