The Merciful End of ‘Ted Lasso’

Good riddance to the saccharine sitcom that wanted so badly to be “quality” TV

Late May seemed to mark the end of everyone’s favorite “quality” streaming shows. Yet no prestige-focused press has felt quite as bizarre as the one the media gave to Ted Lasso. The New York Times, a paper which we are all told focuses on only the most serious news, didn’t just recap Ted Lasso, they felt the need to remind us that Ted Lasso, avatar of soft masculinity was the hero we all needed.

The thing about pretentious TV shows is that they tend to be pretending to be something. So it has always been endlessly bizarre how the feel-good Apple TV+ sensation Ted Lasso is just a saccharine comedy-drama about an American football coach who’s hired to coach a soccer team in England’s world-class Premier League. There aren’t any real consequences though since our hero, Ted Lasso, has a positive attitude, and isn’t that what sports is all about?

A person with any knowledge or experience about sports beyond its use as a time filler for suburban teenagers might find that statement a bit perplexing. A person with literally any knowledge about the Premier League at all would find it completely absurd. But Ted Lasso is not an attempt to accurately portray the backend operations of one of the world’s most competitive sports leagues.

It’s kind of difficult to pinpoint what the show is actually about in the third season. To put into perspective just how out there Ted Lasso can get, a major plot thread in the third season involves the billionaire owner of the team Rebecca Welton, played by Hannah Waddhingham, dealing with mysterious prophecies from a psychic played by Emma Davies. This culminates with her meeting a handsome Dutchman. And apparently Ted Lasso’s longtime trusted assistant, Coach Beard, played by Brendan Hunt, speaks Dutch.

If you’re waiting a punchline, there really isn’t one. The typical arc of a Ted Lasso episode is just that a bunch of stuff kind of happens, with a poorly-defined problem receiving an even less well defined solution, usually almost immediately after the show introduces the problem. The core concept is straight up anti-conflict, people building each other up instead of tearing each other down. It’s a television show for adults in the same way that there are such things as coloring books for adults. Ted Lasso exists mainly to calm people down from stressful lives, but they brand it in such a way to at least seem somewhat mature.

This all sounds harmless enough, and it’s difficult to criticize Ted Lasso without coming off like a hopeless grump. Some critics at least tried, though, most citing the generally pointless increased running time of the third season compared to the first two, an apparent effort to nudge Ted Lasso to prestige status. The showrunners, rather arbitrarily, limited the show to three seasons, even though they’d set up its sitcom styled premise in such a way that it could just as easily have gone on indefinitely. This is the weird niche position that Ted Lasso holds. It does not, and cannot, make any substantive comment because it too aggressively preempts conflict from the premise.

The epic origin story for Ted Lasso to sell its relevance to the Emmys despite all of this is that Ted Lasso was the hero we all needed during the pandemic. It’s a bit funny to think back to the early days when the pandemic was actually at its worst. What were people actually watching? Tiger King, the Netflix documentary about the charismatic yet also obviously insane and sinister Joe Exotic and his private zoo adjacent business- and also Carole Baskin, his surprisingly unconvincing nemesis. The 2016 presidential election metaphor is so obvious, you barely need to vocalize it. But the world quickly forgot Tiger King in its subsequent seasons, especially by politicians, who loved Ted Lasso.

It’s not all that surprising hat Mitt Romney and Krysten Sinema, notorious Senate moderates who value bipartisanship and the minimizing of political differences, like Ted Lasso. The saccharine tone of Ted Lasso serves as proof that billionaires, administrators, and workers can all get along just fine since they all want basically the same thing. What is surprising is their assumption that of course everyone must be familiar with Ted Lasso. And ever since the whole idea of improving Ted Lasso awareness has become a goal in and of itself, as if we could all just learn to be nicer by emulating Ted Lasso’s example.

As is so often the case with our vague philosophical pop culture superheroes, making sense of this at all requires that you not describe what Ted Lasso is actually about, because it sounds too absurd to take seriously. The only kind-of funny Ted Lasso joke I ever remembered through pop culture osmosis was his saying that he always thought tea just tasted like hot brown water…and it does! But by the end of the third season, Ted Lasso’s dislike of tea has gone from just being an affably expressed negative opinion to a tragic backstory about his mother.

If Ted Lasso had just wanted to be a situation comedy, which is what it sounds like when you describe it abstractly, that would be fine. But we live in an era where we can’t just enjoy popular culture. It has to be important. But also not to trigger unwanted emotions. Ted Lasso is all these nonsense contradictions rolled up into a single character, played by notorious jerk Jason Sudeikis. Does any of this qualify as art? Well let’s just say that Ted Lasso is no Picasso in that regard.

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William Schwartz

William Schwartz is a reporter and film critic based in Seoul, South Korea. He writes primarily for HanCinema, the world's largest and most popular English language database for South Korean television dramas and films.

6 thoughts on “The Merciful End of ‘Ted Lasso’

  • June 12, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    Sorry you weren’t hugged enough as a kid.

    • June 13, 2023 at 3:14 am

      Pretentious drivel from an unloved twat.

  • June 13, 2023 at 12:15 am

    If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, maybe don’t have a grammatical error in your first sentence.

  • June 13, 2023 at 12:50 pm

    I wanted to point out one statement you made in your piece that really resonated for me: “This all sounds harmless enough, and it’s difficult to criticize Ted Lasso without coming off like a hopeless grump.” Yup.

  • June 13, 2023 at 3:33 pm

    It’s okay. Brilliance is often lost on the youth. Watch it in 20 years when you have some more life experience.


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