The first eight episodes of “Ted Lasso” season two were screened for this review.
Season one of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso wasn’t so much a surprise hit as it was a particularly well timed one. Premiering in the middle of 2020 as the world continued to face down what felt like an endless and devastating pandemic, the show from creator Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) extended a hand of comfort through an abundance of kindness. While the series isn’t the first to capitalize on the popularity of “nice comedy” that has certainly seen an uptick in recent years from Parks and Recreation to Schitt’s Creek, it does so with an ever present edge that separates it from contemporaries while never losing the well-intentioned heart that made it such an instant sell for viewers.
Coach Ted Lasso, the American football coach who finds himself leading a UK football team played by Jason Sudeikis, is only at odds with the men he’s been hired to coach about as long as it takes for them to realize that his sunny and goodhearted disposition isn’t an act but a way of life. This particular hurdle was overcome by season one, allowing season two to further flourish with some of its more overstated ideas. This time around we aren’t just allowed to relish in the show’s oversized heart but must also be subject to the failings of toxic happiness and forced positivity as a means of distraction from unpacking real trauma, anxiety, and expectations.
Season two picks up where we left off by following our main team of Ted, club owner and all around badass Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), PR rep Keeley (Juno Temple) and the rest of the many misfits floating around in their orbit dealing with Richmond’s relegation in season one—which means a demotion to a lower league as a penalty for a poor record. Despite this rough setback it would seem that, on the face of things, the team is in genuinely strong spirits even as they continue to play games that result in an endless string of ties. However, rather than just let the series coast on those feel good fumes, it goes mining for even greater emotional resonance through the introduction of sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles), presented as an obvious but very effective foil to Ted’s charms, skeptical of his intentions. Her introduction is terrific both for now having a character manages to shake our titular protagonist’s mild-mannered attitude while also setting the table for a season that explores each of the characters’ goals, fears, aspirations, love lives, and history that’s made them who they are.
While Ted is still the star of the show and Sudeikis is allowed moments of incredible gravitas that makes his sincere drive to help others all the more poignant, one of season two’s greatest strengths is the ability to rely on supporting characters in a way that both deepens the world while also enriching the relationships that made the show so comforting in the first place. Brett Goldstein as the foul-mouthed retired athlete Roy Kent was a standout in the debut season and only continues to impress as the character is forced to contend with what he’s meant to do following the football career that was all he’d ever known. He’s hilarious when he gets to lean into the swearing hot head, but is even better when vulnerability shines through as he and Keeley continue to share sweet and lived in chemistry. Phil Dunster, who largely was around to play arrogant and dimwitted superstar player Jamie Tartt, gets to showcase a new side of his character. Toheeb Jimoh’s Sam is given much more to do and excels with the material given. Jimoh has an easy charisma that makes him infinitely watchable. In building his story the show also puts a greater emphasis on the camaraderie of the team, a crucial element in any sports series.
Not every character is as equally served however, at least in the episodes press have been given access to see thus far. Despite her general regality and critical role she plays to the overall series, Waddingham doesn’t immediately get enough to do. Similarly, while Nick Mohammed as assistant coach Nate faces his own new developments, I’m not yet convinced that they play as well as the show hopes they do. This, plus a Christmas-themed episode that plays like a self-parody of the show are two of the only real drawbacks in a season that is for the most part a superb sophomore outing.
Ted Lasso, as was the case with Schitt’s Creek, has become something of a comfort blanket watch. Unlike Dan Levy’s show which, for as lovely as it was, ended up sanding down all of its edges by the time the series ended, Ted Lasso reaches deeper than any of its contemporaries. Season two unearths character beats and developments that are daring and inspiring in how they change the course of the series into something more interesting than your standard, sports comedy fare. It remains a fun and joyous watch but refuses to rest on its own winsome warmth.
Episode one of Ted Lasso season two is available to watch on Apple TV+. The rest of the season will drop weekly episodes every Friday.