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Ted Lasso's Season 2 backlash is a result of viewers unable to grapple with second seasons

  • Vox

    "We’ve built a TV-viewing culture that is almost incapable of discussing a season two," says Emily VanDerWerff of the recent Ted Lasso backlash, adding: "Throughout TV history, season two was traditionally the point at which a TV show became a TV show — especially in cases where season one was popular right out of the gate. A successful second season usually meant a successful run of several seasons. If season two ran out of steam, it would often spell a show’s doom." VanDerWerff says in a second season, the novelty of a new and exciting show "tends to wear off, and the audience starts to realize that a show is just a show. Some of the best shows of all time — including The Sopranos, Mad Men, Lost, and The Wire — boasted second seasons that are warmly regarded now but were often written about as significant steps down from season one when they first aired. Comedy is less susceptible to this particular flavor of disappointment because it’s often less tied to plot twists and serialized stories, but it’s not like cautionary tales of second seasons gone wrong within the genre don’t exist. (See also: Glee.) A relationship is always most exciting when it’s new, and the work of building something lasting is often annoying and stressful. The built-in tension of an audience folding its arms and saying, 'Well, what have you done for me lately?' is inherent to every new season of a beloved TV show, and that tension will always be strongest at the start of season two. A lot of shows fail to navigate it, trying too hard to please viewers rather than buckling down and doing the work of deepening the world, the story, and the characters." VanDerWerff adds: "I want to lay my TV critic cards out on the table and say that I’ve seen eight episodes of Ted Lasso season two, two more than have aired for viewers as of this writing. Yet even setting aside the episodes I’ve seen that you likely haven’t, I would say the show is doing everything a good second season must do to ensure a healthy run for a series....Essentially all of the things that are bugging people about Ted Lasso season two are choices the show has made to deepen its characters, further its conflicts, and explore its world. That’s definitely a departure from what a lot of people loved about season one — namely, the way it united its feel-good narrative with a compelling examination of a sports culture that hadn’t really been explored on American television. (My one complaint about season two so far is that soccer itself has mostly been pushed to the background.) It was an underdog story about a team of misfits and about the goofy guy who led them to ... well, not actual victory, but a moral victory, more or less. The thing about an underdog story is that you can kind of only do it once. Rocky Balboa loses at the end of Rocky, but a lot of people remember him winning (which doesn’t happen until Rocky II), simply because that’s how we understand underdog stories. AFC Richmond continues to be a pretty mediocre soccer team, and Ted Lasso’s seeming disinterest in that status has created a disconnect between season one’s sports movie core and season two’s more traditional sitcom center. In season one, Ted Lasso was about its main character’s core philosophy and an overarching vibe of gentle whimsy and kindness. None of those traits won soccer games; AFC Richmond still lost the big match in the season finale. As such, season two is doubling down on the idea that just being a good guy doesn’t mean you’re automatically without problems, and the longer the season goes on, the more it seems as though the show is really going to put the screws to Ted and the other characters to see what makes them tick."


    TOPICS: Ted Lasso, Apple TV+, Brett Goldstein, Jason Sudeikis