The character “Ted Lasso” was devised by Jason Sudekis and his pals for NBC Premier League promotions. “Ted Lasso” is a Kansas City-based football coach who finds himself coaching the other football in London for a perennially struggling team, AFC Richmond. It’s a common fish-out-of-water premise, which is a classic comedy archetype, but it has some limitations, namely when the fish becomes an amphibian and begins to enjoy terrestrial life. Aware of these limitations, “Lasso” premiered in 2020 to critical acclaim, with critics praising its cockeyed optimism as the world battled a lethal pandemic. The average duration of Season 1’s ten episodes was thirty minutes, for a total of 299 minutes.
Now that quarantine is over, we are out in the world crowded into middle seats, planning to spend our last disposable dollar on Maui rentals and a down payment on a jet ski we most certainly do not require. The newly concluded third season of “Lasso” has joined the celebration. The 12 installments of the program lasted 650 MINUTES. This is 78 minutes lengthier than Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog,” which addressed all ten commandments.
I’m confident it all started out with good intentions. Season 1 began with Ted and his sidekick Beard (Brendan Hunt) attempting to negotiate a plate of bangers and mash for the club’s owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) and her sidekick (Jeremy Swift), who believe that hiring Ted — who doesn’t know the difference between an offside and a side out — is the best way to submerge the team that Rebecca inherited from her super-pig ex-husband. A love triangle existed between Keeley (Juno Temple), a ditzy team publicist, and two players, Jamie Tart (Phil Dunster), a Ken Doll, and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), a modern misanthrope. Ted is inattentive to everyone and brings Rebecca biscuits every morning, channeling a combination of Phil Jackson and “Being There’s” Chauncey Gardiner.
Rebecca apologizes for sabotaging Ted, and the two become confidants; there are also poignant moments as Ted deals with anxiety, divorce, and missing his son in Kansas City. Despite the fact that I never bought into Temple’s excruciatingly eccentric character, there were amusing sequences of conflict and then grudging respect between Jamie and Roy. Nate Shelley’s (Nick Mohammed) transformation from kit man to coaching prodigy to scumbag scoundrel who defects the Lasso crew is the only genuine left turn in the series. Now, none of these matched the quality of “Barry,” a 30-minute program with more laughter, ingenious plot developments, and “WTF” moments. Despite this, “Ted Lasso” had its moments and provided a small but comforting video Xanax for these difficult times.
Season 3 then followed. The creators of “Ted Lasso” decided to give every character — including the kit man who supplanted the original kit man — their own arc, possibly out of gratitude for their loyalty or a desire to deploy a team of 11 possible spin-offs. Keeley launches a PR firm and begins dating a billionaire! Leslie performs in a jazz concert! Nate is a waiter by trade! AFC Richmond acquires a prodigy who at first appears to be a significant contributor to the team’s success, but then vanishes! Rebecca encounters a man in Amsterdam and has dinner with him, but she forgets his name! Trent Crimm, the journalist portrayed by the deliciously sardonic James Lance, has written a book about Ted! Sam (Toheeb Jimoh) establishes a Nigerian eatery, which is subsequently assaulted! A billionaire attempts to establish a football super league, but ends up in a food fight!
At least five hours of extra time were played; the season would have been improved if 300 minutes had been lost. The few sections of Season 3 that succeed, besides Trent’s band T-shirts, are when “Lasso” stays true to its original mission of a foreigner attempting to find his way on the field and in his own life. The season’s best episode was “Mom City,” in which Ted’s mother, played by the sublime Becky Ann Baker, showed up unannounced, and he and his mother performed an excruciating dance of civility because no one wanted to speak about Ted still being plagued by his father’s suicide when he was a child. Meanwhile, Jamie slides onto his mother’s knee and cries about his alcoholic and abusive father. The episode resonates because it feels earned by two characters we’ve lived with for three seasons, and inadvertently damns the rest of Season 3’s plotlines, which have the same resonance as a generic “Love, Actually.”
The attempt to land the aircraft in last night’s series finale resulted in numerous casualties. To bid farewell to Ted, the team performs a musical number, which any sane showrunner would have eliminated and released as a supplemental track. (It’s unfortunate that Sudeikis is also the showrunner.) Nate completes an implausible season trajectory that takes him from head coach to restaurant worker to assistant to the kit man and finally back to Ted’s bosom. The team comes close to winning the championship, but it’s alright — everybody learned something. Now sober, Jamie’s father shares a cup of coffee with his son.
After bidding Rebecca a heartfelt farewell, Ted flies nonstop from London to Kansas City to return home. On the way out of the airport, an infant collapses at Rebecca’s feet, who does not have any children. She glances up and sees the daughter of — wait for it — the enigmatic man from Amsterdam! What is a pilot? The finale of the program features 436 characters attending a barbecue. In keeping with the Season 3 atmosphere, it should have been a Vegas banquet.
I am composing this while listening to Oasis’s “Be Here Now,” the previous UK-centric champion for a third attempt gone catastrophically awry. Cocaine and alcohol were largely responsible for the Gallaghers’ excessive behavior. It was a dearth of discipline for AFC Richmond. Ted Lasso required a superior coach in the end.
This review contains spoilers for the finale of the Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso,” which is currently streaming.