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Ted Lasso Season 3 Was a Cautionary Tale in Streaming Excess

Expanding the comedy in scope and size was a misfire in nearly every way.
  • Brett Goldstein, Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt in Ted Lasso Season 3 (Photo: Apple TV+)
    Brett Goldstein, Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt in Ted Lasso Season 3 (Photo: Apple TV+)

    Across the board, Ted Lasso Season 3 came with the promise of more: More authentic football action, thanks to a £500,000 licensing deal with the Premier League; more storylines featuring the show's large ensemble cast; more time spent away from Ted (Jason Sudeikis) as Nate (Nick Mohammed) and Keeley (Juno Temple) sought new opportunities beyond the AFC Richmond clubhouse. If "more" was the goal, the third — and potentially final — season delivered, introducing new characters and a mess of conflicts that played out across 12 episodes. Over the course of the season, these episodes ballooned in scope and size, with the finale, "So Long, Farewell," running 76 minutes.

    Ted Lasso's expansion isn't surprising. By all accounts, the first two seasons were a smash hit, winning Outstanding Comedy Series at the 2021 and 2022 Emmys and turning Apple TV+ into a must-have streaming service. The show also made stars out of Emmy winners Hannah Waddingham and Brett Goldstein, who continues to preach the feel-good gospel with Apple's Shrinking (which he co-created with Ted Lasso boss Bill Lawrence). With Ted Lasso at peak influence, it makes sense that executives would give the creative team — consisting of Sudeikis, Lawrence, Brendan Hunt, and Joe Kelly — carte blanche to further develop this world, one that's been immensely profitable for Apple, Warner Bros. Television Studios, and Universal Television.

    Now that the finale has dropped, it's clear that the demand for "more" Ted Lasso, and the lack of quality control on Apple and the studios' part, led to its downfall. The third season took full advantage of its unlimited resources and runtime, but in trying to do so much — Rebecca's (Waddingham) psychic reading! KJPR! Nate's redemption! Colin's (Billy Harris) sexuality! The list goes on — it ended up doing very little well.

    To be clear, there's nothing wrong with fleshing out the characters in Ted's orbit — in fact, that's exactly what successful workplace sitcoms, which Ted Lasso once purported to be, do over the course of their multi-season runs. It was about time Colin got a backstory and a life off the field, even if we learned little about him beyond the fact that he's gay. Keeley's PR venture gave the "woman on top" a chance to put the self-confidence she'd developed and the lessons Rebecca taught her into practice as the boss of her own company. And no one embraced growth more than Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), who completed his three-season transformation from vain ball hog to thoughtful, emotionally mature teammate after weeks of training with Roy (Goldstein).

    But while the show's intentions were pure (as is always the case with Ted Lasso and its eponymous coach), the execution was off. Season 3 introduced new stories at a frenetic pace, only to abandon them a few episodes later. Remember Zava (Maximilian Osinski) and his hold over the Richmond locker room? Save for a brief mention in the finale, Zava's time with the team and the 10-game losing streak that followed his sudden departure were wiped from existence after Episode 5, "Signs." Keeley's early struggle to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of running a PR firm and her relationship with the venture capitalist funding her company, Jack (Jodi Balfour), were similarly memory-holed, though considering how charmless and ill-advised their romance was, that was probably for the best.

    The narratives that did play out over the course of the season hardly intersected, leaving the characters stranded on their own islands. On one side of the show, Jamie matured as he and Roy developed a comical mentee-mentor relationship; elsewhere, Rebecca's visit to a psychic prompted her to pursue motherhood. (Her desire to have children was mentioned in Season 1, but it doesn't track that Rebecca would put her total faith in this psychic, who has not been seen since). Even Keeley and Rebecca, whose relationship made for some of Ted Lasso's most tender moments in seasons past, were like ships passing in the night: They came together to vent or cry about what was going on in their lives, but they weren't actively involved in one another's storylines, even after Rebecca swooped in to save KJPR when Jack's company pulled funding. With so much happening in different corners of the show, Season 3 lacked any sense of cohesion — ironic for a series that puts teamwork and community above all else.

    While the supporting characters flitted around him, rarely crossing paths but buzzing nonetheless, Ted remained stuck. From the premiere's opening scene, in which Ted ruefully sent his son Henry (Gus Turner) back to Kansas after another too-short visit, it was apparent that Ted's time in Richmond would soon be coming to an end. With his panic attacks (mostly) under control, Ted's process of coming to terms with his impending departure made up the bulk of his narrative throughout the season, leaving Sudeikis with little to do beyond crack one-liners and come up with "new" football strategies that have actually existed for decades. Joke structures that were once funny turned sour from overuse, like Ted's attempt to empathize with Colin by comparing being gay to being a Denver Broncos fan. (At least the players called Ted out for his bad analogy; plenty of his other ridiculous asides went unchecked.)

    When Ted finally snapped out of his funk in Episode 11, "Mom City," and confronted his mother Dottie (Becky Ann Baker) about the toxic positivity he inherited from her, it was a welcome change of pace for a man who drifted to the sidelines of the action as the season wore on. But any tension created by Ted's "thank you/f*ck you" speech immediately faded away with Dottie's sports-themed parenting lesson. Can years of bottled-up pain really dissipate with a single conversation? Dr. Sharon Fieldston (Sarah Niles), who cheered on Richmond from afar in the finale, would likely say "no," but if Ted and his mother plan to continue family therapy upon his return to the States, you wouldn't know it from the episode's tidy resolution.

    Nowhere was Ted Lasso aversion to conflict more apparent than in Nate's redemption arc. Whereas Season 2 took care to lay the groundwork for his emotional explosion in the finale, this season walked it back with haste. Nate spent all of one episode as West Ham's confident new manager before he began questioning Rupert's (Anthony Head) character and fretting over the way he left things with Ted and the Richmond squad. The show attempted to soften Nate further by pairing him up with Jade (Edyta Budnik), the hostess at his favorite restaurant, for reasons that made hardly any sense. Who is Jade? What does she like about Nate? Why did she used to be so cold towards him? None of these questions were answered; Jade functioned solely to nudge Nate towards the realization that he should quit West Ham. In Season 3's biggest misstep, that moment happened off-screen, denying viewers the opportunity to see Nate retake the moral high ground.

    Never mind that Nate did little, if anything, to deserve his old job back after leaking Ted's mental health struggle to the press and tearing down the "Believe" sign in the locker room. His redemption tour consisted of writing kit man Will (Charlie Hiscock) an apology note and... that's it. Nate's "I'm sorry" (seriously, that's all the note said) was enough for the players and Ted to welcome him back into the locker room with open arms, and despite his initial resistance, Coach Beard (Hunt) came around to the idea, as Ted taught him the importance of forgiveness and second chances many years ago.

    The supersized season (series?) finale did little to address these problems, though it did include a few sweet scenes between the players, who restored the "Believe" sign, Ted and Rebecca — sorry, #TedBecca shippers, they're just friends — and Jamie and Roy. Once again, key moments played out off-screen, including Ted's "truth bomb" that he's leaving Richmond and the initial reactions from Rebecca, the players, and the staff. By the beginning of "So Long, Farewell," nearly everyone (Rebecca being a notable exception) had already made peace with Ted's departure, undercutting the gravity of his decision and turning the episode into an extended, treacly goodbye.

    And yet, even with Ted back in Kansas, there may be more Ted Lasso to come. Apple and the creative team have been careful with their wording, refusing to say whether the Season 3 finale is the final episode of the show or the end of its first iteration. But the note Ted left for Trent Crimm (James Lance) on the draft of his book, originally titled "The Lasso Way," offers a hint about where the comedy will go, should it return: "I'd change the title. It's not about me. It never was."

    But we've already seen what a show that's "not about" Ted looks like, and it was an unfocused, tension-free mess. If Season 3 is any indication, it's time to follow Ted's golden rule — "Be a goldfish" — and move on from this series, these characters, and, perhaps, the era of comfort food TV altogether.

    Ted Lasso Season 3 is streaming in its entirety on Apple TV+. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Ted Lasso, Apple TV+, Bill Lawrence, Billy Harris, Brendan Hunt, Brett Goldstein, Hannah Waddingham, Jason Sudeikis, Joe Kelly, Juno Temple, Nick Mohammed, Phil Dunster