I Don’t Care What My Colleagues Say About It, I Still Love Hearing Ted Talk (And Laugh, and Cry…)
Better Late Than Never: Ted Lasso Season 2 Review
As someone who absolutely adored every single moment of the initial season of Ted Lasso when it debuted way back in 2020, who thought it was a pure triumph for everyone involved, who was willing to rethink his lifelong opinion of Jason Sudeikis, who thought the entire cast from Brendan Hunt to the extraordinary Hannah Waddingham was exceptional, and who was overjoyed to see one of his favorite writers of all time Bill Lawrence finally enjoy the respect — and more importantly, all the awards — that have been coming in starting with the 2021 Golden Globes — I don’t have a good reason why it’s taken me so long to finally get around to Season 2. Perhaps it had to do with the inevitable blowback that comes when a truly remarkable series returns for a sophomore seasons, perhaps it involved a lot of critics — including those from The New Yorker, a journal whose opinions on TV I respect — saying they never liked Ted Lasso and were unhappy with some of the later season’s contrivances. More likely it was because I knew Ted Lasso was always going to be there — yes I finally figured out how to get AppleTV to work — and that I’ve had a ridiculous number of series to try and keep track of over the last several months. Besides, I knew at some point I was going to end up watching it — the fact that it dominated the Critics Choice and the SAG awards this year means it’s practically a lock for another boatload of Emmy nominations next month.
So last week, I finally began to watch Season 2. I even gave myself three episodes instead of the usual two before I review to be sure my opinion wasn’t different. And if there’s some larger problem with the second season of Ted Lasso, the early episodes really don’t seem to demonstrate it. It is as blissfully funny and manically clever as ever, and if some of the larger conflicts that made much of the first season so memorable have disappeared, that doesn’t mean it isn’t still remarkably entertaining.
Season 1 ended with AFC Richmond losing the climatic match and end up falling out of regulation. Things are not starting much better for the club in Season 2, as they’ve opened the season with eight consecutive draws. Added injury to insult, the season opening begins with a winning goal being blocked when the team mascot gets loose and is inadvertently killed when he runs right into the path of what would be a game-winning goal. (Seriously, there’s no do-over for that in English football).
The mood in the owner’s box is notably calmer than it now that Rebecca is actually trying to help her club win. The relationship between her and Higgins (the criminally under-recognized Jeremy Swift) is far smoother now and her new friendship with retired model Keeley Hawes (I really hope Juno Temple gets an Emmy before the series ends) is starting to become one of the better female friendships in television history. (This should not come as a shock to anyone who has followed Lawrence’s work; unlikely female friendships were at the center of Scrubs and Cougar Town).
Ted is as cheerful as he ever was, but with the club struggling for regulation he is still trying to maintain the cheerful atmosphere and the triumph of wins. He remains unhappy about the hiring of a sports psychologist (Sarah Barnes) who seems utterly immune to his charms (and honestly neither Sudeikis nor anyone else on staff does much in the early episodes to make her particularly likable). But Ted is trying his hardest to make the club work, which leads him to do something he would never have done back in Season 1. Jamie Tairtt, the club bad boy who was traded to Manchester last year, and then abandoned the club for a reality show (which Roy seemed to love watching just to see him suffer) now doesn’t seem to have much hope. Reluctantly, he finds himself asking Ted to give him another chance. Ted politely declines, remains determined to the lead player Sam, and listens to his inner circle (Higgins, Coach Beard and Nate) when they decide it’s not a good idea. But having a talk with the shrink he doesn’t like but who he does respect, Jamie ends up on the team, and it’s clear he has a long way to go to win acceptance.
The series has also managed to wonderfully find a use for Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein, arguably the series breakout star) He is just as foul-mouthed as ever, even when coaching his niece’s junior soccer team, and is still looking for a place for himself in this new world. He finds himself trying to for a place in punditry (what we call commentary in America) something he doesn’t want to do, but his utter frankness (both in language and opinion) make him an instant success. He is also trying his hardest to make his relationship with Keeley work, which leads to some whimsical and sweet material. He finds her pleasuring herself, and is surprisingly open and considerate of it. (Less so when he finds that she’s doing so to footage of his tearful retirement speech.) This leads to a fitting resolution (in so many ways of the word) at the end of that episode that I completely understand why Goldstein took the Supporting Actor prize from the Broadcast Critics this past March.
And the series continues to find ways to resonate both comically and realistically. Rebecca is trying to make up to Nora and her goddaughter who we met last season in funny and sad episode in the most recent episode I watched. After talking to Roy, she decides to invite her to a day at the office which ends up being funny in all the right way (her niece understands the budgeting plan better than Ted did the first time, according to Higgins), finds a way to deal with a pressing issue involving sponsorship that involves her idol, and bonds with Rebecca in a way neither of them expected. Just as sweet was the underlying storyline where Sam learns that Dubai Air, the teams main sponsor is responsible for an oil spill and corruption in his home country’s government. When he decides to tape over the sponsor’s logo, his Nigerian teammates agree to do the same. “I don’t expect the rest of you to join me, but this is important to those of from Nigeria.” Jamie, who was Sam’s biggest adversary in Season 1, is the first of his British teammates to tape up his logo. Ted, who you don’t think would be the person who could handle this, well, handles the press response perfectly, and then hands to floor to Sam. I had forgotten how well Lawrence could handle these situations.
I know Ted Lasso is, given all the previous awards given, the likely favorite to repeat at the Emmys this fall. I don’t believe it will dominate the supporting acting nominations the way it used too (Barry and Atlanta will be factors, among many other series) and I don’t think the cast is necessarily a sure thing for the acting awards they’ve dominated to this point. Bill Hader, Sudeikis’ former SNL co-star is rising like a rocket with every performance he gives on Barry, you can easily see Henry Winkler or Tony Shalhoub, winners in this category several years ago duplicating, and even Hannah Waddingham could be facing challenges from Alex Borstein, who took two straight Supporting Actress prizes for Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or her fellow Hannah, Hannah Einbinder, who continues to impress on Hacks. (I’ll be getting to Season 2 there soon too, believe me.) What I know for certain is, unlike so many series who award shows give trophies to for inferior seasons more out of habit than quality, the second season of Ted Lasso, at the very least, deserves all the nominations and awards it has gone so far this year. Its writing, directing and acting remain as superb as ever, and it is clever and blissfully funny is much the same way is was in its first season and some it wasn’t.
It’s not entirely perfect, I grant you. I’m not wild about the way Nick Mohammed is playing Nate so far this year. Last season, he was the lovable underdog who everybody could get behind; now he seems to be treating quite a few people unpleasantly. And I have to say that so far the new psychiatrist seems less like an actual character and more like a gimmick (her every action seems to be a way of saying ‘I am here to form conflict for Season 2.) And maybe I’ll have my own reasons for hostility when I learn the traumas that Ted and Rebecca are going through. But for those critics who have spent a lot of the last year hating on Ted Lasso in general and Season 2 in particular, I have to this say: There are enough truly bad, formulaic and unpleasant comedies out there, most of them on network television and even some of the best ones are populated with truly unpleasant characters and their center. Can’t we just enjoy a series that dares to be both wonderfully pleasant and celebrates kindness? Given the world we live in today, isn’t a nice to have a series where there may be nasty jokes but there aren’t nasty people telling them?
My score: 4.75 stars.