Ted Lasso Season Three | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 28th, 2024  

Ted Lasso (Season Three)

Apple TV+, March 15, 2023

May 04, 2023 Photography by Apple TV+ Web Exclusive
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What on earth is going on with Ted Lasso? That was the refrain at our house for some of Season 2 and now much of Season 3. Is the insipid writing ever going to crawl out of the morass of this tale about the American coach of an English premiere league team that now hardly even coaches anymore?

Like most households, the Emmy-award winning first season was a surprise hit that played really well with my family during the pandemic’s darkest days. My soccer-playing teenage sons laughed at the Americanisms and remarked at the subtle observations of culture that marked the English from the Americans. Though AFC Richmond lost the final game and their place in the Premiere League, Jason Sudeikis’ earnest and eternally optimistic hero left us with some important life lessons, one of which is that there’s oftentimes more value in failure, especially if you’re enjoying the game.

I am now on Episode 6, mid-way through the new season, and no one in my family will watch Ted Lasso with me. Not even my generally affable husband who now winces every time I mention putting it on the telly. So I’m behind. Sad that what began as good fun when our family of four couldn’t wait to watch the next installment together, became a little less enjoyable in Season 2, thanks in part to needless Ted quips and episodes that went too far off a tangent — the “Christmas,” then “Beard After Hours” episode sealed its fate with my elder son. A high stakes season finale of a win on the pitch put Richmond back in the Premiere League but it was tempered with losses off field. The worst of these being Nate the Great’s (Nick Mohammed) full defection to the dark side, to join Rebecca’s (Hannah Waddington, the one constant and excellent throughout) ex-husband, Rupert’s (Anthony Head) new team as their head coach. The jury’s still out for me on if that plotline was a stroke of genius or madness. Perhaps if we had seen it coming, it might have been a more satisfying season denouement.

The new season opened with an even more detached and distracted Ted echoing Nate’s angry but true words that “He doesn’t belong at the club but with his son, back in America.” All the punters predict Richmond will finish at the bottom and West Ham in the Top 4, much to club owner Rebecca’s chagrin. Nate has become a more noxious character, nasty to his co-workers, ego-driven and consumed with his newfound tabloid celebrity. Of course, this behavior is rewarded. Rupert gifts him a new sports car and a leggy Russian model as his arm candy. It’s all sort of cookie-cutter villany.

Granted, Ted is grappling with deep-seated issues of familial trauma past (father’s suicide), triggered by his present (divorce and separation from his son). But he’s also committing the same mistakes, like not paying sufficient attention to Nate, chiding him when necessary and worst of all, underestimating his ambitions. Also, allowing himself to be constantly distracted with his son and not deal with the real mental health issue at hand means the job of coaching is often left frustratingly to Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) and Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt).

This bears unremarkable results with the decision in Episode 2 to hinge their success, in such an all-encompassing way to one man. And while soccer clubs do have their star players, the character of Zava (Maximilian Osinki) is poorly painted as a one dimensional, cartoonish figure that spouts absurd lines like “I don’t care about moving pictures, my favorite thing to watch is my wife.” It is ridiculous writing and even worse so when the rest of the team are made to marvel at this insanity like they’re pearls of wisdom. This kind of shtick might work as a throwaway skit on late night television but here it really drags the narrative and is frankly a disservice to the show.

Other characters often reduced to comic punchlines that don’t deliver include many of the players with Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernandez) being the worst offender, and the likable Higgins (Jeremy Swift), who often comes across as over-egging the pudding. New addition Shandy (Ambreen Razia) as the office airhead from a lower social strata (Barbara points out that she didn’t go to college), wont of graces and scruples is a female stereotype that is hugely offensive. In truth, she, like the whole Richmond team, can benefit from bosses that actually just do their jobs effectively. Being nice when needed and firm otherwise.

In Episode 4, Ted’s inability to be present and do his job properly ends in catastrophe when Roy and Beard unleash the video of Nate tearing the team’s talisman — the “Believe” sign that hangs in their locker room. This sends the players into a rage leading to fisticuffs on the field and a dismal loss to West Ham, unsportsman-like behavior so appalling that it’s enough to put my younger son off the show. As the team’s losing streak continues in Episode 5, and Zava quits, my husband too bows out.

Ten minutes into Episode 6, after losing an exhibition match in Amsterdam and giving everyone the night off, a homesick Ted picks a 2.7 rated American diner for a meal. Beard declines, “We can do better than that.” Ted then has a quiet epiphany, “I’m feeling stuck,” he tells Beard, “I need something to do to get out of my head. Like get punched in the face…try something new, get inspired.” I’ve been wanting to throw something at Ted for more episodes than I care to remember so when Beard replies “I’ve been waiting for you to say that for a very long time,” I felt seen. An inkling of excitement came over me, perhaps this is the turning point, now things will get better.

And indeed it does.

For some time now, episodes had gone from the tight sitcom format of Season 1 to the average 40 minutes of Season 2, and hour-long in Season 3. This accounts for that feeling of dead air or when a gag gets drawn out long after the point is made. But when done well, the meandering threads lead to surprising stories like the Notting Hill-style romantic comedy that occurs between Rebecca and a Dutch boatman (Matteo van de Grijn), or Higgins’ charming jazz escapade in the Red Light District with waterboy Will (Charlie Hiscock). And whoever’s call it was to leave Beard’s adventure out completely was a wise one, seeing him turn up at the team bus the next morning, dressed as Piggy Stardust was more than sufficient for our imaginations to wander–or our eyes to roll.

Before Beard and Ted parted ways that evening, Beard had made them a mind-opening concoction which he served up in cups of tea. We know Ted abhors tea, the very definition of English-ness, it’s a good metaphor for his inability to really enjoy where he’s at. Ted eventually drinks it, and later that evening, the spiked tea unlocks a fevered dream where Ted brims with new strategies for the field. It’s the perfect Ted Lasso-ism — using basketball, a very American ball game to play soccer, the very English ball game. Except that when Ted shows Beard his notebook of plays written whilst under the influence, Beard reveals that Ted’s big idea is actually called “total football and was invented in Holland in the Seventies.” It’s the perfect resolution to a near perfect episode, bar the scene of the players at the hotel. They have a free night in Amsterdam with no curfew and they scream like toddlers and can’t decide what to do. They really do constantly need the adults in the room. It’s all so overstated.

In contrast, the narrative arc of Roy’s and Jamie’s (Phil Dunster) — the two men who hold a torch for Keely (Juno Temple) — night together is more agreeable. When Roy quietly mentions to Jamie: “I think Keeley’s got a girlfriend,” it’s the most understated yet tender piece of dialogue in a long time.

At the end of the day, I want to like this show again. I want to root for Ted Lasso. I want its writing team to do its job and trim away the fat. Stop trying to bloat its running time to that of a prestige drama at every turn. That’s not what Ted Lasso needs to be. Now, if only I can convince my family to get back on board and watch the rest of the season. (www.tv.apple.com/us/show/ted-lasso)

Author rating: 5/10

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