[TV Review] No longer a surprise, Apple TV+’s ‘TED LASSO’ is the good-humored man

0

Travis Leamons // Film Critic

TED LASSO: SEASON 2

Rating: TV-MA 
Creators: Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, and Bill Lawrence
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Jeremy Swift, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed, Toheeb Jimoh, Jeremy Swift, and Juno Temple

By now, you’ve probably heard about TED LASSO. Be it from a friend or from a certain family member who just loves talking your ear off. “Have you’ve seen that new show about the guy who knows nothing about soccer hired to coach an English team?”–followed with a slight chuckle to start a conversation. 

While it sounds like the setup to a joke, it turns out the joke was on us. The Apple TV+ comedy did something, not even Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, or Aquaman’s Jason Mamoa could do: it made the streamer relevant. The show started as a small ripple. Then the ripple became a wave, and before you knew it, the public and entertainment pundits were staring agape as if a typhoon were about to engulf them. 

TED LASSO’s freshman season was like no other. It seems fitting, considering the pandemic presented unprecedented challenges in a year like no other. As the days and weeks and months all blended, and as we kept apart for most of 2020, here came this show that inspired, uplifted, and made us laugh. It became our security blanket. A warm embrace when we needed one. A serving of humble pie topped with a loving spoonful of southern hospitality. 

Bestowed numerous accolades and awards, including 20 Emmy nominations (a record for a comedy series its first year), for the second season, the creators could have caved in and tried to appeal to those who had yet hitch themselves to the bandwagon. They don’t tone down coach Ted Lasso’s (Jason Sudeikis) niceties or have him lose his signature mustache. Lasso never misses an opportunity to turn a phrase, make with the puns, or work pop culture into the conversation. If he did miss one, he was slacking, or he already met his allowance for the day.   

The first season drew audiences because of its fish-out-of-water premise about a clueless American football coach-turned-British Premier League soccer-team manager learning on the fly while working for an owner (Hannah Waddingham) determined to see the team fail. But Lasso would win her over, win over staunched critics like columnist Trent Crimm (James Lance), and even those players with AFC Richmond still unsure what to make of his candor. 

The new season of TED LASSO isn’t about Ted Lasso. He’s the main chef, but the supporting characters are the ones making Bangers and Mash, and Shepherd’s Pie in the kitchen as the season progresses. The team is amid an odd streak of tie games. An unlikely accident causes the “football is life” espousing Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernandez) to lose his mojo. A psychologist, Sharon (Sarah Niles), is brought in to consult and evaluate. Her time with the team is extended, and she works to reshape some of the players. To his chagrin, Sharon is not easily beguiled by Lasso’s pleasantries.   

Focusing less on the wins and losses, the season moves us further away from the stadium than the first, making character growth a priority. Despite being a retired footballer, Brett Goldstein’s Roy Kent is still essential. He was already a stand-out. Now he’s the scene-stealing MVP. He’s trying to find a different kind of happiness in his relationship with Keely Jones (Juno Temple). His pursuits away from the sport allow for some classic f-bomb tirades and salty rejoinders. 

In between seasons, football diva Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) bet on himself and miserably failed at reality TV. No club wants him as a player. Even coach Lasso is hesitant with a return to Richmond. Tartt’s egoism and frictions with his old man help us understand why he acts the way he does. It also bears importance with how several of the men on the show act in response to their own fathers. We see it in Nate (Nick Mohammed) as he learns to assert himself and in the treatment of the team’s new training assistant, which was his old position, and in Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), who has a change of heart when it comes to personal success. Sam’s arc, more than any other, is beautifully developed. The personal stance he takes in season’s third episode is deeply moving. It is later followed with a bit of fun as he tries to make a love connection as part of Keely’s latest side hustle – a dating app called bantr.     

A satisfying sophomore season, not slump, TED LASSO shifts the overcoming adversity tract to managing unexpected developments. Some of the pleasantries might by the too syrupy for skeptics yet to commit to a show where its mustachioed protagonist is like an inspirational poster come to life. There were times where I thought this could be bad–the opening episode is a bit rocky, and a Christmas-themed episode is a bit much. Still, his eye-rolling earnestness and encouragement, odd sayings (“He’s a wigwam and a teepee,” coach Lasso says at one point. “Too tense.”), and optimism lift your spirits high. Jason Sudeikis and the rest of the creators know they’ve created something special. TED LASSO is a comedy that, even in the age of streaming, has become appointment viewing.  

Grade: B+

The new season of TED LASSO will consist of 12 episodes. The first episode launched on 7/23. Weekly drops for the remaining episodes will follow it on Fridays.

Our interview with cast members Juno Temple (Keeley Jones), Phil Dunster (Jamie Tartt) and Jeremy Swift (Higgins):

About author