Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Surprising Depth of Ted Lasso

Scott D. Parker

I expected the laughs. I kind of expected some drama. I did not expect the characters and their relationships.

The wife and I finally watched both seasons of Ted Lasso, the Jason Sudeikis-fronted program on Apple TV. From the outside, it looked like just a sitcom about an American football coach brought over to England to coach a soccer team with the end goal being to drive said team into the ground. This being the plan of team owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) as a get-back to her ex-husband who left her for a younger woman and loved the team.

That might serve as the how-it-started part, but that’s nowhere near where it ended up. By the end of the 22 episodes to date, what we got was a show that could make you crane your ear at the TV to make sure you got the joke a character said in an off-hand manner and then next moment have you mute with emotion, with tears likely rimming your eyes.

Each character has a moment to shine, usually in multiple episodes. With Lasso himself, I expected a overly optimistic, shuck kind of guy where nothing much phases him. That’s certainly Lasso’s exterior, but on more than one occasion, Sudeikis lays bare the coach and reveals him to be a man who hides much behind his veneer of happiness.

That’s not to say his joy isn’t contagious. It was fun to watch his outlook on life wash over all the people in which he comes into contact, ultimately making them better people. Or more real, if you want to get down with the truth of this show.

There are so many things you could say about each character and after I watched the last episode, I got on the internet to read some.

Pro Tip: Never go on the internet when you are catching up on an existing show unless you want spoilers. I learned that lesson long ago and now I watch all my TV shows without my phone in my hand. Well, unless I’m watching the live broadcast of SyFy’s Resident Alien because the cast live tweets and they are hilarious and engaging. (But even then, I put the phone down during the show itself.)

But as much as I enjoyed each character’s moments in the spotlight, what I really appreciated was the depth of their relationships with each other. How great is team owner Rebecca and model/publicist Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). On screen, it’s like their sisters who only discovered each other in adulthood. Unlike other shows where these two might be pitted against each other for, say, to get the same guy, Keeley and Rebecca come to really love each other. They bolster each other when one is feeling down and there’s nary a mean things said between. Super refreshing.

The group of guys surrounding Lasso are also great to see on camera. Dubbed the Diamond Dogs, they consist of Lasso, assistant coach Beard (yup, the character’s real name and not just because actor Brendan Hunt sports facial hair), Director of Football Operations Leslie Higgins (Jeremy Swift), and Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed), the guy who went from being a kit manager to an assistant coach. They also keep things together between them and, most importantly, allow themselves to be vulnerable with each other.

By the end of the second season, I found myself thinking about the show over and over while mowing the lawn or commuting to work. The stories, the characters, the depth just stayed with me. Like I wrote about in a review of Resident Alien a few weeks ago, I’m just glad there are shows like Ted Lasso that demonstrate you can have a light and funny show while still delivering the depth and nuance you might only think exists in dramas.

There's a reason so many people respond to this show. 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Time to Pre-Order OLD MAN RIDER


Pre-order HERE or HERE

It’s all come down to this. The past, the present, and the conclusion of man who’s chosen to end so many colliding for the final time.

From an unimaginable start within the pages of A Better Kind of Hate to a bitter, bloody end throughout All of Them To Burn, Bishop Rider remains what he’s always been. What a certain type of predator forced him to become. His life and struggle not only a journey of choice driven by necessity, but one decades in the making.

There will be carnage. There will be blood. But through it all, a sliver of hope. And perhaps, if he’s lucky, a chance at brighter days.

Time to go to work.

Praise for Old Man Rider:

“With glorious, unapologetic brutality, Old Man Rider tells, through several vivid vignettes, of Bishop Rider’s exploits. Woven in are elements of his humanity, as well as his motivation. Johnson provides a well-written, thoughtful book of revenge, glorious bloody revenge. I found it utterly delightful and want more more more.” —Shannon Kirk, author of Gretchen

“Johnson’s the kind of writer you let drag you across the broken glass screaming because you know the destination’s going to make it all worth it. Brutal, dark, unflinching—this is a hell of a Rider story.” —Angel Luis Colon, author of Hell Chose Me

“Beau Johnson pulls no punches in this final installment of Bishop Rider stories. And rest assured, no one will be spared or saved. Riveting, heartbreaking, and bloody as ever. This collection took a 2x4 to my head—in the best way.” —Curtis Ippolito, author of Burying the Newspaper Man

Old Man Rider is flat-out amazing. While many of the stories are quick jabs to the gut or punches to the face, they string together in such perfect combinations that the book is an absolute slugfest. Great, wonderful stuff.” —Steve Weddle, author of Country Hardball

“Beau Johnson writes the kind of fiction your mother warned you about—feel the trauma, smell the flesh, taste the concrete—Old Man Rider is about to stomp you into oblivion.” —Zachary Ashford, author of When the Cicadas Stop Singing

“Absorbing and devastating, these are miniature morality plays. As if the angel of death was descending each level of hell, punishing the most evil people in the world. Bishop Rider books are an unapologetic fistful of concrete to the face.” —Manny Torres, author of Dead Dogs and Father Was a Rat King

“It’s said that ‘You eat the world or the world eats you.’ This theme is (re)introduced early and carried through this last installment of Bishop Rider’s story. Short, sharp stories delivering Rider’s signature violent revenge written with prose like a punch to the face. This cycle might be ended for now, but the work? The work is being done. Highly recommended.” —Alan Baxter, author of The Gulp and Shallow Bend

“Forget Dirty Harry and The Punisher. Step aside, too, Old Man Logan—there’s a new surly old cuss who’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice. Old Man Rider is a tough, vicious, violent, mean ol’ SOB, and Johnson’s writing is as dark, brutal, and twisted as ever. Beau’s saved the best for last, and these final stories in the life of Bishop Rider are a full-fledged assault upon the reader. I wouldn’t expect anything less, and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.” —Michael Patrick Hicks, author of Friday Night Massacre


Pre-order HERE or HERE

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Finally Hit by This Thing

I was going to sit down and write a piece early this morning as I usually do on Tuesdays, but yesterday at work I began to feel crummy, sore all over, with the signs of a cold coming on, and when I got home I gave myself a Covid test.  The result: positive.  And just when I thought I might actually be immune to the thing. Or outfitted with an immune system just about impregnable. My son had Covid last year and later my wife had it, and I never got it.  I am vaccinated and boosted of course.  Anyway, there it is.  So far I don't feel too terrible, but I'm going to go out to get a second test at a medical place to confirm the result, but it seems that I do have some variant of the virus. I'd prefer to rest today instead of pushing to get a piece done.

But I should be back with a piece next week.  For now, besides going back to bed, it's a question of what to binge watch later, if I'm up to it, and what to read.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Pro Wrestling and MMA--a Punch of a Guest Post


Book mail! Look what I got my hands on . . .

 Award-winning author and friend of the blog A.J. Devlin returns today with his third “Hammerhead Jed” novel. This one take pro wrestling and ups the beat-down stakes by throwing in some MMA. I highly recommend the whole series. Feel free to start with this one. Here’s A.J. to tell us more about it. - Claire

It’s an honour and a thrill to be back on for a third time – promoting a third book – thanks to the talented and generous Claire Booth!

Every time I contact my south-of-the-border author friend she always has an open mind and a great sense of humour, regardless of whether I’m pitching her potential ideas about discussing indie pro-wrestling, kidnapped snakes, roller derby action, competitive wiener dog racing, or banana milkshakes … lots and lots of banana milkshakes.

However, when I told Claire the next chapter in the “Hammerhead” Jed pro-wrestler PI mystery-comedy series was about how my grappling gumshoe and Dairy Queen aficionado would catch a case that drew him into the tight-knit mixed martial arts community – which ultimately leads him to encounter an exclusive and unique no-holds-barred fight club – she seemed intrigued.

Despite my great love for independent professional wrestling and women’s flat-track roller derby, there’s no denying they both lean more toward being considered “fringe sports,” whereas over the last twenty plus years MMA has absolutely exploded into mainstream media and pop culture. However, this kind of extreme combat has its own unique origin, and that’s where I wanted to take both my protagonist and this particular narrative. It can be argued that some of the toughest and most devastating fighters ever to throw down were never known by many, save for those on the receiving end of their beatdowns, until the likes of street fighters and real life urban legends such as Kimbo Slice began to bridge the gap between what was whispered about and out of sight and what you can now regularly view at a pub on a weekend the way you would a hockey or football game.

If there is no glamour, no pomp and circumstance, and certainly no pay outs, what drives these fierce city warriors to fight in the first place? Is it pride? Machismo? A primal need to be a dominant “Alpha Male?”

Or is it something more … something deeper, perhaps, that pushes them to punish their bodies with a guarantee of almost little-to-no fanfare? While some of these questions are answered in my latest book, each character’s reasons for finding themselves in such a predicament and environment are wholly different and distinctive, just as I imagine they would be for the real-life fighters who served as inspiration for this bare-knuckled backdrop of brutality.

Ultimately, what I really wanted to achieve in Five Moves of Doom was to try and find a way to not only provide the signature escapist action and humour I hope my series has become known for, but also go deeper into the psyche of “Hammerhead” Jed, all without sacrificing the tempo of what I worked hard to try and make an engrossing and page turning story.

As a pro-wrestler turned PI, and being the same kind of hoss ring general akin to squared circle legends like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and Triple H, there’s no denying that “Hammerhead” Jed Ounstead is very much defined by his physicality and is used to being the biggest and toughest guy on the scene.

While Jed is also certainly clever and has his own style and guile, when conceiving of where next to take such an affable and offbeat investigator I found myself wondering what would happen if while working a case he found himself as more than just an underdog? What if he was suddenly unable to not only rely on his usual brawn to get him through the kind of tough scrapes he’s encountered so far as a sleuth, but was also shaken to his very core and questioning who he is not just as a detective or a skilled combatant, but also as a man?

How would this person continue on without the advantage they had become so accustomed to? Would they lick their wounds? Pull up their bootstraps and try again? Come up with another strategy or change their tactics? Or would they simply through in the towel altogether?

I believe that when you take a character and strip them of their most essential and intrinsic quality there is an opportunity to showcase an emotional depth that might not often be able to be examined in generally fast-paced and fun genre fiction such as mysteries. And I thought maybe such a development might lead to some engaging drama that could perhaps allow me as an author to do something a little bit different this time around with such a stalwart series lead, and, in turn, offer something both familiar yet also fresh. By exploring these themes in Five Moves of Doom I’m convinced for better or worse that a much more vulnerable “Hammerhead” Jed is revealed, and, as a result, readers may find themselves getting to know him better in this threequel than in the first two books combined.

A.J. Devlin grew up in Greater Vancouver before moving to Southern California where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from Chapman University and a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute. After working as a screenwriter in Hollywood, he moved back home to Port Moody, BC, where he now lives with his wife and two children.

Buy Five Moves of Doom on IndieBound or Amazon. And follow A.J. on Twitter @ajdevlinauthor.