The new season is supposedly the last – but is everyone’s favourite cornball coach bowing out too soon?
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Microphones are laid out on the table. Cameras are live streaming every word. The coach eyes the packed press gallery and attempts to crack a joke. “I’m so dumb, the first time I heard y’all talking about Yorkshire pudding, I thought it was a fancy word for dog poop,” he says. Eyes roll. Undeterred, he keeps going. “I’m so dumb, whenever I text someone over here about money, I still spell pounds, ‘lbs’.” That gets a smile, so he doubles down on the personal insults. “I look like Ned Flanders is doing cosplay as Ned Flanders … When I talk, it sounds like Dr Phil hasn’t gone through puberty yet.”
There’s only one character on television who can crack jokes that bad and get away with them. We are, of course, talking about Ted Lasso, Apple TV+’s hit series about a fish-out-of-water American football coach tasked with taking a middling UK soccer team into the big leagues. Those kinds of lame, drunk-uncle-at-the-Christmas-dinner-table gags are at the heart and soul of Ted Lasso. They shouldn’t work. They don’t work. If you don’t believe me, try using one on your friends next time you’re having drinks. Watch their faces scrunch up. They may ask if you’re doing OK.
But, when uttered by a naive buffoon with a heart of gold, there’s something reassuring about this coach’s cornball quips. During those hazy, horrible Covid lockdowns, we needed comfort. We needed cosy nights on the couch. We needed bacon and donuts, trackpants and oversized hoodies, short walks and long naps. We needed homemade sourdough. What we didn’t know we needed was Ted Lasso. Yet we loved it. We loved it so much, Apple TV+ – then struggling to gain a streaming foothold against Netflix and Disney+ – scored its very first runaway hit.
It shouldn’t have worked. An American character from a series of NBC ads is bought by Apple and worked into a fully fledged character. He’s sent to the UK to manage a former Premier League football team despite knowing nothing about the sport, then has a classic sitcom structure and a constant stream of quotables wrapped around him. But somehow, a hit was born.
Now, it’s ending. Season three, which began last week, shows Ted Lasso is back at the top of its game after a dicey second season (and that Christmas episode). The first episode, ‘Smells Like Mean Spirit’, is delightfully funny and packed full of belly laughs, yet remains stupendously heartwarming. You feel for these characters. They give you a warm glow. There’s so much heart in Ted Lasso, but it’s also ridiculously weird. At one point, an entire football team is sent into London’s underground sewage system.
Yet these 12 episodes are the last. “This is the end of this story that we wanted to tell, that we were hoping to tell, that we loved to tell,” star Jason Sudeikis told Deadline this week. Rumours have it that, just like Lasso, Sudeikis isn’t much of a fan of decamping to the UK for long stretches of filming, taking him away from his kids.
Apple may beg to differ. Letting Lasso go now, just when the streaming service is finally on a roll, seems like an incredibly dumb thing to do. Apple has big shows coming, including Silo (looks great!), Extrapolations (Meryl Streep!), new seasons of For All Mankind (space!) and Severance (goats!), and whatever the hell this is. Netflix is struggling for the first time, and in May, big HBO hits Barry and Succession will end on the very same night. While it’s hard to see Apple TV+’s end game, there’s no denying there’s room for another streaming service to step up and dominate the void.
Apple needs an anchor for all that content, and Ted Lasso gives it that. It’s a show that delivers numbers. It brings in subs. And it’s really good! It balances the right amount of heart and humour, weirdness and stupidity, and it has a Michael Scott-style boss at the centre of it. Aside from The Office reruns, there’s no other show like it. Hell, there are barely any other comedies left to compare it to. He might be “cornier than Kevin Costner’s outfield” but letting this coach depart after three seasons seems like it won’t happen. Surely we haven’t seen the end of Ted Lasso and his bad gags just yet.
Ted Lasso is available to stream through Apple TV+.
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