The final season of Apple's excellent football comedy Ted Lasso comes at a strangely coincidental time, after the surprising culture war embroiling the BBC and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker. For a moment, the futures of both seemed lassoed by the current Tory government. And over the last few years, the game has become more politically fractious, especially after the controversial World Cup tournament in Qatar.
Thankfully, whether you’re a fan of football or impartial to sports altogether (like this critic), this idealistic series is a warm and friendly escape – wrapped in stadiums of empathy and vitalised with a rapid sense of humour.
The four episodes available to review aren't enough to correctly assess the play as a whole. It’s little more than the first few decent passes after kick-off, much of which can’t even be discussed because of embargos. But it's a promising start to a game of 12 parts.
Juno Temple and Hannah Waddingham as Kelly and Rebecca. Photo: Apple
Ted (Jason Sudeikis) endures the heartbreak of taking his kid to the airport before returning to manage AFC Richmond. Kelly (Juno Temple) leads her own PR firm, in which she is the most colourful person in a bureaucratically grey environment. She still sees Richmond’s owner, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), for tearjerking Girl Talk. During one of these sessions of emotional release, Rebecca wisely proselytises that crying is ‘like an orgasm for the soul’ – a motto that nicely sums up the series.
Although Ted Lasso builds great female characters, the series shines when dismantling men and different forms of male toxicity. At the end of season two, Ted was picked up on his toxic positivity by the tragically insecure Nate (Nick Mohammed), who turned to the dark side – working under Rebecca’s bilious and villainous ex-husband Rupert (Anthony Head) at West Ham.
Rupert is the arch-nemesis of the show, the character you want to see crash and burn without mercy. Nate aspires to Rupert’s nauseating masculinity, the kind that makes even men despair of their own gender. And yet, there’s something fascinating and sympathetic about this small-fish-massive-pond antihero. He’s like a verbally abusive Gollum with a sweeter Sméagol side buried underneath. But is he heading for redemption, or will he waste his life in pursuit of patriarchal power?
Left to right: Nick Mohammed, Anthony Head and Jason Sudeikis as Nate, Rupert and Ted. Photo: Apple
In contrast, with West Ham in sight, Ted manages Richmond with more optimistic energy – his moustache smile and loveable cluelessness countered by the fury of Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) and the intelligence of Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt). He continues to send the team on bizarre trips to ignite their imaginations, especially with pundits and social media critics predicting their failure to ascend the Premier League.
This is more than good vs evil; this is a battle of lifestyles, of how people treat people, of compassion vs bullying. But even Richmond's positive vibes aren’t enough to assuage underlying systemic issues, as seen with an LGBT+ storyline that feels appropriate considering the reports on homophobia in football. Given the representational absence in the series until now, it's refreshing to watch these issues being addressed.
So far, Ted Lasso returns with goal-scoring pathos and continues its excellent standard for comedy. One changing-room scene in episode two (written by Sasha Garron) is a dream of accelerated miscommunication, and one of the funniest on TV this year.
More than that, the series’ kind heart – held up high and unabashed – only fills and fills and fills, teaching that human beings can and should be nice to each other. With Twitter updates and apocalyptic news coverage pasting across every hour of our lives, Ted Lasso kicks holes in the darkness.
Ted Lasso, season 3, drops weekly on Apple TV+ from Wednesday 15 March.
|What||Ted Lasso, season 3, Apple TV+, first-look review|
15 Mar 23 – 15 Mar 24, ON APPLE TV+
|Website||Click here for more information|