The “Ted Lasso” phenomenon has not yet consumed “Ted Lasso.”
Last year, amid anxious efforts to control a raging pandemic and a heated presidential campaign pushing tensions to a tipping point, Apple TV+ politely released a charming sitcom about an American football coach hired to helm a British soccer club. Reviews were solid, but not ecstatic. Fans were invested, but not frenzied. Apple was supportive, but there’s no way anyone at the less-than-a-year-old streamer knew what they had.
Then, little by little, “Ted Lasso” started to sweep the nation. Critics became more vocal. Audiences were more adamant. Apple put on the full-court press (to mix sports metaphors), and wham! Whether you credit the stressful times for amplifying “Ted Lasso” or “Ted Lasso” for being timed just right (and you gotta love that weekly release), the heartfelt sports sitcom was much, much more than that. An awards darling, the start of a cultural swing toward kindness, a way of life: “Ted Lasso” wasn’t just a show anymore. It was a phenomenon.
With such a lofty status come exaggerated expectations for the follow-up, and “Ted Lasso” Season 2 acknowledges the pressure its under by putting its titular coach (played by SAG Award winner Jason Sudeikis) on the spot: His team, AFC Richmond, has been relegated to the EFL Championship division after last year’s season-ending loss, and now they find themselves stuck in a historic streak of ties. (Ted does acknowledge the irony in his predicament, seeing as he routinely forgot ties were even possible during his first season in soccer.) All of this has happened since the new coach came to town, so no matter how many skeptics he’s charmed, the buck has to stop with him. Toss in the lingering pain from his recent divorce as well as a young son living an ocean apart and Ted’s unflagging optimism faces its toughest test yet.
To say much more would venture into spoiler territory, but fans can rest assured of two things: A theme of Season 2, as shared by Sudeikis himself, is that of guardian angels; Ted isn’t in this by himself anymore, and the series finds clever, touching, and genuine ways for its stellar ensemble to come through for each other. The second guarantee is that “Ted Lasso” hasn’t succumbed to any easy temptations; it still embodies its coach in being sweeter than it should be able to get away with and smarter than you’d expect, given its unassuming nature. “Ted Lasso” hasn’t been changed by its success, aside from a few guilt-free indulgences.
Colin Hutton / Apple TV+
One change viewers will notice straight off is that everyone looks a bit more polished. Nate (Nick Mohammed) has a tighter haircut. Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) dons even more exquisite suits. Even Higgins (Jeremy Swift) got a wardrobe upgrade. While far from the extreme between-seasons shifts seen among, say, the “Friends” cast, nitpickers would note these characters should probably look worse. After all, they’re in a less prestigious division, and, aside from Nate, no one has merited a raise. Similarly superficial quibbles pop up here and there, but for the most part, showrunner Bill Lawrence and co-creators/executive producers Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, and Sudeikis make routinely excellent decisions in progressing their story.
Season 2 offers an episode themed around iconic romantic comedies. The premiere proudly incorporates a “Magnolia” motif. There’s even a (spectacular) “Ted Lasso” holiday episode, as if the show sans Christmas cheer wasn’t warm and fuzzy enough. Somehow, they balance the overwhelming goodwill beautifully, bucking expectations along the way, which brings us to the new episodes’ most impressive feat: They don’t lean too hard on past successes, nor do they steer too far into darker, more dramatic territory. A few fan favorite jokes make their into the premiere — Dani Rojas’ “football is life” gets played up, and the entire press room says “The Independent” before Trent Crimm can — but these little nods to the past don’t dictate the present narrative.
On the other end of the spectrum, “Ted Lasso” avoids going too dark. Given Ted’s panic attack late in Season 1 and aforementioned stress in Season 2, it must have been tempting to base a full season around an emotional implosion; to watch as Ted struggled to be positive, given everything going on; to steer “Ted Lasso” toward dramedy territory for the contrast, for the awards, for the easy prestige grab it would’ve been. (After all, some folks originally complained Season 1 wasn’t funny enough to be a comedy anyway.) Instead, Season 2 finds a more honest way to address the coach’s human hardships (involving the arrival of Sarah Niles’ sports psychologist), without shying away from his endless, sparkling analogies and outright hilarious enthusiasm.
“Ted Lasso” still feels like “Ted Lasso,” and while there will be a lot more to say about the season once everyone has seen it, for now, that’s an incredible relief — and an impressive triumph.
“Ted Lasso” Season 2 premieres Friday, July 23 on Apple TV+. All 12 episodes will be released weekly on the streaming service.
For more on “Ted Lasso” Season 2, check out IndieWire Creative Producer Leo Garcia’s interviews with the cast below.