This post contains spoilers for Ted Lasso.
Award season in the age of social distancing has swapped crowded red carpets for glam (or dressed-down options) at home. At the Emmys, Schitt’s Creek swept the comedy categories for its final season, but in recent weeks AFC Richmond’s very own Ted Lasso has proved this is not a one-contender title race. The Critics Choice Awards was somewhat overshadowed by the TV event of the year but amid the bombshells and memes, fancy frocks, and tearful speeches made an impression. One such moment occurred when Hannah Waddingham won Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as soccer club owner Rebecca Welton. A shocked reaction followed by Waddingham enthusiastically yelling out the names of various Ted Lasso creatives was a charming moment. Flashing her bare feet at the camera — fancy gown and no shoes is the benefit of a virtual broadcast — rounded off this spontaneous response.
Doing press the following day, co-star Juno Temple revealed she had to run into another room to avoid squealing on live TV, but an image of the pair embracing (captured by Ted Lasso hair and makeup artist Nicky Austin) shows a thrilled Temple — the second season is currently shooting in London. Not only is her character Keeley Jones the loudest person in the room cheering on Rebecca, but Temple is doing the same for her co-star. Keeley and Rebecca’s Season 1 arc goes against expectations and to celebrate Waddingham’s win here is why this friendship is so refreshing.
Unlikely pairings are a staple in comedy that often plays the straight guy off a more outlandish figure. This familiar dynamic can apply to friendships and flirtation, but there is still room to be surprised when a TV show travels this well-worn path. Enemies to friends (or lovers) is another plot that intersects with a chalk and cheese coupling but in Ted Lasso, the antagonist stage is thankfully skipped when developing one of the most rewarding Season 1 relationships. After Keeley Jones is introduced as the girlfriend of star player Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), she could have become a tabloid celebrity punchline. Instead, Keeley is the heart of the Apple TV+ comedy, and her relationship with Rebecca is central to the success of this show (and the fictional club).
What could be posed as a generation battle between a Girlboss and an executive Leaning In (because no woman can be powerful without a cutesy monicker) becomes something else entirely. When Rebecca offers Keeley work as a branding consultant for the players (after she has arranged sponsorship for Jamie), Keeley worries it is a kickback after their drunken bathroom deep-and-meaningful. Rather than denying that this had any influence, Rebecca instead points to the business relationships men have cultivated during social hours. Plus, Keeley’s "famous for being almost famous" hustle proves how good she is at this aspect of the industry.
“Strong and a bit prickly” is how Keeley describes Rebecca when she gets her a cactus to say thank you for sorting out the paparazzi drama (unaware at this moment that her new pal was behind the Ted "affair" images). In the previous episode, Rebecca has been rather dismissive of Keeley’s “panda or lion” dilemma — before she gives a detailed answer to this debate — leading to Keeley’s observation that she is “intimidating and very tall” observation. Pinpointing someone’s defense tactics (beyond the soccer pitch) is one of Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) strengths and he remarks that Rebecca’s fences can be hopped over, which lays this friendship seedling. Keeley loves fluffy pink pillows and lacks a filter, but it is no coincidence that her deepest relationships across the 10 episodes are with the two most hardened characters.
Advice and Hype
“Just put one foot in front of the other, yeah? And put your hand on your hip, and make, like a claw shape,” Keeley tells a visibly nervous Rebecca in front of the baying photographers at a fancy gala. “For the Children” is a mid-season turning point that highlights how much these two women have in common. It would be easy to cause drama by pitting the older Rebecca against Keeley with a thread of jealousy running through their interactions. Considering the many women Rebecca’s ex has been stepping out with look a lot like Keeley, this path is signposted. Instead, a bond forms, beginning with the cactus gift and Keeley’s enthusiastic response to a paparazzi moment Rebecca is ashamed of — “Wow, you really blew my brains out with those beautiful breasts of yours.”
Keeley doesn’t try to steal the red carpet spotlight and chooses to embolden the woman who doesn’t need to be her frenemy to add tension. Not only does she share this posing lifehack, but she stands behind the scrum and yells “Look at her! She’s fucking fit!” No one loves to utter affirming praise more than Keeley Jones. Again, it would be very boring if the two main women characters were at each other’s throats, and thankfully the writers haven’t walked down this outdated path. During the aforementioned bathroom scene, Rebecca and Keeley indulge in a relatable ritual that often occurs when you have had a few drinks. Sharing makeup, drinks, and advice is part of the night out bathroom experience and this safe space is a venue for venting. Sometimes you never see this person again, but for Rebecca and Keeley, it is only the beginning and it leads to a beautiful nightcap (okay, a bottle of champagne each).
A trip to Liverpool to watch Richmond play away at Everton takes this friendship to “girls trip” status and the arrival of Rebecca’s neglected best friend Sassy (Ellie Taylor) doesn’t ruin the good thing they have going. Again, jealousy doesn’t come into the equation and Sassy’s only concern is this hardened version of Rebecca is shielding who she really is. A boozy dinner, some childhood stories, and karaoke are enough to crack that heart open. And while Sassy is still her BFF, there is more than enough space for Keeley.
During the pivotal bathroom chat, Rebecca tells Keeley that her boyfriend Jamie brought a second date to the gala. After years of being in the dark, Rebecca doesn’t want to see history repeating. Accountability isn’t as fun as a fancy car or expensive clothes, but it is vital to a successful relationship. Of course, everyone makes mistakes but Rebecca is advocating for taking responsibility. It is why Keeley breaks up with Jamie and apologizes to Roy (Brett Goldstein) when he calls her out on using him during the auction. In the following episode, Rebecca enquires if Keeley is back with “that twat” and is pleased when the answer is no. “I love that you care though,” is Keeley’s response to this question and they have fully entered the friend zone (the good kind, not the misogynistic “she doesn’t fancy you” kind).
Rebecca’s words come back to bite her later when Keeley finds out that her friend was behind the staged paparazzi set-up. After a terrible day, Rebecca’s face lights up when her confidant comes into her office, but quickly changes when an ultimatum is offered; either Rebecca tells Ted or she will. Using Keeley in this way (albeit before they were friends) suggests she is disposable and the blowback would have been worse for Keeley — Rebecca knows this better than anyone as the reluctant star of a scandal. Arguing that telling Ted won’t change anything doesn’t hold weight as she hasn’t considered the minutia. “It will change how I feel about you,” is Keeley’s emotional sucker punch that makes this unpleasant task worth the pain. Rebecca has gone from wanting to tank Richmond to get revenge on her husband to an emotional attachment to the people. Without Keeley, she would probably still be caught in this empty vengeance spiral. She lost a terrible husband, but as the AFC Richmond boss, Rebecca has scored with Keeley.
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