How Its Arrival in TV and The World Of Awards Shows Gave Ted Lasso A Status of A Masterpiece It Really Didn’t Deserve
I have yet to begin to watch the third and what very well may be the final season of Ted Lasso. However, I have not been immune to the critical reception for it over the last several months. The general consensus has been that the third season has generally been a disappointment with character arcs that lead nowhere, too many major plot points happening offscreen, and the lengths of the episodes seeming to cause what was once a fun series to drag too much.
Now several online critics are beginning to question, perhaps with justification, whether Ted Lasso was ever a great series. This is the inevitable reaction when the final season of a show that was initially beloved by the masses ends up being a huge disappointment. It was a trend that was seen more frequently in broadcast television but still occasionally occurs in the era of Peak TV — many were disappointed by Battlestar Galactica and Lost after the series finale, and people have turned on House of Cards for obvious reasons.
I haven’t seen the third season so I can’t make judgments in that regard. However, I think that based solely on the two seasons I have seen Ted Lasso was a very good show but it is still an overrated one. And a large part of the reason it is overrated has to do with the timing of Ted Lasso arriving on television and what the comedy series looked like at the time it debuted. So in this article I intend to explore how the world of television, affected by factors involving the pandemic, may have led to Ted Lasso getting such a good reputation particularly from the awards show circuit its first two years — and what we may expect from the Emmys in the next few months.
I think part of the reason Ted Lasso was such a success initially had to with timing. I don’t necessarily mean when it was released, although the fact that it came out at the height of the lockdown caused by the Covid Pandemic, the tail end of the Trump administration and the end results of the 2020 election may have helped it lift the mood of the nation at the time. I mean when Ted Lasso came out in terms of awards shows.
It is worth remembering that in the fall of 2020, the world of TV comedies were in transition. The major success stories over the past several years Veep and Silicon Valley had ended, Atlanta had been on hiatus since 2018 and such classic comedy series as The Good Place and Schitt’s Creek had come to an end earlier that year. This had been clear in the structure of awards the prior season where the major winners had been Fleabag (which had aired its final season in 2019) and Schitt’s Creek which three months earlier had managed a clean sweep of the Emmys. Even had COVID never happened, there was inevitably going to be a void when the new awards cycle started.
Of course, when the world went into lockdown, so did Hollywood. TV basically stopped shooting anything and in the traditional sense we didn’t get a fall season for 2020–2021. Networks and cable had basically shut down and we were all catching up on streaming series we had spent the last several years saying we’d watch.
This was reflected when the Golden Globe nominations came out in December of 2020. The nominees for Best Comedy or Musical was, if anything, more eclectic than usual. Schitt’s Creek, as expected, received five nominations. The other four nominees were Ted Lasso, The Great, HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant and by far the most controversial choice Netflix’s Emily in Paris, which no one thought deserved to be nominated for anything. There was considerable fury that shows like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and Ramy had been ignored for the final spot.
Now that year, the dominant winner of the Golden Globes was The Crown, which deserved took four prizes for Best Drama, Actor, Actress and Supporting Actress in a Drama. Schitt’s Creek took Best Comedy and Catherine O’Hara won Best Actress in a Comedy. Jason Sudeikis genuinely seemed surprised when he won Best Actor over Eugene Levy. But there was no indication that this was anything other than the eclectic nature of the Golden Globes, which within a few months would undergo such controversy that NBC would not televise it the following year. (More on that later.)
The first sign that there might be more to the Ted Lasso phenomena came at the Critics Choice Awards a few weeks later. Unlike the Golden Globes, there was a far better selection of nominees. In addition to Schitt’s Creek, there were such series as What We Do In The Shadows, Ramy, Better Things, The Flight Attendant, Mom, and the undervalued Hulu series Pen15. The nominees in all the acting categories generally had a better caliber of performer and a higher balance of contenders. So the fact that Ted Lasso managed to triumph over this group of nominees was a clear sign that there might be more to it than that. The fact that Hannah Waddingham managed a massive upset for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy showed the series had muscle.
And for the record, I am complete agreement with the Critics Choice in this regard: the first season of Ted Lasso was a masterpiece. Every level of the performance, the acting, writing and directing was fundamentally masterclass it deserved all the praise it got.
However the first sign about what the field might be like came in July of 2021 as the HCA did their inaugural TV awards. I have already written volumes about how thrilled I was at every level of their series of nominations and awards. However it did say a lot about the state of television during the pandemic about the nominees. In Best Cable series comedy which was usually the most dominant source of these shows, HBO was notably absent -completely from Best Cable series and almost entirely in the Acting categories. (They were far more present in the Drama and limited Series category.) Network television was the major factor in comedy across the board, the most nominated show in either drama or comedy was Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, but Superstore and Young Rock also did very well. Indeed, cable was barely in a player in this category: the eventual winner was the Syfy Channel’s series Resident Alien.
Streaming was where the action was: Ted Lasso, The Flight Attendant, and Hacks were by far the major contenders. I had no problem with any of the winners: Ted Lasso took Best Comedy, Best Actor for Jason Sudeikis, Best Supporting Actor for Brett Goldstein and Best Supporting Actress for Hannah Waddingham (she shared the prize with Hannah Einbinder for Hacks) but in retrospect the fact that streaming was where the action was should have been a sign as to how generally weak the competition was from other sources.
Indeed, it was a sign of what was to come: of the eight nominees for Best Comedy in 2021, only one — black-ish — was not a streaming show. Now to be clear I had no problem with five of the nominees, I was a huge fan of The Kominsky Method, The Flight Attendant, Hacks and I truly loved Pen15. But I will never understand for the life of me why Emily in Paris got a Best Comedy nomination and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist was ignored.
That aside, I was generally satisfied with the 2021 Emmys on almost every aspect: with the possible exception of Tobias Menzies winning over the late Michael K. Williams for Lovecraft Country and Ewan McGregor’s victory for Halston over Hugh Grant in Best Actor in a Limited Series, there were no major winners in any category I had a problem with. And this includes all of the awards in the Best Comedy category. Ted Lasso more or less cut and paste the awards it managed to get from the HCA and Jean Smart deservedly won Best Actress. I also had no problem with Hacks taking the Best Writing and Directing awards. The awards show cycle got everything right when it came to the first season of Ted Lasso. They would not do so the next year.
Now I honestly like most of Season 2 of Ted Lasso. I thought that the lion’s share of the cast were as good as they were the previous season (with one exception) and I thought that both the Christmas episode and the episode where Coach Beard goes on an After Hours type pub crawl were minor masterpieces. The series occasionally lacked direction, but I generally liked most of the character arcs — the romance between Keeley and Roy; Rebecca’s becoming more of a human being and genuinely good person and her romance with Sam. I objected to certain aspects of the arrival of the sports therapist and her relationship with Ted, but Sarah Niles made the character fully dimensional and I actually liked the payoff.
The major drain on Season 2 is basically everything going on with Nate. I honestly believe Nate’s arc from becoming a loveable underdog to a complete and utter shitheel in Season 2 is the most ridiculous one I’ve seen on any series since Izzie Stevens started having visions of Denny in Season 5 of Grey’s Anatomy. There was no progression, no real sign as to why Nate show become like this, he just instantly became a jerk and unpleasant and the reason why in the season finale — that Ted had ignored him during the period — was not backed up by any evidence. It really seemed like the writers who had stepped so surely in Season 1, felt they had to introduce a hostile force now that Rebecca was basically a good person. But they completely botched it all the way through.
That being said, Season 2 of Ted Lasso was still extremely good. The problem is by the time it aired, the lockdown was over and newer, better comedies were beginning to air — but the awards shows were still stuck on Ted.
No one saw the Golden Globes in 2022, so you could be forgiven for knowing that they happened. But for all the controversy of the HFPA, their judgment on television remained spot on. They chose to recognize the first season of Hacks for Best Comedy over the second season of Ted Lasso. They also chose to nominate such brilliant series as Reservation Dogs and Only Murders in the Building. The decision to recognize Jason Sudeikis over Steve Martin or Martin Short, however, was far more questionable.
The Critics Choice Awards of 2022 again recognized a great group of nominees for comedy, also nominating Hacks, Reservation Dogs, Only Murders in the Building, Insecure and What We Do In the Shadows. When it came to awards, however, they did something they rarely do in their history and essentially cut and pasted the Emmys: their wins did not differ from the Emmys in a single respect. The SAG awards more or less did the same thing.
However by the time the HCA met in 2022 to give its second annual TV awards, the tide had clearly begun to shift. This was inevitable given the incredible caliber of some of the series that had aired in the interim. By this point Abbott Elementary had replaced Ted Lasso as the brilliant series of the moment and Quinta Brunson was justifiably the it-girl of television. The third season of Barry had debuted to magnificent reviews as had the second season of Hacks to a similar level of high praise. . Ted Lasso wasn’t even the biggest draw on its own service; the dominant winner in drama would be Severance, which would take five trophies.
The broadcast and cable awards actually held more excitement than streaming this time out. Abbott Elementary was the big winner, taking Best Network comedy, Best Actress for Quinta Brunson, Best Supporting Actor for Janelle James, and Brunson took the Best writing trophy. (She took four awards all told.) Bill Hader took Best Actor and a prize for Best Director and Henry Winkler won the Best Supporting Actor prize. Curiously, it did not win Best Comedy; the winner was What We Do In the Shadows, which to be fair, was a great show in its own right.
Ted Lasso did duplicate its win for Best Streaming Comedy, but its only other victory that night was for Brett Goldstein as Supporting Actor. Hannah Einbinder won Best Supporting Actress in her own right and Jason Sudeikis lost to Martin Short for Only Murders in the Building. Hacks also won prizes for Best Writing and Best Directing. (Curiously, Jean Smart did not win for Best Actress, the HCA instead choosing to give its prize to Selena Gomez. Honestly, it wasn’t a bad choice either.)
By this point, Abbott Elementary had also completely dominated the TCA awards that summer and had taken a Peabody award. No one was shocked when Ted Lasso received 20 Emmy nominations that year, but unlike the previous year it was not the only major series with so many nominations: Hacks and Only Murders in the Building had each received 17 nominations, Barry had 14, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which had returned for its fourth season, had 12. Abbott Elementary only had seven, but six of them were major ones, and it would be up against Ted Lasso in five.
If the Emmys had been dead on in comedy in 2021, they mostly misfired in 2022. They were absolutely right to give Quinta Brunson a prize for writing and no one who saw Sheryl Lee Ralph accept Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy can ever argue against it; her win and acceptance speech is one of the great moments in TV history, at least in this century. That Jean Smart took the prize for Best Actress over Brunson is a slight disappointment, but not really: Smart was just as good in Season 2 as she was in Season 1.
But with the possible exception of Brett Goldstein’s win for Best Supporting Actor — and honestly I still think Henry Winkler or Tyler James Williams would have been a better choice — all the other wins Ted Lasso got are example of laziness. Sudeikis, at best gave the fourth best performance of the six nominees — Bill Hader was absolutely superior to him and both Steve Martin and Martin Short were remarkable throughout season 1. Politely speaking the ‘No Weddings and a Funeral’ episode of Ted Lasso doesn’t compare with the 710N episode of Barry, either of the nominees for Only Murders in the Building or the ‘New Jazz’ episode of Atlanta. And compared to Abbott Elementary, Hacks and Barry, the second season of Ted Lasso isn’t remotely at their level. (These three series were among the five best of 2022 ranking.) The Emmys have rarely been known for getting it right most of the time, but by honoring Ted Lasso, they have rarely and so clearly demonstrated their flaws.
Now, regardless some course correction that we should all know by now the Emmys are incapable of, it is inevitable that next month Ted Lasso will the recipient of many Emmy nominations. Perhaps less than the first two years, but still more than it deserves. I have yet to watch the third season of Ted Lasso so I don’t know yet if it actually deserves recognition. What I do know is, sight unseen, it will have a very high bar to clear for me to even consider it worthy of any major awards based on the shows I have seen this year and that I imagine the viewer has too.
Abbott Elementary has deservedly dominated the awards shows to this point, and I find it hard to believe that it would not have done so even in the third season of Ted Lasso had been ineligible to this point. The final season of Barry has already cemented its place among the great series of television and having seen The Bear, it is hard to imagine how anyone, even Jason Sudeikis, can beat Jeremy Allan White for Best Actor in a Comedy (except, perhaps, Bill Hader.) I haven’t finished Wednesday but I think deserves more love than Ted Lasso does and I have yet to see the second season of Only Murders in the Building but there has been to date no sign of a sophomore slump and I have to tell you; I would far prefer such series as Reservation Dogs or Lucky Hank get more love from the Emmys than Ted Lasso right now.
As for the supporting awards, it is more likely that Abbott Elementary and Barry will be prevalent and at this point I would prefer to see Ayo Edebiri or Christina Ricci among the Supporting Actress nods than Juno Temple or James Marsden and Lakeith Stanfield than Nick Mohammed. If you know what shows I’m talking about by referencing these actors, you know why I think this way, if you don’t start watching them right now.
Don’t get me wrong: Ted Lasso is a good show, funny and entertaining, both when we needed and I suspect in retrospect. But it’s success particularly among awards show is a product of its time and residual laziness among some groups that should no better. It’s not overrated in the way I usually use that term, but in the context of awards shows and the Emmys in particular, it definitely is and there’s no nice way to say it.