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'Ted Lasso' Has a 'Glee' Problem

By Allyson Johnson | TV | May 11, 2023 |

By Allyson Johnson | TV | May 11, 2023 |


As Ted Lasso approaches the end of its third (and possibly final) season, the signs that the series has veered off course are becoming apparent. What started in season one as a feel-good yet introspective comedy, leveraging kindness with biting humor, has now descended into saccharine storytelling. In season three, it has reached new heights of sanctimoniousness, often coming across as patronizing rather than sensitive or progressive as intended.

In its lowest moments, Ted Lasso season three is beginning to resemble the second and third seasons of Glee.

The first season of Glee was a phenomenon. It received critical acclaim for its wicked sense of humor and strong performances from a cast of newcomers. While it tackled important topics such as sexuality and bullying, it never lost sight of being primarily a comedy that resonated with audiences. The song and dance numbers, though earnestly performed, were both ridiculous and cringe-inducing, yet they fit within the narrative. The show hadn’t yet experienced the catastrophic decline that would come around mid-season two when Mr. Shue pity-kissed Coach Beiste and expected us to accept it.

Ted Lasso hasn’t reached the depths of Glee. Its sincerity never feels forced, unlike Glee, which indulged in cruelty while preaching messages it couldn’t convincingly deliver. Undoubtedly, Ted Lasso boasts a stronger cast that often manages to elevate even the most questionable moments. However, there’s a sense of familiarity in how they’ve approached the storytelling structure, resulting in a narrative reminiscent of what Glee often embodied.

For three consecutive episodes, the focus has been on different team members grappling with societal pressures, bigotry, or hate speech, and in each case, the team discusses and rallies together. We’ve been reassured that these players are good people and they want us to be good people too. From Sam dealing with targeted vitriol after speaking out in support of refugees, to intimate photos of Keeley being leaked without her consent, and now one of the team’s fans hurling a slur at them after a poor first half, we’ve been inundated with too many “very special episodes.”

These are undoubtedly significant and timely storylines, and it would be fitting for the show, given its setting, to address racism and homophobia in football culture. However, the execution feels numbing and placating. It’s as if the showrunners observed the positive reception to Ted dealing with anxiety and Jamie’s confrontation with his father in the locker room and concluded that what the audience needed were more messages rather than well-developed characters whose growth naturally led to powerful moments like the one in season two’s “Man City”.

Instead, we are presented with episodes like last week’s “We’ll Never Have Paris,” where a group of characters preach to such an extent that they might as well be breaking the fourth wall, lecturing about the wrongness of sharing and keeping intimate photos of former partners. When one team member fails to comprehend why deleting is necessary, Isaac or Jamie enlightens him about why they are wrong and emphasizes the importance of respect.

However, this week, the only follow-up we see is a melancholic Keeley looking at all the unanswered texts she has sent to Jack. Considering how their relationship ended with Jack blaming Keeley for the leak, wouldn’t it have been more empowering if Keeley had received the apologies instead? Why is this the sole continuation of the story we are given? It feels as if the writers used a sensitive topic to advance the story superficially and claim progressiveness without putting in the necessary effort. For example, we haven’t received any updates on Sam’s vandalized restaurant or the pushback he faced after speaking out. With only a few episodes remaining, it is doubtful that we will.

This is what makes it reminiscent of Glee. There is an air of self-importance that almost overwhelms the show during its shallow moments. At its best, Ted Lasso is a series defined by its escapism—it’s pure fluff, and that’s all it ever needed to be. The kindness portrayed in the show can be as toxic as it is uplifting, and the series reveals the toll of that imbalance as it attempts to please everyone. It offers positive stories, but nothing groundbreaking, and nothing that necessitates thorough exploration or further introspection. That is the extent of what it can handle. Unfortunately, it is losing the very qualities that made it such a captivating and uplifting television show in the first place.

In its stronger episodes (such as the standout episode of season three, “Sunflowers”), Ted Lasso reminds us that it is a story centered around genuine characters, not just slogans. By taking itself too seriously, Ted Lasso threatens to unravel all the goodwill it has earned with its endearing characters, delightful relationships, and the uplifting nature of an underdog sports story. No show wants to be remembered in the same vein as Glee, where the prevailing question is, “What on earth went wrong?”

(Kaleena’s recap of this week’s episode will post on Friday).