Ted Lasso’s Mastery of ‘RomComs’

While it seemed at first that Ted Lasso might be “about football”, the series quickly proved to be much more than that. And it took on its “female soul”, with constant quotations from Broadway musicals and, in particular, romantic films, right away. Ted always talks about the genius of “romcoms” – as Hollywood simplifies when talking about romantic comedies – gamers love to watch classics together, cutscenes, sequences, and entire dialogue are quotes from common situations in this winning format of storytelling.

The most recent queen of romcoms was Nora Ephron, the screenwriter of When Harry Met Sally and the director of many hits, including You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. My favorite of hers is still her first, 1986’s Heartburn, which came out of her bestseller about her divorce and features the classic Carly Simon song, Coming Around Again. I read the book when I wasn’t mature enough to understand what a marriage was, let alone a divorce, but I fell in love with its writing style – always fluid, personal, like a chat – and since I was 16 I have had it as a great reference. Not all of her movies “worked”, all of her books are on my bookshelf and are sensational, but Norah was queen.

Telling a love story may seem easy, but playing with chemistry and text is a complex challenge. It’s easy to pinpoint Meg Ryan as her perfect alter ego, with the actress starring in several of the films directed and/or written by Norah, in particular, three of her best. The partnership with Billy Crystal was not repeated, but putting Tom Hanks by her side worked in several films, with two of the most famous and considered Norah classics consolidating the Hanks-Ryan brand, a bit like a ‘plague’ for both later ( who struggled to get rid of the label of romantic comedy actors).

This long introduction is due to the comparison Ted made in the penultimate episode of the final season of Ted Lasso: everyone loves You’ve Got Mail, but Sleepless in Seattle is a superior movie, he confides his opinion. I disagree, but there is consensus on what he says with many critics speaking of its brilliance in breaking the standard for romantic features. And for the #tedbeccas, yes it’s more of a troll on the relationship between Ted and Rebecca. In all of Norah Ephron‘s romantic comedies, the protagonists become best friends before falling in love, only realizing they are soulmates seconds before the credits roll. The difference is in an element that has never happened in Ted Lasso so far, which is that scene in which one of the two, or both, realizes that they are missing or jealous when they are not together. Ted and Rebecca are best friends in a relationship that has nothing sexual about it, something Harry told Sally was impossible in When Harry Met Sally. There is nothing more feminine in contradicting this ‘masculine’ version that men are only interested in women if there is sex involved. On the other hand, it is precisely this harmony of love between the characters that we appreciate so much and I swear that I want them together as much as I will be moved if the option is to subvert the obvious. In both situations, it will be brilliant like everything else in Ted Lasso.

Jason Sudeikis has been very wise in putting in the pinches of classics like Notting Hill or Love, Actually over the three seasons, but it’s in particular with Norah Ephron‘s classics that it signals the likely path for Ted and Rebecca. Both You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle are, in turn, inspired by classics that were successful before them, and yet, brilliant and original each in its own way.

The tagline of You’ve Got Mail says that Someone you pass on the street may already be the love of your life and the film is an updated remake of 1940’s Shop Around the Corner. It uses the elements of “opposites attract” with the story of two store employees who can’t stand each other but are unknowingly falling in love through the mail as “anonymous pen pals”. Hard to explain what this is for millennia, but before the internet existed, people wrote letters to strangers. It sounds scary, but it’s the same thing that happens on social networks and that’s what Norah wanted to show with the 1998 film, in the early days of the Internet and a period when emails were the most modern and current means of exchanging messages.

In the film, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) and Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) are business rivals and anonymous partners in a chat room. Both have partners who seem perfect to them but are incomplete. Joe realizes the truth BEFORE Kathleen does, and tries to overcome in real life her idealization of him as the unknown friend. They become friends and close until she ‘chooses’ the other, but when they finally meet, she discovers that it was always Joe. And she ends with the phrase “I always wanted it to be you”, which appeared in Ted Lasso. Sam exchanged a look with Rebecca when this scene appeared, because in the second season, they lived exactly that romance, but it’s over. The tip that fills us with hope is precise because Ted prefers Sleepless in Seattle.

1993’s Sleepless in Seattle has the tagline What if someone you’ve never met, someone you’ve never seen, someone you’ve never met was the only someone for you? which kind of diminishes the chances of letting #tedbecca ever happen, and yet the secret is in the plot. Like You’ve Got Mail, is heavily based on previous famous films, in particular, 1954’s An Affair to Remember, which is openly quoted throughout the story. Here, a widower, Sam (Tom Hanks), is an insomniac who is still grieving for his wife, and this worries his son, Jonah, who wants his father to be happy. Jonah seeks help on a radio show, where a psychologist – Dr. FIELDSTONE (same name as our therapist in Ted Lasso) ends up talking to the two. On the other side of the United States, journalist Annie Reed (Meg Ryan), connects with the story (falling in love with Sam), using the pretext to be writing about the fact, to approach Jonah and Sam. In the exchanges of messages, Jonah identifies Annie as the ideal partner for his father (despite her being engaged to another) and arranges to meet her at the top of the Empire State Building, on Valentine’s Day, using as inspiration the couple from An Affair to Remember. By running away to the meeting, Jonah ends up pushing Sam to go after him and thus meet Annie personally. The summary is strange because the story is full of comings and goings, but all well-sewn.

Sleepless in Seattle was a phenomenon at the box office and had something new in romantic comedies: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are never in the same scene, nor do they speak to each other during the film, they only share the screen in the final scene. Precisely because of this, it’s quoted as one of the most creative and romantic movies ever made. Taking her inspiration from An Affair to Remember, Norah Ephron uses meta language to her advantage. Again, something we’re seeing in Ted Lasso. Another thing the series is using the classic as a foundation for is that we’re seeing Ted and Rebecca pick themselves up after a traumatic divorce, supporting each other but not embarking on a romance themselves. Still, everything puts them in the way of the love encounter. Nora Ephron jokes during her film about the absurdities of romantic formulas while paradoxically justifying each one, leading the audience to root for the unlikely couple. Aren’t doing the same with #tedbecca? Of course, we are!

So we will most certainly have the ‘farewell scene at the airport’. We know that Ted Lasso is going to end with Ted leaving for the States. The question is, will Rebecca go along? One week left to end the suspense.


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