Spoiler alert: This review contains spoilers from the “Ted Lasso” series finale, which is now streaming on Apple TV+.
Here’s the scoop: There will be a fourth season of “Ted Lasso.” In fact, it actually aired, and it wasn’t great.
A character created by Jason Sudeikis and his friends on the NBC Premier League shows, “Ted Lasso” is a Kansas City-based football coach who somehow finds himself coaching last Football is in London for AFC Richmond, a franchise that suffers from chronic turmoil. It’s a typical out-of-water premise, which is a classic comic trope, but it comes with a few limitations – namely, when a fish becomes an amphibian and starts loving life on land. Aware of these limitations, “Lasso” debuted in 2020 to acclaim, with critics praising its fervent optimism as the world grappled with a deadly pandemic. The first season’s 10 episodes ran an average of 30 minutes each, totaling 299 minutes for the season.
Now the quarantine is long over, and we in the world are crammed into middle seats, intent on spending our last dollar on Maui rentals and a down payment on a jet ski we definitely don’t need. “Lasso” Season 3 recently finished to the party. The series’ 12 episodes ran for 650 minutes. That’s 78 minutes longer than “Dekalog” by Christoph Keselowski, which dealt with all of The Ten Commandments.
I’m sure it all started with the best of intentions. The first season began with a heavy focus on Ted and his bearded sidekick (Brendan Hunt) trying to negotiate a proverbial plate of bangers and mash while working for Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), the club’s owner and… Ha Sidekick (Jeremy Swift), who believes that hiring Ted — who doesn’t know the difference between sneaking in and out — is the best way to submarine the team Rebecca inherited from her super-piggy ex-husband. To the side was a love triangle between tacky team publicist Kelly (Juno Temple) and two players, Jimmy Tart (Phil Dunster), a Ken puppet, and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), a modern-day man-hater. Ted is oblivious to everyone, and brings Rebecca cookies every morning in a mix of Phil Jackson and Being There Chauncey Gardiner.
The first two seasons are hilarious — Rebecca apologizes for ruining Ted, and they become close to him — and there are poignant moments as Ted deals with anxiety, divorce, and the loss of his son in Kansas City. Although I never really bought into Temple’s grotesque and haunting character, there were funny scenes of conflict, then grudging respect, between Jimmy and Roy. Meanwhile, we watch Nate Shelley (Nick Muhammad) evolve from equipment man to trainer prodigy to the goofy villain who deserts the lasso gang – the only true left-handed role in the series. Now, none of this made it to the “Barry” franchise, a show that contained more laughs, witty plot twists, and emotional turns for WTF while sticking to a 30-minute runtime. However, “Ted Lasso” has had his moment and provided a small but comforting Xanax video for these trying times.
Then came the third season. Perhaps out of gratitude for their loyal service, or out of a desire to put together a team of 11 would-be singles, the folks at “Ted Lasso” decided to give each character – including the man who replaced the original man’s kit – their own bow. Kelly opens a public relations firm and dating a billionaire! Leslie is going to play a jazz show! Nate works as a waiter! Richmond’s got a superstar who at first seems to be a major streak in the season and then disappears! Rebecca meets a man in Amsterdam and has dinner, but she doesn’t know his name! Trent Karim — the reporter who played the sweet James Lance — is writing a book about Ted! Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) opens a Nigerian restaurant and then gets attacked! A billionaire tries to create a super league, and it ends in a food fight!
That went on, at least five hours of extra time – the season would have been better if he had lost 300 minutes. The few parts that work in Season 3, besides Trent’s squad jerseys, are when “Lasso” sticks to his original mission, a stranger in a strange land trying to find his way on the field and in his own life. “Mom City,” the show’s penultimate episode, is the season’s highlight, as Ted’s mother — Becky Ann Baker — arrives unannounced, and the two do an agonizing dance of politeness because no one wants to talk about Ted who is still haunted by his father’s suicide and he boy. Meanwhile, Jimmy literally climbs into his mother’s lap and sobs over his alcoholic and abusive father. The episode resonates because it feels earned by two characters we lived with for three seasons, and unintentionally hurts the rest of Season 3’s plot lines that have a generic “love, actually” resonance.
Last night’s series finale tried to land the plane, but there were many, many casualties. The team broke into a musical number to say goodbye to Ted—a number any sane showrunner would have cut and released as a bonus track. (Unfortunately, the showrunner is Sudeikis himself.) Nate completes an unlikely season arc that takes him from head coach to restaurant worker to assistant equipment guy and then nestles on Ted’s lap. The team almost won the championship, but that’s okay – everyone learned something. Jimmy’s father is now sober, and shares a cup with his son.
Ted then flies home to non-existent London to Kansas City non-stop after a tearful goodbye with Rebecca. On the way out of the airport, a little girl falls at the feet of childless Rebecca. She’s looking up and is the daughter of — wait for it — the mysterious Amsterdam guy! Who is the pilot?!? The show ends with 436 personalities attending the cookout. Staying with the vibe of Season 3, the Vegas buffet had to be all inclusive.
I’m writing this while listening to “Be Here Now” by Oasis, the former UK-based champion of a third effort that went horribly wrong. It was cocaine and booze that pushed Gallagher into extreme indulgence. For AFC Richmond it was a lack of discipline.
In the end, Ted Laso needed a better coach.