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‘Ted Lasso’ Isn’t The Only Way To Get Your Weekly Dose of Hannah Waddingham

Hannah Waddingham as Lady Bellaston in "Tom Jones."

People in the U.K. may have known Hannah Waddingham for ages. However, like many other Americans, I was first introduced to her as Rebecca in Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso. Yeah, we saw her in a significant role in Game of Thrones for a short bit—but Rebecca is why we love her! Now, she’s in another weekly show airing alongside the soccer football comedy. Here, Waddingham swaps the business casual of a team owner for 18th-century gowns and (at least) eight-inch-high wigs.

Waddington joined PBS Masterpiece’s (and ITV Studios’) newest miniseries based on Henry Fielding’s 1749 work The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Massively abridged (the book is 700+ pages!), the four-part adaptation also shortened its name to just Tom Jones. The story follows the love story between a philandering adoptee, Tom Jones (Solly McLeod), and a kind, wealthy heiress, Sophia Western (Sophie Wilde). After many teases in trailers, Waddingham’s character, Lady Bellaston, joined the story in the second episode. She also appears to be the central character for the upcoming episode three!

We meet Lady Bellaston as she takes Sophia under her wing. The young heiress is on the run from a rough but familiar situation to anyone who is a fan of historical romances. (Sorry about the vagueness—I’m trying to keep this spoiler-free!) At first glance, this shelter appears to be a welcome change. However, the situation shows signs of actually being fraught for Tom and Sophia.

Waddingham in Tom Jones

Lady Bellaston (Hannah Waddingham) and Sophia Western (Sophie Wilde) in Tom Jones.

The source of the alarm isn’t just that London’s high society provides more stuck-up people to gawk at Sophia. Lady Bellaston looks to be in some compromising shots with Jones. From what I’ve read of Lady Bellaston, viewers should temper with their expectations to love the character. Even if you love mess—which the show is full of—Bellaston doesn’t hesitate to cross obvious ethical boundaries.

Regardless of Bellaston’s morality and faithfulness to her new ward, she’s serving elaborate looks alien to Tom Jones’s earlier setting of the English countryside. This doesn’t mean the looks have failed so far, though! Since the first episode, I’ve found my eyes wandering away from the faces of the speaking characters. The coloring of the show has been saturated yet natural colors next to very richly detailed pastel garments. Since arriving in London (where Bellaston is located), though, the dream-like setting (for the rich) appears replaced with a lot sexier deep satins and titillating masked events.

Solly McLeod as Tom and Sophie Wilde as Sophia in 'Tom Jones.'
PBS Masterpiece

While written nearly 300 years ago as biting social commentary on class, Tom Jones feels very contemporary. This is in part due to the brilliance of the source material and, of course, the screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes and the performers. Now halfway through, I can confidently say this adaptation also feels like a reprieve from the current slog that is Ted Lasso season three.

Beyond episodes six (in the Netherlands) and nine (CollinxIsaac and RoyxJaime), I’m not feeling this season of Ted Lasso. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still hopeful the season is salvageable. However, at least we get to see Waddington week-to-week this May in a more exciting program. Also, one that’s more accessible! (It’s free and Apple TV+’s UX sucks unless you have everything Apple.)

(featured image: PBS Masterpiece)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. Starting as an Online Editor for her college paper in October 2017, Alyssa began writing for the first time within two months of working in the newsroom. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3, Apex Legends, and CS:GO. Still trying to beat Saxon Farm on RCT 3 (so I can 100% the game.)