Ted Lasso is back. After what feels like an eternity, the Emmy award winning show, rumored to be its last, has returned for series three on AppleTV+.
And I have the same problem as I had with series one and two.
I love Ted Lasso. I quite like Ted Lasso. The series.
But I cannot stand Ted Lasso. The character.
I’ve tried. I’ve really, really tried. But it took me several attempts even to get into series one. The often incomprehensible southern drawl really grates and forces me to have to turn on the subtitles. ‘When I talk, I sound like Dr Phil hasn’t gone through puberty yet.,’ says Ted in the premiere. He’s not wrong there.
It’s not just the accent. The bouncy, super-positive would-be savior of Richmond AFC has always seemed like an act, which was in some part explained away in series two with Ted’s panic attacks and revelations about his father’s suicide.
But that ‘depth’ seemed like an act, too. Unlike every other character in whom it is easy to invest, not least owing to the actors’ sublime performances, the coach feels like a separate entity and someone too distant for viewers to care about emotionally.
Ted doesn’t exude warmth, no matter what sweet cuddly phrases come out of his mouth and whatever displays of support he lavishes on those around him. To me, there is a coldness, almost contempt, in his expression that makes it seem as if he is observing the great ensemble around him rather than being integral to it.
Maybe that’s down to Jason Sudeikis, who plays him, and now we know of the personal problems he was going through in his private life. He served his estranged partner and mother of his two children, Olivia Wilde, custody papers onstage when she was speaking at a CinemaCon event. Their former nanny is suing the couple, alleging that she was fired following mental health issues she experienced following their break-up when Olivia left the family home and entered a relationship with Harry Styles. They have since separated, although it is rumored that Sudeikis and Wilde might be getting back together. Really, Olivia? Seriously. Really?
Maybe it’s down to the writing of the character – and Sudeikis is a co-writer as well as the show’s creator. Is there an inevitability that when, as an actor, you write yourself into a show, it’s harder for you to step outside yourself?
Maybe it’s just that Ted seems too much like a fish out of water? This being a British show, with an almost exclusively British cast of characters, he is, of course. But too much so. The premise is that despite Ted’s being an outsider, he wins over everyone when he turns around the fortunes of the football club. I just never feel that commitment, though. As a viewer, I see it, but it never touches my heart in a way it is meant to do – though clearly it did for millions who, post-pandemic, were drawn to what they perceived as the feel-good factor of Ted’s niceness.
Or alleged niceness.
Or maybe it’s just that creepy porn star mustache. Far from looking like ‘Marlboro Man’, as his occasional fling Sassy (Ellie Taylor) calls him, to me he looks as if he’s just walked off the set of Debbie Does Dallas.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but in the end it’s a gut feeling. I just don’t buy into Ted Lasso the guy.
Yes, it it sounds odd. It’s like going to see Hamlet and coming away saying: ‘Yeah, I love all that stuff about Denmark but I’m just not buying into the depressive who wants to sleep with his mother.’
There is high drama for everyone in the new series, including the unthinkable – Keeley (Juno Temple) and Roy (Brett Goldstein) have broken up. Roy, always sounding as if he is auditioning for The Revenant, is in full grunting mode. He’s still in full swearing mode, too – even more so – and the only thing equally dirty in the premiere is Ted taking the team on a tour of the London sewage system in an attempt to teach them that they each need to find their own inner sewage system and ‘remember to stay connected to one another.’
As an inspirational sports pep talk, it was…well, a piece of s**t and you can’t help feeling that a tour of Roy’s foul mouth might have been more effective.
Nate (Nick Mohammed) has undergone a personality transplant, the start of which at the end of series two was as incomprehensible as it is now. Like Ted and Jamie (Phil Dunster), Nate has daddy issues. Poor Nate. When he took his first press conference and denounced Ted as a shi**y coach following the sewage visit, his mother texted him to say his father didn’t like it when he swore on TV. It’s one of the show’s many examples of how much more depth the male characters are given than the women – maybe because it’s written by men.
Oh, these poor troubled souls: having to put on such an outward display of machoism while all the time struggling with their inner demons. If only they could all be more like…well, Jason Sudeikis.
Rebecca and Keeley are all about work and relationships – heaven forbid either could go an episode without mentioning or encountering a penis. There’s even a penis for Dr Sharon (Sarah Niles) in the new series. How does she find the time between delivering her patronising advice to Ted in that know-it-all tone of voice? Ted might have started seeing her because of his panic attacks, but if she keeps banging on the way she’s going, he’ll need another therapist to help him conquer his murderous thoughts. Let’s hope she gets even more action in the bedroom, if only to keep her away from Ted.
When it comes to real emotion, the females are about as deep as an eyebath. But good grief, the show really likes its fathers and sons stuff. Delusions of Dostoevsky, or what? Except Dostoevsky has more jokes. Yes, really.
Just as they were a feature of the first two series, the latest press conference gives Ted a chance to display his seeming indifference to success – ‘It’s not all about winning,’ he tells Henry (Gus Turner), just as he has always told the team. The real laughs, though, come not from Ted’s quips, but the journalists. Why can’t TV shows ever get journos right? Half the latest mob look as if they’re only three rides away from a bus pass, and the rest look not as much is if they have one foot in the grave, but lock, stock and barrel already in the coffin. Have you seen a real-life reporter these days? They’re all 12.
But having been replaced by Marcus Adebayo (Marcus Onilude), Trent Crimm (James Lance) of The Independent will be sorely missed at those meetings. With his flowing grey locks and bearing more of a resemblance to Dickens’s Uriah Heap than a seasoned sports journalist, he has changed careers for moral reasons – he had his job to do but felt guilty for doing it. Woodward or Bernstein he ain’t.
This third series has promised us some curveballs – let’s hope it’s not of the kind that ended series two, when the kick that gave Richmond the penalty that earned them promotion was clearly offside. Yes, I know more than Ted about these things.
Will Rebecca go back to Sam (Toheeb Jimoh)? Will Keeley and Roy get back together, or will she go back to Jamie? Will Nick ever win his father’s approval? And, here’s the biggie: will Richmond win the Premiership?
Perhaps the million-dollar question, though, is: Will Ted Lasso ever find his inner Jason Sudeikis?