The second season of the critically acclaimed TV show, which won seven Primetime Emmys, is the most unlikeliest of flag bearers of Apple’s streaming service
The fictional football club from London, AFC Richmond, don’t enjoy the most welcoming of opening fixtures in the Championship, the second division of English football’s pyramid structure. After being relegated from the Premier League, the top tier of English football, to the lower leagues in the final episode of the first season, they are faced with a winless run, an out-of-form forward, and the death of Earl — their greyhound mascot.
Season two of Ted Lasso doesn’t skip a beat and dives straight into the thick of the action. Fans of English football have always claimed that the Premier League is the most competitive football league in the world. But if one were to ask anyone following or involved with the Championship, the league below the Premier League in the pyramid, they would say that the Championship is the most unforgiving and relentless league in the world. And quite rightly so, because several teams over the decades who have been relegated have spent years in the division with futile attempts at promotion, in what could be described as the purgatory of the footballing world.
The task facing AFC Richmond and their charismatic American head coach, Ted Lasso, is undoubtedly daunting — and that would be an understatement. That being said, the showrunners and the writers have taken a rather bold decision of not focusing on the footballing side of the story, but instead on the human stories of the well-written characters. It is risky because a Championship tussle has always promised drama in the real world, and the stories just write for themselves. So the decision to not focus more on the unrelenting scrap to reach the promised land, that is the Premier League, is one of the few minor drawbacks of the show, but in hindsight, it is also its greatest strength.
The writers have crafted a narrative, often not associated with sports dramas or even comedies for that matter, which has given great depth and layers of emotion to its characters. They have also opted for a more character-driven story than the first season, with Jason Sudeikis and the rest of the cast essaying nuanced performances that have been further elevated by the excellent screenplay across the season. Ted Lasso’s lovable attitude to mask the pain underneath is translated with aplomb by Sudeikis. The rest of the cast are also given excellent arcs which include the redemption of Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), Rebbeca Welton’s (Hannah Waddingham) search for love, Coach Beard’s (Brendan Hunt) self-discovery, Nate Shelley’s (Nick Mohammed) evolution, and most importantly Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) finally becoming his own character rather than an imitation of a fictionalised version of real-life Manchester United legend Roy Keane.
The overarching theme of season two is the taboo surrounding mental health and anxiety disorder. The introduction of psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) is a welcome addition and bridges the gap between genre and the theme of season two. While the game football itself is sparingly represented, it is not completely devoid of it. There is an excellent FA Cup semi-final tie, the oldest domestic cup competition in the world, against Premier League side Manchester City at the scared home stadium of the English national side, Wembley, touted as the home of football. There are also cameos from Sky Sports’ iconic Soccer Saturday duo of Jeff Stelling and Chris Kamara. The cherry on top being footballing royalty, Ian Wright, Gary Lineker, and Thierry Henry also making guest appearances in the show. The finale closes off an exciting season with great footballing drama without breaking the structure of the overall theme. The final scene hints at a brewing local derby rivalry between AFC Richmond and West Ham United of east London.
It’s astonishing to think that what was once just a North American commercial for Premier League football is now a full-fledged TV show with record-breaking Emmy wins. The comedy has been toned ever so slightly, but still remains fresh and delivers when it matters. The long and tedious wait for season three begins for the fans of this surprisingly elegant TV show.