Isn’t this nice?

Published date14 March 2023
Publication titleSignal
I have a complicated relationship with Ted Lasso, which returns this week for its third season (and possibly final, though why they would end a popular show that is saying as little as humanly possible seems beyond me. There’s no ring going to Mordor, is there? He just keeps slapping a ‘‘BELIEVE’’ sign and saying words that rhyme)

The first season was an unexpectedly warming hit: a spin-off show for a character invented for an advert whose primary personality trait was ‘‘American’’ could have run out of steam as soon as Ted encountered his first cup of tea, so writers skirted round that central thinness by filling the rest of the cast and story with tons and tons of heart.

Season two was, comparatively, a whiff, one that over-relied on the audience’s accrued fondness for the existing players and stretched out to 14 episodes for no reason (the Christmas episode! The episode where coach goes to the club! Garbage!). This is all fine.

But, fundamentally, I bristle against Ted Lasso’s central engine and the place it holds culturally right now — it’s the co-reigning ‘‘nice’’ comedy with Abbott Elementary, following in the hallowed tradition of The Office (US), Parks and Recreation and The Good Place — which I personally find jeopardyless and affected. I just hate it when a comedy asks ‘‘What if everyone was friends and sometimes kissed?’’. This is, I’ll concede, because I am an extremely negative person.

And yet, here I am, still reeling from chain-watching the three preview episodes provided to me and champing deliriously for more. I’ll sketch out the story points, even though they are essentially irrelevant: AFC Richmond just got promoted to the Premier League, and have the Nike kits to prove it. Former kitman Nate ‘‘The Great’’ Shelley is now the manager of arch rivals West Ham. (To better appreciate Ted Lasso, I’ve found, is to forget everything you know about football.) Ted still clenches his fist sometimes. The team are all still friends and then sometimes not friends. Juno Temple is still doing that voice. Nothing matters and the crowds are made from computers. The show is still convinced that the cutest thing in the world is ‘‘a child saying something’’. I want to hate it so much.

But. There’s...

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