Drama is king in the prestige TV era. From “Game of Thrones’” record-shattering run at the Emmys to Sandra Oh’s barrier-breaking Golden Globe win for “Killing Eve,” these big-budget grand spectacles dominate the awards show headlines. But this year’s elongated awards season has been a bit different. A small-time Canadian comedy, “Schitt’s Creek,” ran the table in the Emmy’s comedy category on Sunday.
Against the backdrop of more diversity scandals and, of course, the coronavirus, the best news coming out of the Golden Globes was arguably the surprising win of Jason Sudeikis for “Ted Lasso” (“Schitt’s Creek” also added to its trophy case.) These two shows, with their small stakes and big hearts, are a reminder that one doesn’t need to be over-the-top to be a winner. Sometimes, the decent underdog can win.
“Schitt’s Creek” had never even gotten a single Golden Globes nomination before this year, its sixth and final season. A family labor of love from Dan and Eugene Levy, its wins for best TV comedy and best comedic actress for long-time star Catherine O’Hara created a heartwarming Hollywood ending for a show that only became widely popular in its final seasons.
“Ted Lasso” was a different kettle of fish. Announced by AppleTV+ in October 2019, just before the streamer’s underwhelming launch, it seemed like the type of project that got greenlighted by a company with more money than sense. The show’s main protagonist was inspired by a pair of NBC Sports ads for the English Premiere League. They featured an American football coach (Lasso) who had just been hired to run one of the U.K.’s storied soccer franchises (the Tottenham Hotspurs). The joke, of course, is that while these two sports might both be called “football” in their home countries, they are totally different.
It’s not the first time TV has attempted to take popular commercials and turn them into prime-time sitcom fare. (Does anyone else remember the short-lived GEICO “Caveman” series?) The moral of those failures has always been that what works as a 30-second promo cannot sustain 30 minutes of TV.
But while the show’s arrival in August 2020 brought little fanfare, critics were pleasantly surprised to discover that, like the club Lasso takes over in the series, Apple had made an unlikely winner. And even more surprising? Decency was the secret ingredient.
The actual plot of the series is about as thin as a commercial break. Sudeikis reprises his role from the original NBC promos, though here Lasso is hired by the fictional AFC Richmond team. Owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), who got custody of her ex-husband’s beloved team in the divorce settlement, hires Lasso because she thinks he’ll destroy the team with his goofy incompetency — the ultimate revenge on her ex. But that made-for-TV conflict quickly disappears because Rebecca has unwittingly hired the Fred Rogers of sporting coaches. Over the 10-episode season, this team of underdogs becomes the biggest story of the year, simply because he treats his players and the game with respect.
What’s most remarkable is that the show isn’t even all that funny, at least, not by American standards. “Lasso” feels more in line with a type of British sitcom that is less about laugh tracks and more about sentimentality. It’s a format that rarely successfully crosses the pond. So this feting by the Golden Globes is as surprising a feel-good moment as Richmond winning against its longtime rivals Everton.
If how he dressed for the Globe was any indication, Sudeikis certainly wasn’t expecting to win any trophies. He beat out Eugene Levy for “Schitt’s Creek” in the best actor category for comedy dressed in a tie-dye hoodie and Zooming from his living room. Sudeikis’ “stoner casual” look was, as they say, an entire mood after a year of lockdowns. But “Schitt’s Creek” fans couldn’t fault his win, any more than “Ted Lasso” fans could feel bad about losing out on the top prize. When the awards are being divided between the two happiest shows on streaming, everybody wins.
The Globes worked hard to make the event feel less causal than the Emmy’s “Zoom Call of 2020,” putting nominees up in rented hotel suites to maximize the possibility of elegant backgrounds and encouraging actors to go all out on the fashion front. (Josh O’Conner, who won for “The Crown,” wore a cravat, for example.)
But not everyone was so willing to play along. Jodie Foster won in her pajamas with her wife by her side and her puppy on her lap. Jeff Daniels looked like he’d ducked into the guest room for 10 minutes. They, like Sudeikis, were a reminder that in these times you don’t have to bring the drama, and in fact, it’s far more relatable to those at home when you don’t. If 2020 was the year of comfort comedies, it’s only right that those who made them also get to be comfortable while winning. It’s the decent thing to do.