Football inspires the best and worst in humanity, as proven by the recent Euros tournament. For every supportive hug, there’s an abusive tweet. For every goal, there’s shattered glass on the ground. For every brave knee bent, there’s a cluster of detestable booing. It’s easy to see why people lose faith in the sport altogether. Although the beautifully warm football sitcom Ted Lasso acknowledges these hateful aspects around the game, it’s chiefly a joyous, funny, and caring balm against them.
More than that, its second season cradles mental health in a snug and supportive embrace – even more than the first. It’s especially moving to see men be vulnerable and sensitive and loving and open in a very masculine setting, one that's often conducive to a toxic environment. The fantasy is idealistic, near-escapist, but one that a dark and anxious world deserves. This isn’t reality – it’s an aspiration.
Left to right: Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso, Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard, and Nick Mohammed as Nathan. Photo: Apple
For those unfamiliar with the premise: season one kicked off with an effort to regenerate the struggling football club AFC Richmond. To reinvigorate the players and those behind the scenes, the steely Rebecca Walton (Hannah Waddingham) employs an American Football coach – initially for duplicitous reasons – to recreate that spark. Enter Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), the kindest man in sport.
Although Ted's endlessly optimistic energy is met with very British hostility, exacerbated by the wide 'tache above his smile, they soon warm to him and to each other as a result.
Season two picks up after the exits of the ageing Roy Kent (a beastly but loveable Brett Goldstein) and arrogant striker Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster). A new sports psychologist, the stern and meticulous Sharon (Sarah Niles), is employed at the club – much to Ted’s unusual scepticism. Rebecca goes into online dating, using the new app Bantr designed by her best friend and promoter Keeley (an always vivid Juno Temple).
These are only a few of the storylines and characters that cross over through the eight episodes available to review. Like any great series, there's no dull player in Ted Lasso's eclectic ensemble. You love all of them at once despite, and even because of, their less appealing sides. The series occasionally has the sort of cheesy, cordial atmosphere of a harmless, American three-camera sitcom. From the 80s, perhaps. There’s even a Christmas episode that warmed this critic to tears.
Sarah Miles enters season two as the new sports psychologist Sharon. Photo: Apple
And yet, the writers don’t retreat from the rougher and crueller sides of the characters. The previously timid Nathan (Nick Mohammed) is hiding his insecurities behind his new authority as an assistant coach, turning into an acidic presence. Jamie Tartt was always a boastful bully, despised by everyone, but he begins to work on bettering himself. Even Ted can be hurtful, especially towards therapy.
But those bonds of friendship, the courageous pursuits of forgiveness, and the thematic mantra to ‘do better’ provide an uncynical humanism. It's like relaxing into an empathetic bed that softly offers life-affirming advice.
Balanced against a Richard Curtis-like vision of the world (he’s even parodied in one scene), the realities within the Ted Lasso fantasy hint at some decent truths. For instance, the adorable Nigerian player Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) makes a strong political statement this season, resonating with recent efforts in English football.
But it's mental health, especially men’s mental health, that takes centre stage here. Although much of the plotting is slightly sententious, crafted like sweary, sporty parables, the unashamed hopefulness spreads into your heart and turns it happy. Football would be a nicer, more watchable sport in a Ted Lasso world. Maybe the most aggressive fans, the ones that boo and smash and spit abuse, should take note.
Ted Lasso, season 2 is available on Apple TV+ from Friday 23 July.
|What||Ted Lasso, season 2, Apple TV Plus review|
23 Jul 21 – 23 Jul 22, ON APPLE TV+
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