Why Does Everybody Hate ‘Ted Lasso’ All of a Sudden?
For a show everyone loved for being so nice and heartwarming, there’s an awful lot of vitriol surrounding “Ted Lasso” season two. Here’s what they’re saying—and why they’re wrong.
The great thing about pop culture is that everyone gets to have an opinion. It’s just that so many of them are wrong.
I kid. I’m not (that) elitist. The phrase “everybody’s a critic” exists for a reason, presumably beyond to torture me, a person who is a critic.
But every once in a while there is a groundswell of opinion about something that, while it must be valid—there are enough people thinking that way for it to be noticed—is absolutely baffling. To say it’s wrong would be as flippant as the people spraining their thumbs with their flurry of tweets. Still, it’s hard not to have a visceral reaction.
This is all to say: Keep my husband Ted Lasso’s name out of your trash mouths.
I’m going to use it one more time before it joins my list of banned words alongside “hottake,” “stan,” and “moist,” but there’s been surprisingly passionate “discourse” (ugh) over the last few weeks over season two of the Apple TV+ series. Having seen the first eight episodes of the season before it premiered and then galloping through the streets like a gay Paul Revere screaming, “It’s so good, you guys!!!,” I was startled to discover that there is a rising backlash. Backlash! To Ted Lasso!!!
There seem to be several factions to the criticism, two of which I reject and one I sprained my eyes by rolling at it so hard. (They’re still twitching.)
Some think the show has become too nice, or too Ted Lasso-y. To those who have had their souls healed, hearts fortified, and lifespan elongated by the pleasures of this series, there is a narrative steeped in that hyperbole and those fan hysterics: that this show somehow saved us.
It’s about an American football coach (Jason Sudeikis) who is brought over to London to helm a struggling football-as-in-soccer club as part of a dastardly plan to sabotage the team. His disorienting optimism and unflappable insistence on seeing the potential good in people slowly wins over all the skeptical Brits who were giving him a hard time. How sweet!
It debuted during the darkest period of the pandemic, when its positivity seemed radical. When everyone else was disappointing us, Ted was the Only Good Straight White Guy. Moreover, the show wasn’t portraying some utopian delusion; the world he was creating was one we could create for ourselves, if we would only open ourselves up to it.
Fans who are displeased with season two think it’s become a parody of all that praise. Especially now that Ted has charmed all the characters who used to be his foils, the tension-less lovefest has veered from sweet to saccharine. The Onion parodied that this week with a post touting the most recent episode as “just stock photos of people hugging each other,” reporting that fans can’t wait for the finale, “which was rumored to feature a single image of a duckling.”
If there were rumblings about the show’s signature warmth reaching a boiling point, then the timing of the season’s Christmas episode couldn’t have been worse. This is where things get exasperating for me.
It is, in my mind, a perfect Christmas episode. My heart grew so many sizes after watching that The Grinch sent a cease and desist. (Apparently that’s “his deal.”) Gay Paul Revere hit the streets again, telling everyone they were going to love it. But it turned out that airing an episode so extremely heartwarming and pure amid a building backlash against the show’s heart, warmth, and purity only amplified those complaints.
Fellow critics, like Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk and Decider’s Meghan O’Keefe, have posited that Ted Lasso’s weekly release could be to blame for the spike in these gripes. Binge a full season of a series, and something like the Christmas episode is a toasty chestnut; a treat in the grander scheme. But during a weekly rollout, it becomes damning proof of a critical accusation: See! It’s all too nice!
Ted Lasso is that rare case in which, in the age of bingeing, we are actually talking about a buzzy show for more than three days before forgetting about it and moving onto the next shiny thing. This is a great theory as to why this backlash has gathered so much momentum, but the thing is, that aforementioned grander scheme will soon satisfy all those complainers.
Having seen what’s coming down the pike, what struck me most about this season is how dark it actually becomes. Ted Lasso, in both seasons thus far, never pretends that the demons that haunt us in the real world don’t exist. It has offered a life view that helps keep them at bay, but, as season two continues, we’ll see how that may not be feasible in the long term.
It shouldn’t be startling to learn that there’s a tragic past that underlies Ted’s aggressive niceness. He’s going to confront it. And it’s not just him—that “everyone now just gets along” thing that people have been complaining about is a narrative device that allows the supporting characters to grapple with their own dark struggles. It’s the support they are receiving as a loving community now that makes it so they can delve into it.
That’s why I also reject the backlash around the idea that nothing is happening this season. The biggest disrupter is a sports psychologist (Sarah Niles’ Sharon), who is brought on board to help the team. No character has ever had more tension with Ted than Sharon, in a way that almost seems to go against everything we know about him. The season does have an arc. It’s about therapy, and the fear that underlies having to learn, accept, and then live with yourself and your past.
The “there’s no plot” this season makes me realize how many people thought this really was a sports show—which is unexpected given how so much “discourse” (again, ugh) around season one centered around being able to appreciate it even if you don’t like sports.
Sure, there’s nothing as dramatic as Ted trying to keep the team alive, but there are important games that are built up too. The fact that the show used the universe established in season one to mine more personal, intimate storylines with the characters—and then some fans have rejected that—is fascinating to me. It’s not bad or boring, in my opinion. It’s different, but richer.
Then there’s the third thing, and it is this that I have no patience for.
Society loves nothing more than to give oxygen to the killjoys, allowing them to continue their pattern of arson, burning down all the things that people love. Success and adoration turns anything beloved into a target, and here is a show that received almost unparalleled acclaim, is about to win a truckload of Emmys next month, and, more, did all that with the audacity of being about niceness. Everyone involved might as well have poured gasoline over themselves and handed the inevitable haters their match.
It’s all very predictable. Popularity breeds negativity. It happened with Schitt’s Creek. It happened with The Office. I watched it happen four different times over the course of 20 years with Friends, most recently surrounding the reunion mayhem. (Smugly announcing that you don’t find Friends funny is not a personality trait, and never has been.)
There are those who can’t stand a show because of who its protagonist is, what story it is telling, and, more pointedly, who its protagonist isn’t and what stories aren’t being told. Agency, inclusivity, and pragmatism should be constantly on our minds as pop culture consumers. But sometimes shows should be allowed to be the shows that they are, and not whatever version some of us have in our heads of what TV should be or needs to talk about.
The thing about Ted Lasso season two is that it is exactly what Ted Lasso season two should be. Now let me and my husband Ted live in peace.