Can Ted Lasso's optimism sustain it for season 3? [Apple TV+ recap] | Cult of Mac

Can Ted Lasso’s optimism sustain it for season 3? [Apple TV+ recap]


Episode 1. Jason Sudeikis in ★★☆☆☆
Ted's up to his old tricks again.
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ ReviewThree years after Ted Lasso became a runaway smash for Apple TV+, the show returns Wednesday with a fresh blast of unrelenting optimism.

The fish-out-of-water story of an upbeat U.S. football coach leading a team of U.K. footballers somehow became one of the most-watched things in the streaming sphere, fueled by pandemic viewers looking for something — anything — with a positive message. Now, as Ted Lasso season three arrives, there’s a lot of hype to live up to (and a lot of dross that needs papering over).

Can the show’s likely last season cement Ted’s place in TV history? Maybe … but star Jason Sudeikis’ aw-shucks act seems in danger of wearing thin. After all, the new Ted is an awful lot like the old Ted.

Ted Lasso recap: ‘Smells Like Mean Spirit’

Season 3, episode 1: When we rejoin our hero in this week’s Ted Lasso season opener, entitled “Smells Like Mean Spirit,” the titular Ted (played by Sudeikis) is sending his son Henry (Gus Turner) back to America from the United Kingdom. With his son gone, Ted starts to go stir-crazy.

As he doesn’t exactly tell his therapist friend Dr. Sarah Fieldstone (Sarah Niles), he’s feeling out of sorts and out of place. He’s got big problems at work as the coach of AFC Richmond. As the club’s owner, Rebecca Walton (Hannah Waddingham), and her sidekick Leslie Higgins (Jeremy Swift) tell Ted, the press already pegged Richmond to come in dead last this season.

The team’s got to do a lot to overcome the national mood. Ted goes to talk to his cohorts, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), to talk strategy. Roy’s convinced Richmond can win, but it’s gonna take brute strength.

Meanwhile, Rebecca goes to commiserate with her one-time assistant (and Roy’s ex-girlfriend), Keeley Jones (Juno Temple). Keeley, who now runs her own PR firm, is stressed to the point of having to make appointments to cry at her desk (a joke lifted none-too-subtly from James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News). And Keeley finally agreed to tell Roy’s niece, Phoebe (Elodie Blomfield), about their split. (The girl takes it OK.)

Everyone’s stressing out about everything

In a scene from Ted Lasso season 3, episode 1, Juno Temple and Hannah Waddingham talk things over.
Keeley (played by Juno Temple, left) and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) have their own problems to deal with in Ted Lasso’s third season.
Photo: Apple TV+

Rebecca takes Keeley to lunch and opens up about her own stress. She wants badly to beat her ex-husband, Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head), at his own game, after he bought rival team West Ham and recruited Richmond’s one-time employee Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed). Nate’s now crackin’ skulls as West Ham’s head coach.

Ted’s players hear the news about the press picking them last for the season. So, Ted and Beard decide to do something fun and outside the box. They take them to the sewer that Ted and Henry visited a while back.

Ted’s idea is to give them perspective. What difference does it make if you’re surrounded by shit above ground or below ground? It doesn’t concern you. Be zen.

Nate the not so great

Episode 1. Nick Mohammed in "Ted Lasso," premiering March 15, 2023 on Apple TV+.
Nate the Great (played Nick Mohammed) stand ready to do battle with Ted and his team after last season’s heel turn.
Photo: Apple TV+

That attitude helps them when a photo of them going into the sewers, snapped by a construction worker who happened to see it, makes it to the internet. Nate’s in the middle of his first-ever press conference as head of West Ham, and the picture gives him a chance to go on the attack against Ted and Richmond. That saves Nate from feeling insecure and lost.

Rebecca insists that Ted go on the offensive and hold his own press conference. She absolutely hates the idea of Rupert laughing at her.

Ted goes and does what he does, using self-deprecating humor to win over the press corps. He noticeably lets Nate off the hook. But Ted comes out looking great, as usual, because he refuses to go dirty in his attack. Keeley congratulates Rebecca for letting Ted do his thing, and she stops being angry that Ted takes the high road.

That night, Ted calls Henry and they talk about how winning isn’t necessarily the most important thing — trying is. Then Henry drops a bomb. Turns out his mom is dating someone else. Ted is crushed.

Will third season be a charm for Ted Lasso and me?

Episode 1. Cristo Fernández, Kola Bokinni, Toheeb Jimoh and Billy Harris in "Ted Lasso," premiering March 15, 2023 on Apple TV+.
How will Richmond’s players come together to overcome adversity this time around?
Photo: Apple TV+

Any regular readers (or anyone who’s been unlucky enough to spend a night drinking with me) will know that Ted Lasso and I get along like a scorpion and tequila. But it is not lost on me how popular the show is, how nice people say it is, how important its message of forgiving yourself trying your best and staying in touch with yourself turns out to be.

I promised myself I’d go into Ted Lasso season three with as close to a positive attitude as I could. But then, not a minute into this first episode, Henry tells the gate attendant at the airport that he’s excited to “go back to his toys,” but not to his “country’s political landscape.” My attitude adjustment didn’t last very long.

The spirit is willing but the writing is weak

There’s just something about the writing on this show — it’s entirely too pleased with itself. Later on, 6-year-old Phoebe will tell Kent and Keeley that “few relationships can survive a major career change.”

*John Mulaney voice* Do you know how kids talk?

I just cannot for the life of me imagine the precocious kidspeak, the way the Richmond players all talk like fancy little children, or the way Ted insists on telling jokes — and not a one of them is funny, despite the raucous approval of the press corps every week – and finding this enough. Some of Ted’s heaters include: “I look like Ned Flanders cosplaying as Ned Flanders.” And “I’ve had more psychotic episodes than Twin Peaks.” The press corps loves them.

I don’t really buy that a guy like Ted would have more than a passing familiarity with The Simpsons or David Lynch’s twisted TV series from the ’90s. But the trouble isn’t the verisimilitude of the implication, but rather that I watched 45 minutes of a TV comedy and didn’t laugh once.

Still, some bright spots creep through the clouds of goofiness

Episode 1. Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt and Jason Sudeikis in "Ted Lasso," premiering March 15, 2023 on Apple TV+.
Roy Kent (played by Brett Goldstein, left) Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Ted (Jason Sudeikis) take stock of their team’s situation.
Photo: Apple TV+

It’s not all bad news, though I basically enjoy the Roy Kent performance that Brett Goldstein gives. Plus, directs this week. She’s the most prolific (thus far) of the Ted Lasso directors, and she produces some arresting compositions. For instance, I liked the shot of the team standing in the sewer, coming down the Z axis in an interesting geometric arrangement, lit very handsomely (especially considering they’re in a sewer). Indeed, the lighting on Ted Lasso is better than most of television these days.

However, I just cannot penetrate the show’s emotional ideas. They’re right there on the surface, they’re in bold type, and I just don’t even want to look at them. Yes, we all get sad. And yes, we should all believe in ourselves. I just need to hear it from a less self-aware, less chipper, less relentless mouthpiece than Jason Sudeikis, with all his folksy scatological humor.

I’m glad Sudeikis found a way to funnel his own troubles into his art … but that art is just not for me. We have 11 more chances to see if Ted Lasso can win me over, but I don’t believe in miracles.


Watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV+

The first episode of Ted Lasso season three premiered today on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at


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