Review | 'Ted Lasso' overwhelms with its kindness and compassion. It's okay to find it annoying.

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The Washington Post 22 July, 2021 - 08:00am 5 views

Will Ted Lasso Season 2 be released all at once?

Season 2 of Ted Lasso premieres on July 23. You're going to need to pony up and subscribe to Apple TV Plus to watch it, as it isn't available on other services. ... Apple TV Plus likely will release the first three episodes on July 23 and then release the others one at a time on Fridays, with a 12-episode season planned. CNETTed Lasso season 2: Release date, how to watch, cast and everything to know

Based on a character that “Saturday Night Live” alum Jason Sudeikis had originally played in promos for NBC Sports, the series, about an American college football coach recruited to lead a professional soccer team in London, garnered 20 Emmy nominations last week (including for best comedy) and finally made Apple TV Plus a must-subscribe service for many viewers.

“Ted Lasso” is a fantasy of decency, of nontoxic masculinity, of leadership through emotional intelligence. It is kindness porn a la “Schitt’s Creek,” “Brooklyn 99” and “Parks and Recreation” — shows with fervid fan bases that cherish, rather than question, those series’ credulity-straining tolerant settings.

Late in the debut season, Ted learns that he was originally offered his coaching job as part of a revenge scheme by the team’s owner, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham, best known as the shame nun on “Game of Thrones”). After receiving control of AFC Richmond as part of an acrimonious divorce settlement, Rebecca was determined to run the team into the ground as payback for her soccer-obsessed ex-husband’s (Anthony Head) philandering. But by that point, Ted had won over not just her, but her right-hand man Higgins (Jeremy Swift), model-turned-marketing-chief Keeley (Juno Temple), the infighting players, the sports media and most of AFC Richmond’s fans.

The Ted skeptics put up something of a fight. Star striker Jamie (Phil Dunster) initially had no interest in giving up the spotlight to become a team player, nor was he receptive at first to the notion of treating shy equipment manager Nate (Nick Mohammed) like anything but a punching bag. Team captain and snarling rage addict Roy (Brett Goldstein), too, scoffed at Ted’s efforts to be a Midwestern Mary Poppins, but he was quicker than most in observing the wisdom in the chatterbox coach’s many verbal detours. The only character able to darken Ted’s door for any extended period of time was his separated wife, Michelle (Andrea Anders), a longtime witness of how his cheerfulness and affability can also serve as a barrier to deeper honesty.

It is, of course, totally fine that “Ted Lasso” is a fantasy; most fictional series, and many nonfiction works for that matter, eschew verisimilitude or complicating realities. But it’s also wholly fair to not want what “Ted Lasso” is selling, which is where I often find myself while watching this lovingly crafted, impressively written and acted series.

Given the international makeup of AFC Richmond, I would’ve preferred a show about soccer culture in the U.K. that deals more directly with the racial dynamics within its fan base, for example — an issue that Sudeikis himself recently addressed off-screen. And while the mutually admiring friendship between Rebecca and Keeley was a highlight of Season 1, it made me wonder if the writers had the stomach to dig into the potential tensions between the very different women — especially as now employer and employee — for Season 2.

Based on the first eight episodes (out of 12), the answer is no. If you were a fan of the energetic wholesomeness of the first season, the follow-up offers much of the same. There’s some plot convolutions to bring back Jamie, who had been traded away from AFC Richmond, and Roy, who had aged out of the game. (If there’s one thing “Ted Lasso” isn’t optimistic about, it’s post-field life.) A canceled deal with a polluting corporate sponsor gives Rebecca a headache and will probably snowball into a central story line later in the season. And Ted launches a new charm offensive against another future convert of the Lasso school of thought, the team’s sports psychologist (Sarah Niles), who’s just as practiced as he is in the art of deflection.

As a series ethos, niceness is probably harder to make entertaining than nastiness, which may be why it’s rarer to come by. The “Ted Lasso” team excel at devising instances of creative kindness (often embodied by the kind of grand gestures we used to associate with romantic comedies), whether it be Ted organizing an exorcism of the team’s treatment room to boost morale or chivalrously elbowing Rebecca’s vituperative ex away from her with an impromptu dart duel.

It’s an undeniably enticing idea: that being relentlessly positive (at least in the Lasso way) doesn’t make you boring, but rather resourceful and visionary. And if all that has you feeling a bit grinchy, well, come join me under the bleachers.

Read full article at The Washington Post

How 'Ted Lasso' Changed Our Lives at the Darkest Time

The Daily Beast 22 July, 2021 - 12:10pm

We used to have Oprah. Now we have Ted Lasso.

The Apple TV+ comedy series, which debuted last year like a fleeting, gee-golly antidote to our pandemic trauma and malaise, is undeniably funny—hence the record-breaking 20 Emmy nominations it earned earlier this month.

The reason it burrowed not just into the zeitgeist, but also our collective psyche is that for all the laughs, Ted Lasso offered near-incessant revelations about who we are as people and the potential for goodness in our lives. They were “a-ha” moments, to borrow from Winfrey’s phrasing, the kind you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a TV show about a British football squad in which a Saturday Night Live alum known for playing some of comedy’s greatest assholes and jerks instead stars as an unflappably optimistic coach.

Jason Sudeikis’ Ted Lasso was brought to England in a bout of diabolical strategy by the owner of the Richmond Greyhounds, Rebecca Welton (the imperious and then irresistibly warm Hannah Waddingham), who pursues revenge against her ex-husband by secretly destroying his beloved team. An American football coach who doesn’t know his offsides from his corner kick, but who is unshakable in his sincerity and desire to make everyone he comes in contact with happy, his presence on the pitch was like ice cubes in a glass of water. That is to say, he was out of step with the British way of doing things and everyone felt like he didn’t belong.

What nobody bargained for is the power of being nice. Ted’s earnestness, at least at first, borders on cartoonish, as if he’s some sheltered dolt not emotionally complex enough to engage with the darker realities of the world. When Rebecca asks him in the series’ first episode if he believes in ghosts, he replies, “I do. But more importantly, I think they need to believe in themselves.”

There was something almost political in his peculiar, throw-pillow clichés and philosophizing by way of obscure pop-culture references. In a mustachioed Sudeikis, here was the physical embodiment of the corn-fed, all-American straight white man in the pinnacle profession for the stereotype, the professional sports coach. Yet he moved through life with gentle compassion and cheerleading instead of the unearned confidence, among other nefarious traits, associated with the epidemic of toxic masculinity.

Throughout the season, he wins over the team’s players, the locals, and even Rebecca. It’s part charm offensive, sure. But it’s also the power of his positivity as a foil (to the other characters but also to us, the viewers) that made Ted Lasso the perfect show with the perfect tone at the perfect time when it premiered last year. Now that we’re coming to terms with how this unmooring period in our lives has fundamentally changed us, that may be even more true now.

Ted Lasso’s basic storyline was genius in its accessibility. Take the movie Major League, stage it in a soccer club in the U.K., and cast Sudeikis as a coach so peppy it requires Steve Carell-as-Michael Scott levels of acting gymnastics in order to keep the character on the endearing side of a precarious teeter-totter towards grating. What’s interesting, then, is the reaction to what was happening on Ted Lasso. All this niceness. All this heart. All this genuine feeling. It was treated as positively radical.

We talked about Ted Lasso as a modern incarnation of a perfect man, as if he’s a myth. A nice guy? My God, what a miracle.

In a cheeky way, the series even leans into that in its Season 1 finale, in which Lasso cribs a bit from Miracle in one of his inspiring locker room speeches. “Do you believe in miracles?” he asks the team. “I don’t need you all to answer that question for me. But I do want you to answer that question for yourselves. Right now. Do you believe in miracles? And if you do, I want you to circle up with me right now.”

It was, in some regard, the series sticking the landing on a season-long mission. We maybe didn’t realize as viewers that we were being recruited, too. Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe that a man this seemingly decent can exist? That by letting down the guard we’ve all been conditioned to use like shields against hurt and disappointment, we can find some of that goodness in ourselves? That maybe it’s not toughness and grit that brings out the best in us, but vulnerability and kindness?

The focus is too often on the result: the heroes and villains, wins and losses, the powerful and powerless, the generous and the taken advantage of, the painful existence and the hopelessness to change things. What if it was more rewarding to instead center the humanity we discover and experience on the way? To focus, in spite of outcomes we may truly not be able to control, on how there is that Ted Lasso kindness and joy we can actually make happen for ourselves and others?

At a time in our lives when we all needed a pep talk, to feel like the impossible could happen and, more, like we could be the ones to rise up and accomplish it, this show really did feel like a miracle. To that end, there’s a line from the season finale that never really left me over the course of this horrible year. When Richmond loses the big game and is relegated to the Championship league, Ted tells the team, “There are worse things out there than being sad, and that is being alone and sad.” Then after a beat: “Ain’t nobody in this room who is alone.”

It’s that last part that has been so hard to really hear and remember. But that, to me, is the big message of the show. A truth like that only needs us to validate it. The ball, so to speak, has always been in our court—even if we didn’t know we were playing in the game.

Ted Lasso reminded us of our own happiness agency, at a time when we had become certain that such serotonin would never be experienced again. It would never be instant, and the work might be brutal and uncomfortable. But it might also be the most rewarding kind of work there is.

Season 1 of Ted Lasso could never have expected that so much would be placed on it because of the circumstances in which it premiered. But season two is very much aware of what has become almost the burden of responsibility: It was the show that, by surprise, helped heal many of us. Now it’s the show we’re expecting that from.

To wit, the new season finds the players and staff at Richmond not just won over by Ted’s quirky idioms and upbeatness—“There’s only two buttons I never like to hit, and that’s panic and snooze,” he says in the premiere—but they have come to rely on it. They seek out his advice and, more, his intense, intimate way of connecting with them. He’s the kind of person that rattles something inside of you that makes you see yourself and what you deserve differently. The Oprah “a-ha” moments.

There’s a shock gag that happens minutes into Season 2 that I won’t spoil, but which triggers darkly comic—you could even call it tragic—consequences. Everyone, from the team to Rebecca to the football fans watching at home, turn to their newfound spiritual guide, Ted Lasso, to hear what he has to say about it, something that will make sense of it all and help them through.

He delivers, spinning one of his overlong personal yarns about a childhood dog he learned to care for that has everyone in the press conference on the verge of tears. He gets misty himself.

“It’s funny to think about the things in your life that make you cry just knowing that they existed, and then they’re the same things that make you cry just knowing they’re now gone,” he says, a wallop of wisdom that, when I applied it to my past year, bowled me over like an emotional wrecking ball. But what makes this show work is that it doesn’t just leave you there. There’s a lesson, too: “Those things come into our lives to help us get from one place to a better one.”

It’s yet another one of this show’s dares. What if we let ourselves actually believe that, after all we’ve been through? Do we even have the audacity to do so?

Ted Lasso wouldn’t work if its ensemble sprawl wasn’t populated by fully realized characters, each of which are explored more deeply in Season 2. Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) and Keeley (Juno Temple) navigate uncharted relationship waters. Nathan (Nick Mohammad) taps into an unsavory side effect of earning power and respect. Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) finds his ego crashing back down on earth, while Rebecca and Keeley’s budding friendship becomes the unexpected heart of the series.

When a sports psychologist (Sarah Niles’ Sharon) is brought on board to help the team, the series even explores a natural, if meta, question: Can things start to be too nice? Is there too much harmony among the team? Could it even be toxic? Ted bristles at Sharon’s presence. If you ever wondered what this guy’s deal is—surely, that kindness must be masking something—suffice it to say your suspicions are explored.

Now, this is all a lot of existential hand-wringing that buries the most important thing to know about the new episodes of Ted Lasso. Watching them made me feel very happy. I’ve seen eight episodes and that was true the entire time. It never let up and my smile only disappeared when it was time to cry. (The Christmas episode, in particular, will become an instant classic.)

In some ways, it’s curious that we’re so obsessed with the idea that Ted Lasso is special because it is so nice. Especially in recent years, the best TV comedies have been nice and were celebrated for it, like Parks and Recreation or Schitt’s Creek. I think it speaks more to who we’ve become that the idea of kindness is viewed as radical.

Ted Lasso has often been characterized as the antidote to all the hurt we’ve felt this last year. But I think it goes beyond the premise, tone, or its endearing lead character. The secret sauce to Ted Lasso—just like Schitt’s Creek before it—isn’t that it’s nice. It’s that it has found a way for us to feel it, too.

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