When Ted Lasso hit Apple TV Plus last year, let’s be honest, expectations weren’t exactly sky-high. Here was an American TV series based on a character invented to try and sell Americans on the Premier League; it doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. Yet, as Ted himself so often reminds us, it’s foolish to underestimate an underdog.
Ted Lasso exploded in popularity during the 2020 pandemic for the way the show championed the values of kindness, decency, and hard work. Seriously, everyone and their mum recommended this series during the lockdown, where it seemed to serve as Savlon for our collective itchy soul. Since then, Ted Lasso’s gone from strength to strength, being renewed for a third (and final) season as well as picking up numerous award wins and nominations along the way.
The second season was always going to be a challenge for the show’s writers then. How could they capitalise on the series’ sudden popularity while also keeping it fresh, funny, and optimistic? After all, Ted Lasso benefited from low expectations in its first series, and it’s easy these days for popular shows to fall victim to their own success and become self-parodies.
Well, we’ve only seen the first two episodes at the time of writing, but we’re delighted to say that the success of Ted Lasso has, if anything, improved the show. It’s as if the writers have been given new confidence to explore characters, storylines, and jokes they wouldn’t have last year while still maintaining the sweet, good-natured spirit of the first season.
Picking up where the first season left off, AFC Richmond has been relegated, and Ted (Jason Sudeikis) has vowed to get the Greyhounds back into the Premier League. Unfortunately, the team has only managed eight ties in a row by the first episode, and things aren’t looking good. We don’t want to get into spoilers here, but something happens involving Danny Rojas (Cristo Fernández), which forces Richmond to bring in sports psychologist Doc(tor) Sharon (Sarah Niles), who’s not won over as easily by Ted’s endless cheerfulness as others have been.
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This new season of Ted Lasso actually begins on a surprisingly cynical note; I’m not sure if part of that is because I’ve romanticised the first season so much in my head, but I was shocked by how dark the opening joke was. Not that I didn’t laugh at the shamelessness of it all. Thankfully though, it’s not long before the series eases us back into the good-natured world of Ted and the team.
By this point, it’s clear that the creative team behind the series, Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence, Joe Kelly and Brendan Hunt, know precisely what made the show’s freshmen season so appealing to audiences, and they’re using this sophomore year to further refine what worked while tossing out what didn’t.
Most notably, the subplot that Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) is secretly using Ted to destroy Richmond is gone after her deceit was revealed in the finale last year. Without the baggage of having Rebecca be the series’ villain, Waddingham is allowed to make Rebecca a much fuller, more likeable, character and her friendship with Juno Temple’s Keeley Jones is a highlight in these first few episodes.
Similarly, now Ted’s been embraced by those at Richmond, the press, and indeed the audience, Sudeikis is able to be a bit less humble and can stretch his considerable comedic muscles a bit more. Incredibly he does so without making Ted any less warm or likeable, never resorting to making him cruel or mean. Indeed in the opening ten minutes of the first episode, Sudeikis delivers one of Ted’s trademark moving speeches that may serve as the high point of the episode.
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Of course, as we learn in school, conflict is so often the engine of storytelling and the show’s creators aren’t resting on their laurels, hoping optimism alone will carry us through the season. The dynamic between Ted and Sharon is clearly going to be the dramatic heart of this new series, with the sports psychologist being the only person, so far, who’s ever pierced Ted’s optimistic armour. What makes her compelling, though, is that she’s not some sitcom nemesis. She’s a competent, confident character who’s friction with Ted comes from a genuine place of wanting Richmond to succeed.
Unfortunately, these first few episodes of Ted Lasso season two aren’t perfect. I was a little put out by the way this season characterised Nathan (Nick Mohammed), Richmond’s former kit boy turned assistant coach. He’s far spikier than he was in the first season, and the jokes clearly meant to be that the power’s gone to his head, but his treatment of his replacement, while funny, seems to fly in the face of the series spirit.
This isn’t the only change in the locker room. With the retirement of Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt’s return to Man City at the end of season one, the atmosphere has changed in the Richmond dressing room. It’s too early to say if it’s for the worse, but I missed Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Jamie (Phil Dunster) bouncing off each other and Ted annoying the rivals with his pearls of wisdom. What little we do see of Roy and Jamie is brilliant, though, and I’m sure as the season progresses, we’ll see them drawn back into Ted’s orbit.
While Ted Lasso season two isn’t off to a perfect start, it’s managed to maintain the sweet kind-natured spirit of its first season while remaining as funny as ever. I look forward to seeing what comes next for Ted and AFC Richmond.