The below features our first thoughts on Ted Lasso. Weekly reviews will follow.
When Ted Lasso debuted last August on Apple TV+, it was met with relatively little fanfare. The initial reviews were good to middling and the streaming platform was still struggling to draw buzz. Cut to nearly a year later and the anticipation for its second season has hit fever pitch. With so many viewing options it can be hard to stand out in a crowd, and word of mouth is a powerful asset — sometimes more so than a multi-million dollar ad campaign. Arriving at a time when hope was in short supply, the antics of an American Football coach scoring a top job as the manager of an English Premier League soccer club didn’t sound too alluring on paper — particularly when you factor in the commercial origins of this character. However, much like AFC Richmond, there is more to the series than meets the eye. At its helm, Ted’s (co-creator Jason Sudeikis) naive and optimistic persona could easily become grating, but the feel-good comedy navigated the fish-out-of-water set-up while avoiding cliche narrative choices. Despite Richmond ending the season getting relegated from the Premier League to the Championship, this debut was a triumph, but can Sudeikis and co. repeat this success?
The short answer: yes. The six episodes made available (out of 12) to critics highlight a continued self-assurance, which suggests the Golden Globe wins and Emmy buzz has not hampered the delicate balance that made the first season a slow-burn delight. I was late to the Ted Lasso party, binging it over the space of a week last fall after my husband had waxed lyrical since its debut, and was quick to fall in love. Going into the new season, I was tentative and wanted to temper expectations because a sophomore slump is fairly common. From the first kick of the ball, surprises are unleashed (the only storylines this review will mention are ones in the trailer) and the Greyhounds are still the underdog. Going down a division doesn’t mean Richmond is suddenly on fire, and they are experiencing an unprecedented run of draws (or ties if you are American). Missed penalty kicks are an instant confidence drain, and Ted and his coaching team explore a variety of methods to rectify this unusual string of results.
Ted’s overtly friendly style gives way to an alter ego by the name of Led Tasso, but it is the arrival of a sports psychologist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) that adds an extra component to the locker room set-up, and furthers the exploration of mental health in a high-pressure environment. Tennis champion Naomi Osaka recently withdrew from two major tournaments and cited bouts of depression and mental health as a reason, which makes this storyline all the more timely. Whether breaking down barriers, dealing with a personal crisis, or unspoken anxiety, Ted Lasso has already proven itself to be adept at portraying these experiences. “Make Rebecca Great Again” is one of the best episodes of Season 1, and the bond between Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) and Ted deepened when she recognized he was having a panic attack during the post-match karaoke celebration, and this storyline is not forgotten.
Divorce is something they share and this personal connection adds a tension that isn’t quite will-they-won’t-they — just yet. Rebecca spent most of the first season purposefully sabotaging the club and Ted’s efforts in a bid to get revenge on her cheating ex before confessing all in the penultimate episode. Ted is quick to forgive and removing this thread of deception ensures the second season is far from a retread of the first — Nate’s (Nick Mohammed) storyline is the only one that feels like a repeat with some changes.
A new league means new challenges, along with competing in the hallowed FA Cup — that Richmond has not won for 40 years. The squad gets time to shine inside and out of the locker room, including some strong early moments for Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), perpetually enthusiastic Danny Rojas (Cristo Fernández), and Isaac McAdoo (Kola Bokinni). There is a new Dutch addition to the squad who delivers some very funny lines and the ensemble is particularly delightful during Ted’s “rom-communism” explainer. The lack of toxic masculinity displayed during the discussion of this genre makes my heart sing. Pop culture references are littered throughout with a music cue in the first episode that is sublime, and UK fans will no doubt be thrilled by some of the real-life personalities playing themselves. The latter adds a lived-in quality, which makes AFC Richmond feel like a real club.
Elsewhere, Higgins (Jeremy Swift) is no longer Rebecca’s punching bag, and his family is given more screentime with a Christmas episode that will make it seem like it is December (even in the summer). Community spirit is vital to Ted Lasso’s success, and the feel-good factor is dialed up during the holidays. This isn’t to say there aren’t threads of dark humor and it isn’t only Roy Kent’s (Brett Goldstein) salty mouth that tips into adult territory. The first season wasn’t without romantic/horny moments, but let’s just say you won’t look at AirPods in the same way again — this is the benefit of not being confined to network sitcom Standards and Practices. Rebecca dips her foot into dating territory and there is a pivotal ongoing storyline involving a brand that PR-maven Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) is working with. I can’t discuss Jamie Tartt’s (Phil Dunster) storyline without dipping into spoiler territory, but he is still around and funnier than ever. His signature ICON cap is still giving off confident airs and his haircut is seemingly part Peaky Blinders, part England sensation Jack Grealish inspired.
One of the highlights of Season 1 is the friendship between Keeley and Rebecca that blossomed into mutual respect rather than a petty rivalry. Ted Lasso flourishes because it zigs where you think it might zag. A lazier show would’ve seen fit to create tension through jealousy, but the only moment in which they almost came to blows is when Keeley found out Rebecca was behind the paparazzi shots that made it look like she was flirting with Ted. Bringing Keeley into the Richmond fold via her PR acumen is a smart choice that avoids cliche WAG status (wives and girlfriend), ensuring she is an independent woman who doesn’t need a man to define her. Agency and being part of the central romance are not mutually exclusive, and the second season is proving that when a will-they-won’t-they couple gets together, the chemistry doesn’t fizzle. It helps that Roy and Keeley are given separate storylines, while also delivering strong moments as a couple — Roy’s delightful niece Phoebe is also back. This is essentially a workplace comedy and the hardman of football is navigating some interesting waters when it comes to his career and the finite amount of time a professional sportsman is at their peak is covered in Roy's arc.
Apple TV+ has a solid roster of original content and now Ted Lasso joins Dickinson, Mythic Quest, and For All Mankind at making strides in its second season. The team is still the underdog and the heart that captivated audiences through a tough year has grown in size. Quickfire gags, feelgood moments, and excellent physical comedy all add up to a Premier League size grin on my face by the time an episode smashes to credits. Some jokes don’t land as well as others, and there are a few niggles here and there (weekly reviews will explore this), but overall, AFC Richmond has made us believe once again.
Ted Lasso Season 2 will premiere on Apple TV+ on Friday, July 23.
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