C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

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What Writers Can Learn from Ted Lasso

First, some clever fun from the show to give you some flavor:


“He’s mad.”

“If he thinks he’s angry now, wait until we win him over!”

“He’ll be furious!”

I love Ted Lasso for lot of reasons, but let’s talk dialogue.


Recently, I spotted something glorious I hadn’t witnessed in a long time. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I watched Ted Lasso. It’s a fine comedy we got invested in from the jump. We are in cynical and tough times, so Apple+ is serving up a character who is almost relentlessly positive and optimistic. Jason Sudeikis plays the anti-Dexter.

They do something special with dialogue I love. The words work hard and the show doesn’t condescend to their audience or cater to the lowest common denominator.

Words: Singing and Zinging

I saw Grosse Pointe Blank in a theater in 1997. They did something with the dialogue that we don’t see often enough. The jokes and dopamine hits came at a breathless pace. The audience would laugh so hard at one joke, you couldn’t hear the next. But what made it special was the delivery. The actors fired off each line as if they were throwaways and they didn’t slow down.

Ted Lasso does the same thing often. The delivery is rapid fire and if you didn’t catch the last joke or if it was a bit of a thinker, you’ll be on the next joke bus because it’s coming quick. What they don’t make time for is the long setup. The punchlines are jabs with few feints before the next blow hits. (Yes, I know buses and boxing make for mixed metaphors, but that’s how excited I am about how they construct their scripts.)

Brevity and wit: those two are alway in a lovelock on Ted Lasso. Some of the pop culture references are bold because they are old. It’s as if the showrunner pinned a rule to the front page of the show bible: THIS SHOW CASTS A WIDE NET. IT’S NOT JUST FOR PEOPLE ON TIKTOK. WE’RE TAKING THE FACEBOOK AUDIENCE, TOO!

For contrast, see the other end of the spectrum

In Predator, there’s the famous scene where Arnold accidentally manages to camouflage himself in mud. As the scene plays out from the alien’s perspective, it’s apparent our hero isn’t showing up on the infrared scan. That was great. Then Arnold delivers a clarification for all the nimrods in the audience: “He can’t see me!” That took me right out of it and the only way to get back the moment would have been for the Predator to hear his dumb exclamation and come back to kill him.

Make the words count and give them power. Say things in clever ways.

In real life, most people do not speak like they’ve got a room full of writers backing them up. West Wing walk and talks would have had to be much longer if they were ordinary humans who had to stop to look up statistics and occasionally hem, haw, and clear their throats. But if you want ordinary dialogue that’s not so witty, that’s the real world. You know, the shit we’re trying to get away from when we read.

For inspiration, check out any YouTube clips of Alan Shore’s closings from Boston Legal. Sadly, most lawyers aren’t as smart as all that. Most couldn’t be. However, within the context of the show, we accept that Alan Shore really is that funny and sharp on the fly.

Ordinary is easy. Some writers even convince themselves that dialogue should never sparkle. They equate boring with verisimilitude. If boring is used to lull the reader into a false sense of security only to upend their expectations, make that scene short and end with a gunshot so you don’t lose them.

How Ted Lasso sets such a furious pace

Ted Lasso has so little time for dialogue that no character knocks. They burst into rooms. Once, Jason Sudeikis rushed into the boss’s office so fast I thought he’d broken the door. I suspect their scripts are thick because they pack in more dialogue than average. Fortunately, they have actors who can deliver and, not for nothing, the show has tons of heart. Villains get fleshed out, understood, and are often forgiven and redeemed.

But there’s no flab on those bones. Despite there being so many words, there’s also a great economy of words on display. For instance, football star Roy Kent makes his use of the f-word erudite, no further explanation needed. At another point, you’re bracing yourself for a long explanation when all you need and all you get is, “I listen more than I talk.” The writers expect the viewers to meet them halfway, so more often than not a gesture and a brushstroke will do, no need for footnotes.

And hey, if you didn’t catch that Robert Plant joke immediately, you probably got the follow-up with the Jimmy Page joke.

~ I write sparkling dialogue. See for yourself in my latest apocalyptic thriller, Endemic, available now in ebook, paperback, and hardcover.

I was a nail. I am a hammer.

As the United States falls to disease, killers and thieves rule New York. Bookish, neurotic, and nerdy, Ovid Fairweather finds herself trapped in the struggle for survival. 

Bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and hunted by marauders, Ovid is forced to fight.

With only the voices in her head as her guides, an unlikely heroine will become a queen.

Fun, surprising, and suspenseful, Endemic is the new apocalyptic novel from the author of Citizen Second Class, This Plague of Days, and AFTER Life.

Begin your next binge read now with Endemic.

Check out all my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: TV Shows, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. acflory says:

    I love Gross Point Blank so I can relate. 🙂

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