Apple TV+’s Hit Comedy Returns For A Final Push for Victory
Mar 10, 2023
Rumors abound that the third season of Apple TV+’s massive comedy hit “Ted Lasso” will be the last. Given the show won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series in its first two outings, the creators of this game-changing hit could go a perfect 3-for-3, getting out before the show dips in quality or popularity. This might be easier said than done. “Abbott Elementary” has only grown in esteem, and there may be a push to give “Barry” the prize for its final season, premiering on HBO next month. And after watching the first four episodes of “Lasso” Season 3, it’s hard to tell where this year will land for viewers, although the writers seem aware that their concept may be running out of steam. After all, one of the first lines from Ted just happens to be, “I guess I do sometimes wonder what the heck I’m still doing here.”
If the writers lean into that idea and ambitiously unpack the inherently fickle nature of sports, wherein one season’s hero is the next season’s villain who has worn out his welcome, this could end up being one of the show’s best seasons. The second chapter was critically underrated by writers who may have only seen the first half of the season and not realized what the writers were trying to do with a year that felt like it was grappling with the “too nice” criticisms of year one. In Season Two, the always-kind Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) dealt with the crippling impact of panic attacks while the major players around him tried to figure out where they fit on the team and what they really wanted out of life on a much bigger scale. The writers also wisely spread the wealth in Season Two, giving players who could have been called minor in year one more time in the spotlight. It was, all around, a better season than the first.
The impact of what happened at the end of Season Two ripples into the start of S3. Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) is still gone, but Ted calls her now and then for support. (Although, it should be noted that the writers smartly don’t present Ted as “cured.” His panic attacks still happen.) Meanwhile, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) and Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) remain in relationship limbo as the latter works on opening his new African restaurant. Rebecca is distracted by the fact that Rupert (Anthony Head) bought a rival football team in West Ham and hired Nate (Nick Mohammed) as their coach.
As for Nate, he hasn’t spoken to Ted since the drama that ended last season, and the manner in which that relationship collapsed—a combination of Nate being taken for granted with what could be perceived as betrayal—will cast a shadow over this year’s action. As much as the “Wonder Kid” seems to want to lean into being Ted’s rival at times, the uber-nice coach refuses to go after him like so many others would in his position. Does he blame himself for Nate leaving? And how does Nate really feel about his former ally?
Meanwhile, the break-up between Roy (Brett Goldstein) and Keeley (Juno Temple) that happened at the end of last season remains in play, kind of leaving both beloved characters somewhat adrift narratively to start the third season. They’re both extremely busy—Kent with the team and Keeley with her rising career—but they don’t feel as essential as they have in the past. That’s likely to change as the season progresses.
Once again, the writers smartly take a few supporting players and push them into the center of the stage in unexpected ways. The fascinating Trent Crimm (James Lance) no longer works at The Independent, but, without spoiling anything, he’s not going away. Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) has had some of the most interesting character development in terms of where he was at the start of the show to now, and the third season sees him facing off against a brash new player on the team, one who could elevate Richmond beyond their wildest dreams, but at a potential cost of team chemistry. In a sense, Tartt is now in the position Kent was in season one, the talent being pushed out by someone flashier.
All these performers know their characters completely by this point in the arc of “Ted Lasso,” giving the show a more laid-back, easy feeling than the start of the first and second seasons. There’s more of a sense that we’re dropping in on familiar faces, which gives the comedy a comfortable rhythm but also sometimes leads to a lack of urgency. The start of Season Three doesn’t feel like a final season, which could be both good and bad for devoted and casual viewers alike. There’s something to be said for a comedy that doesn’t feel desperate in its need to please or intensify what’s always been a bit of a laid-back show, but it leads to Ted’s opening question feeling relevant again—why are we still here?
Again, if the answer is just to enjoy these characters for one last season, that’s probably more than enough for fans of “Ted Lasso.” But the second season was tricky in how it set itself up as something that felt repetitious before revealing different and higher emotional stakes. The third season will likely do the same before it sends Ted and Coach Beard back to the United States. Only time will tell if they return with a perfect record. [B]
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