Has there ever been a comedy with a higher bar to clear than Ted Lasso Season 2? In 2020, Jason Sudeikis’ football-turned-fútbol coach won the hearts of a homebound-nation with his boundless optimism and good humor. What might have, in any other year, been a short-term hit on a fledgling streaming service became a phenomenon that went on to claim the top spot on Best Of the Year lists, a Golden Globe win for Sudeikis, and a whopping 20 Primetime Emmy nominations, the most of any freshman comedy in TV history.
All of which is to say that the expectations for Ted Lasso’s second season couldn’t be greater — but fans needn’t fear a sophomore slump. The sports comedy returns to Apple TV+ today in peak form, with its sunny outlook and well-earned emotional beats carrying the show through 12 new episodes.
Ted Lasso Season 2 picks up at the beginning of AFC Richmond’s new season, just a few months after the club was relegated out of the Premier League into a lesser division. A few games into the season, the Greyhounds still haven’t notched a victory, or even a loss, as they can’t seem to break a frustrating streak of ties. With Coach Lasso unable to get his players — especially star striker Dani Rojas, played by Cristo Fernandez — out of their rut, the front office brings in sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) to work through the emotional aspects of the game with the team.
Apologies for the Lasso-ism, but if Ted is a party clown who specializes in hyper-specific animal balloons, Sharon is the uptight father who leaves an envelope of cash on the table in order to avoid the clown altogether. The buttoned-up Sharon, who Ted insists on calling “Doc,” is eager to get to work, but first she must curb the coach’s extreme silliness, which may or may not be getting in the way of his team’s success. It takes a lot to go toe to toe with Coach Lasso, but Sharon is up for the challenge, and their prickly relationship ends up forming the backbone of Season 2.
Just as Sharon assists AFC Richmond on the field, Niles’ performance helps push Ted Lasso to new heights. In Season 1, the comedy thrived when it looked inward, particularly at Ted’s anxiety and grief, which he masks with puns and persistent kindness. This season, Sharon’s presence requires everyone to do a bit of soul-searching, leading to an increased level of self-awareness on the show’s part. What does success look like for AFC Richmond, and for Ted Lasso? How does that success affect who we are, and who we can become? Ted Lasso has always been more than just a workplace comedy or a sports story, but now that it’s become a streaming sensation, it’s more interested in answering these questions than ever before.
While Ted remains the emotional center of Season 2, the large ensemble around him gets plenty of time to shine. The paper plate award for funniest performance of the season goes to Brett Goldstein as Roy Kent, who is still struggling to figure out his next move after retiring from the game. Roy has plenty of attractive offers on the table, but his commitment to not feeling anything ever — he prefers to answer direct questions in grunts — leaves him completely stuck. However, in a show of growth, Roy actually listens when Keeley (Juno Temple), his girlfriend and the club’s marketing wizard, suggests various post-retirement roles that don’t involve coaching the “little pricks” on his niece’s soccer team, and she continues to cheer him on as he finds his proper place. Roy and Keeley’s relationship remains one of the most hilarious, heartfelt, and genuinely sexy aspects of Ted Lasso Season 2.
Elsewhere in the AFC Richmond facility, club owner Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) has finally committed to her own happiness, which — luckily for us — seems to involve a variety of expensive suit dresses. With last year’s deceit behind her, Rebecca moves forward with a new confidence and positive disposition, two traits of Ted’s that clearly rubbed off during their many mornings of “Biscuits with the Boss.” The Emmy-nominated Waddingham has always made the most of every scene, but she’s never been better than in this season’s Christmas episode, a jubilant 30 minutes that ratchets Ted Lasso’s warm and fuzzies up to 11.
It would be unfair not to mention Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), the taciturn assistant coach who expects the best from his longtime friend and their players; Jeremy Swift’s Leslie Higgins, the club’s reliable Director of Football Operations; and assistant coach Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed) and star player Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), both of whom spend the season exploring what kind of men they want to be. With the exception of Dunster, every major player in Ted Lasso’s ensemble was nominated for a Primetime Emmy, although Jamie Tartt’s name fits perfectly into the “Baby Shark” tune, so who’s the real winner?
It’s no easy feat, but Ted Lasso Season 2 does everything a sophomore comedy should do, and then some. It establishes conflict, only to subvert it with a cheerful wink. It enriches the personal lives of its supporting characters, making them more complex and more relatable. It successfully makes jokes about podiatry. And it does all of this with a delightful awareness of its own strengths and weaknesses that brings the talent of its cast and crew to the forefront. This is the “Ted Lasso Way,” and other shows would be wise to follow its lead.
Ted Lasso Season 2 premieres Friday, July 23 on Apple TV+, with new episodes dropping every Friday through early October.
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Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.