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Fans might be surprised at how those Apple TV 'Ted Lasso' soccer games are played

By Omar L. Gallaga
Special to the American-Statesman

Apple TV+’s biggest success story so far might be “Ted Lasso,” a feel-good sports series starring former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Jason Sudeikis.

The series, which debuted its first season last year just when audiences needed to feel better about life in general, won over fans, critics, and even the awards-show circuit.

The SXSW Online panel about the show, “Ted Lasso: Emotion in the Edit,” didn’t feature the show’s main attraction, star and co-creator Sudeikis, unfortunately. But longtime TV wiz Bill Lawrence (“Scrubs,” “Cougartown”) and editors who work on putting the series together revealed some behind-the-scenes details on Wednesday.

The good news for fans is that the show is on deck to continue for at least two more seasons, which Lawrence says is enough time to tell the beginning, middle and end of the coach’s story. But he’s open to spinoffs featuring different characters or continuing the story beyond its three-season arc.

“It will probably keep going as long as Jason is having a fun time doing it,” he said.

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The scale of the success of the series has been unexpected. “We are tickled and surprised as anyone,” he said, “it’s amazing how it’s resonated.”

Jason Sudeikis created the character Ted Lasso as a promotion for NBC's telecasts of English Premier League soccer. Now he has his own series on Apple TV+.

The panel was moderated by Nancy Jundi, a staff writer for American Cinema Editors Magazine who also works on production for the show. Jundi’s (spoiler-free) knowledge of how the show comes together was clear, and she was able to highlight key emotional high points in the series, complete with clips, for the pre-recorded session to accentuate the points. (Remember, these are all film editors.)

Most interesting were discussions about how the show manages to balance its humorous and heartfelt tones with its themes of mentorship and growth. The origin of the series, Lawrence says, was the desire to make a sports movie as a TV series, then to subvert audience expectations of what happens next.

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The surprising plot twists toward the end of the show’s first season are a good example of drawing out the story rather than simply following the blueprint for a fictional show about sports. “Ted Lasso” is tightly scripted, but because all 10 episodes are worked on simultaneously and not locked in until the entire season is finished, it allows for tinkering and to plant information early for moments and storylines that will play out later in the show or even in future seasons.

“It’s a really good way to make television,” Lawrence said.

Sudeikis himself got a crash course in TV-show editing and took to it quickly and with a keen eye for detail, the editors agreed.

“He went through each cut with a finer-tooth comb than anyone expected,” Lawrence said.

How music is chosen for the show was touched on; editor Melissa McCoy described finding one perfectly chosen song, “Strange,” while cleaning her house. She said she’s been surprised to get questions from people who typically never ask about her job.

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“People reach out. As an editor, that never happens, it’s wild,” McCoy said.

For those not in the editing world, perhaps the biggest surprise of the panel was how much the show uses special effects. About 10 VFX shots go into every episode, said supervising producer Kip Kroeger. The Crystal Palace stadium in the show was a perfect setting, but the show was not allowed to set any actors on the field or use it for fictional soccer matches. The show’s matches are a careful blend of CGI animation, multiple location shoots, and clever camera work

“That was all part of the plan from the start,” Kroeger said.