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Ted Lasso needs Roy Kent's edge because its niceness is holding it back

  • The Apple TV+ comedy should be retitled "Roy Kent" after the real star of Season 2. "Well into Season 2, Lasso’s sunny disposition and defiantly goofy platitudes feel like comedy mush next to the blistering cynicism of the sneering, foul-mouthed Kent (Brett Goldstein)," says Lorraine Ali. "His brutal honesty is refreshing in an ice-bath sort of way next to Lasso’s polite-at-all-costs offensive. The grizzled veteran’s advice to cut the bulls— and wake the f— up feels far more relevant now — while we try to climb out of a pandemic lengthened by anti-vaxxer falsehoods and watch the indictments of pro-Trump dead-enders for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 — than Lasso’s amorphous 'Believe.' This year, the best thing about the warmhearted Ted Lasso is its hardest-to-love character." Ali adds: "The series needs an edge. Even on arrival, praised to the hilt for its 'niceness,' the show felt like a throwback, a white savior story tucked inside a little-team-that-could tale, wrapped in a fish-out-of-water comedy. Until the appearance of Dr. Sharon (a cipher) all of the main characters were white save for Nate (Nick Mohammed), the kit man-turned-coach. And despite a minor expansion here or there in Season 2, most of the players from Africa and Latin America still don’t have backstories, though Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) does have an exaggerated accent. That cartoonish representation —'Football is life! Ayayayay!' — doesn’t feel new either. Even the two leading women, who’ve had much fuller arcs, are based on retro female tropes: the scorned divorcée seeking revenge on her ex for cheating on her with a younger woman and the tart/groupie with the heart of gold (Juno Temple). That social media didn’t pore over its shortcomings as it does most TV shows suggests that timing is everything. (So are race and gender.) All Ted Lasso has had to do to set itself apart from the sardonic fare that folks are seemingly desperate to avoid right now was to be nice — a pretty low bar, if we’re being honest. That a white, straight man who’s not a jerk is seen as a groundbreaking awards darling says more about TV’s excess of white, straight, male antiheroes than it does Ted Lasso. Imagine if Issa Rae or Mindy Kaling had pitched a show about a nice lady who teaches lost souls how to be better people by simply being polite and courteous to them. That sort of passivity, and earning applause for it, is a privilege of those already in power."


    • Ted Lasso has been a romcom all along: This week's "Rainbow" episode is "a romantic comedy about marrying coaching styles," says Lili Loufbourow. "Ted and now-retired-star Roy Kent are the protagonists and their strategies are absolutely opposed. Roy believes in winning. Ted believes in fate. Whereas Ted’s guiding doctrine is that players should be like goldfish, forgetting their mistakes and defeats, Roy values memory. After the team of 6-year-olds he coaches loses, he tells them: 'Remember this feeling. I want you to burn this moment into your brains. Here’s another way to think about it: Ted is the rom-com. Roy is the sports show. Of the two of them, who will win? (That’s a trick question.) You already know the answer if you watched last week’s treacly and weirdly plotless Christmas episode, because the tropes this show indulges to the hilt are not the sports ones. In 'Rainbow,' romcommunism takes over."
    • Ted Lasso is America's therapist: "Ted Lasso acts as a pseudo-therapist, taking on the unconditional positive regard and acceptance taught in the Rogerian school of therapy," says Christopher Cunningham. "And if there was any question to this, when an actual therapist joins the team during the second season’s pilot, Ted becomes jealous. By contrast, what makes an antihero story compelling is allowing the viewer to be sympathetic to a character’s troubled past. We may not condone who the character has become, but we can rationalize their behavior knowing their backstory, and even hope for their victory despite the dangerous or manipulative tactics used to achieve it. Whatever the outcome, we’re told the past is what defines and motivates the hero. It can be a burden for the audience to carry, especially as the antihero arc seeps into so much of today’s media. So having unambiguously good TV characters model constructive mental health practices should be a net positive for those who are impacted by our culture. Yet, having the therapeutic mindset migrate into the good world of Ted Lasso also provides us an opportunity to reflect on our society’s full throated embrace of therapeutic culture."
    • How Hannah Waddingham's Rebecca changes the narrative of the stereotypical "boss bitch": "Waddingham’s character evolves in front of our eyes, and that development reflects on her relationships outside of work, particularly with her goddaughter Nora (Kiki May)," says Zofia Wijaszka. "If we recall Rebecca beautifully singing 'Let It Go' in Season 1, we should also remember that it was dedicated to Nora. The teenager then makes a surprising appearance in what happens to be my personal favorite episode of the second season, 'Do The Right-Est Thing,' where she is shadowing Rebecca at work and is in awe of her workplace. Rebecca’s character also demonstrates that money doesn’t take precedence over the morality of her or her players—another instance of breaking the toxic trope that portrays powerful women as destructive and greedy."
    • Brett Goldstein on the "Rainbow" episode: "If you're doing a rom-com you have to have the running to the airport (scene), right? When I did finally step out (onto the field) and there was the crowd chanting — aw man, it was really f*cking great." 
    • Nick Mohammad admits he's "not quite the Nate that we know and love, I guess, from season one"
    • Phil Dunster discusses Jamie’s evolution from villain to sympathetic figure
    • In defense of Ted Lasso's Christmas episode
    • Does the official Ted Lasso biscuit recipe actually work?

    TOPICS: Ted Lasso, Apple TV+, Brett Goldstein, Hannah Waddingham, Jason Sudeikis, Nick Mohammed, Phil Dunster