Ted Lasso Season 2 review: TV’s nicest show scores again
Ivan Radford | On 23, Jul 2021
Ted Lasso Season 2 premieres on Friday 23rd July on Apple TV+, with new episodes arriving weekly. Warning: This contains spoilers for Season 1. Not caught up? Read our review of Season 1 here.
“I believe in communism. Rom-communism, that is.” Those are the strangely wise words of Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), English football’s unlikeliest coach – and Apple TV+’s unlikeliest hit show. The series quietly premiered in August 2020 to little attention or buzz, not least because it was based on some skits to promote NBC’s Premier League coverage back in 2013. Here at VODzilla.co, though, we immediately crowned it the nicest show of the year, and the comedy’s relentless optimism and delightful good nature have seen it steadily win over other people in the 12 months since. Now, it’s back for a second season and, with everyone rooting for it, can the series’ folksy underdog charm manage to live up to expectations?
The answer is a resounding yes, with Ted Lasso’s sophomore run proving just as faultlessly nice and thoughtfully kind. That’s underpinned by Jason Sudeikis’ remarkable lead turn as the unflappably upbeat coach – even as AFC Richmond fights it out in the Championship, after being relegated from the Premier League in the Season 1 finale.
Sudeikis knows Ted inside and out, bringing a nuance to what could be a cartoonish role and depth to even the silliest of one-liners. It’s a performance that’s full of little touches, from the way he makes eye contact as he talks to his all-or-nothing toothy grin. It’s hard not to admire the way that Ted consistently makes references to American pop culture, without it ever mattering that nobody else on screen (and the majority of UK audiences) understands them – what matters is that they make sense to him.
This is a character-driven comedy that takes its fish-out-of-water premise and invites us all to dive into the same pond. That means that not only does the show elevate itself above a one-note sketch, but also that the characters around Ted get the chance to grow and evolve too. Season 2 builds upon Season 1’s winning ensemble approach by expanding the show’s scope, without losing its intimate scale.
Phil Dunster’s egotistical strike Jamie Tartt, who left AFC Richmond last time around, gets a chance to come back and reflect on his life priorities – prompted by the inspired idea of putting him in a Love Island-style dating show. Seeing him attempt to be a better man – while praising himself for trying to be a better man – is an unexpected delight. It makes for a wonderful contrast to “Nate the Great”, Nick Mohammed’s former kit boy turned assistant coach, whose mild-mannered, desperate-to-impress earnestness is affected by his rise to power – a move that continues to make Ted Lasso a beautiful observation on the fragile relationship between men, insecurity and authority and also continues to make this the best role of Mohammed’s prolific career.
When it comes to masculinity, though, the MVP of the show is undoubtedly Roy Kent. The hilarious Brett Goldstein acts his socks off as the Roy Keane-alike hard man, who is at once gruff and brash and incredibly open and vulnerable. Paired with both Elodie Blomfield’s irrepressible niece and the team’s branding manager Keeley (Juno Temple, also clearly enjoying the best role of her career), his honest, sweet, growling presence – and his believable relationship with Keeley – could easily be the basis of his own show.
But that’s the Lasso way: everyone gets a chance to shine and every character feels authentic and convincing. In the first half of Season 2, Toheeb Jimoh shines as he deservedly gets added screen time as the heartfelt team leader Sam, who channels his passion into a political protest – in an episode written by new team signing Ashley Nicole Black – while Cristo Fernández’s Dani Rojas gets a surprise twist on his “Football is life!” slogan that takes him to an unexpected dark place.
As a result, Season 2 brings in a new recruit: I May Destroy You’s Sarah Niles as sports psychologist Dr (not “Doc”) Sharon, who works with Dani to get him back to his usual effervescent self. While there’s fun in watching Niles’ deadpan response to Sudeikis’ upbeat charisma, it also highlights what makes Ted Lasso such a winning show: it’s a happy programme, but one that acknowledges that sadness, guilt and loss are still out there on the pitch. It’s there in the way that Hannagh Waddingham’s club owner has to move on from her painful divorce and learn to respect herself – setting in motion a subplot involve a new dating up, Bantr, set up by Keeley – or the way that she and Ted both face loneliness in their solitary lifestyles, with Ted struggling apart from his family across the pond and increasingly showing signs of unspoken stress. Even Jamie Tartt has a bullying father to deal with.
But the underlying strength found in teamwork, friendship, compassion and support never fails to bring each player together, whether AFC Richmond is winning, losing or (as they are at the start of Season 2) repeatedly drawing – but the longer Season 2 goes on, the more it interrogates that apparent truth, putting Ted’s philosophy and outward optimism to the test, albeit with the light touches. A few episodes into the season, for example, Bill Lawrence and his writing team casually drop in a Christmas episode that immediately cements itself as one of the best festive TV outings of the past decade. There aren’t many series that could get away with homaging Love Actually in August, but it says a lot that Ted Lasso can: its success lies in maintaining that festive warmth all year round, as we see Jeremy Swift’s scene-stealing Higgins invite team members into his home and emphasise the importance of valuing the family you have around you, biological, found or otherwise.
The result isn’t just a strong sophomore season, but one of the best TV shows of the year, a tonic for life’s stresses and a shot of life-affirming self-belief that never fails to cheer you up – whether you know anything about football or not. After it, as Ted puts it: “If Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan can go through some heartfelt struggles and still end up happy, so can we.” That each of Season 2’s 12 episodes are being released weekly will be frustrating to many, but look on the bright side: that means we all get to enjoy Ted Lasso for three whole months.
Ted Lasso: Season 1 and 2 is available on Apple TV+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, with a seven-day free trial.