There's been a lot of talk online about the "inevitable" crash and burn of 2020's entertainment darling, Ted Lasso. "The backlash is coming," said many. Twitter braced itself for the worst; critics warmed up their fingers.
"Season 2 is a letdown!" they say. "It's not as good as the first!" All the things they loved about the first season? They're grating now. The sweetness? Saccharine. The positivity? Overbearing. Ted's punny quips? Ugh, too much.
First of all, why does there always have to be a discourse?
We can all agree that the first season of Ted Lasso worked because it was exactly the vibe we needed. In the middle of a pandemic, we were collectively morose, surrounded by negativity everywhere in the real world. We were running on empty. A dose of sweetness on the TV was exactly the right medicine.
We remembered to see things a bit more glass half full, we took time to actually be kinder to each other and ourselves -- and we tried understanding football (I still don't, but I tried).
Ted and his team were some of the only genuinely positive characters on television, but they were also open, accountable and flawed. On a screen dominated by cynicism, we had a fleeting moment where people were allowed to just... enjoy things. Be optimistic.
In season two, that hasn't changed. They're still the same characters. There have been arguments that now that they know what works, they're just leaning into it. But I don't really think that's a fair assessment.
At first glance it's easy to think Ted Lasso simply falls victim to the curse of the sequel -- people expect it to fall short of its predecessor regardless. It's suddenly too much, where before it was just right.
But here's the irony. Everyone seeing it as "too much" is right. It is too much. But I'm confident it's intentional.
Let's think about what's happening here.
In Season 2, Ted is overcompensating. He's sticking with jokes that aren't as funny for longer, throwing out gags left, right and center in the hope that something sticks -- even though most of them don't.
He's at the dregs of his ability to contribute, because what once worked for him -- his unerring optimism and ability to inspire -- no longer does. The show is moving forward around him and he's being left behind, so he's resorting to going harder at the positivity in a way that isn't beneficial anymore.
That is the hook. This overindulgence is the whole point. We as the audience aren't supposed to feel like it's the same lighthearted dialogue of the first season. We're supposed to recognize the signs that something is off.
Season 2 Ted isn't hitting those chords because as part of his character development, he's crumbling. He's struggling to reconcile what was and what is. He's leaning hard into helping everyone else in the show because it's literally the only way he knows how to function.
Gamespot's Phil Hornshaw wrote about how the entire schtick is indicative of Ted's increasing feeling of isolation as a result of this struggle -- and that was a take that resonated with me more than any other.
When a person who is always the helper, the fixer, the one who shines rainbows out of every orifice -- the Ted, in this case -- when they suddenly aren't needed as much as they used to be, they feel utterly lost. Their sense of self changes, their sense of their value to others changes.
If your main metric of validation is helping others, and they don't need you… well, that's just a recipe for feeling invalidated and useless. People like Ted, who have built that into their core personality, desperately try to salvage that persona of "fixer" because they don't know what's left without it.
How do I know this? Because I lived this.
Call it eldest daughter syndrome, but my drive to help, to fix, to lighten, to create a positive environment for my family and friends was my coping mechanism all through school, university and now a worldwide pandemic where everything feels futile and hopeless.
Just like Season 1 Ted, I was the one sending out check-ins and gifts and "hey howdy" messages to make things better for everyone else. But in 2021 -- Season 2 of the pandemic, if you will -- when they learned to adapt, I felt as useless as a fart in a wind tunnel.
Helping and fixing had become such a part of my personality that the inability to do so made me feel lesser, smaller and unnecessary. And I see that in Ted. I see that same loss for what to do.
As Hornshaw rightfully says, Ted is unmoored and isolated because he's not needed in the way that makes him feel valuable anymore. He's done his job, people can take care of themselves, but he doesn't know how to move forward from that.
Like I was, he's not ready to let that wash over himself -- to turn that drive to help onto his own needs, rather than the needs of others.
So yes, the jokes feel more forced. The sweetness is saccharine. The conversations feel tense. But for a former "fixer," it also feels really, really familiar.
And so does the backlash. The "you're being overbearing, you need to chill, you need to be like you used to be." The whole point of the show is building to a point where the fixer needs to be fixed.
And the fact that people are dismissing it now because it's just less fun for them to see him struggle? That's not discourse. That's disappointing.
All I ask is that you wait for the payoff. If it's not there by the end, I'll eat a football.