You can learn a lot from TV's most optimistic character.
Things got pretty bad during 2020, but while there was darkness, there was also light. Millions of us turned toward the only thing that fostered hope in the dire straits... a football coach who moves to England to coach soccer, bakes cookies, and does what's right, even if no one believes it will work.
Yeah, I'm talking about Ted Lasso, the titular character of 2020's massive hit series. It was renewed for a second season of 12 episodes five days after its premiere and got a third season shortly after that.
The pilot of the show really put us in Ted's shoes and showed how a funny bit could be extrapolated into something interesting and heartfelt. There are way more than three lessons to be learned from this episode, but I wanted to focus on the big ones and see what we could glean.
Read and download the Ted Lasso pilot script PDF here.
3 Lessons from Ted Lasso Pilot Screenplay PDF
1. Find the heart
I'm just going to lead with what caught everyone's attention while watching the show. This half-hour is written with its hard on its sleeve. It's about love for yourself, for your fellow man, and how that love will carry you through the hard times.
The heart of your show matters. I'm not saying you have to be as schmaltzy as Ted Lasso, but we need to know what makes us care. That could be the deeply interesting character or issues, maybe not. Just find out what makes a show like yours tick, and then highlight it moving forward.
2. Begin ongoing conflicts
Pilots are for showing the audience what a typical episode will be like on your show. One thing that will give your show the room to operate in more episodes down the line is showing the conflicts that will occur. This is the same for comedies and dramas. Without conflict, you can't have laughs or tears.
In the Ted Lasso pilot, we see that Ted misses his family, bristles against the players, has an owner who wants to lose, and can't get used to living in England. That's a lot of conflicts. But it shows us what we will see him try, succeed, and fail at in the upcoming episodes and subsequent seasons.
So what kinds of conflict happen in your pilot, and how will they shape the narrative?
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-C0LOHkXhw
3. Define your protagonist
As you probably know, the character of Ted was based on a character Jason Sudekis played in commercials. It was a funny bit that gained a viral life on the internet and was shared all over. When the show was greenlit, Sudekis had to craft this character with showrunner Bill Lawrence to make it work. Together, they figured out the character of an optimist at the center of something exciting, with soapy romantic hints and a big heart.
The reason these swings made sense in the world was that they had clearly defined who Ted Lasso was—he was the guy who never lost faith in people. Not even when the audience was seeing failure on the horizon. Ted's character grounded the story. When good things happen, we felt like it was due to Ted efforts, and when they didn't, we saw how Ted rolled with the punches, and it brought us closer.
Defining who your character is and their place in this world helps a story like this take off. It helps nail down the tone and manage audience expectations.
What's next? How To Write a TV Drama Pilot
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