It had been building since last week’s Christmas episode, but the inevitable has finally happened: The backlash to Ted Lasso is here. Why? Because in the world of Twitter (and to be clear, this is largely centered in Twitter), the only joy and happiness we are allowed is when Dionne Warwick tweets.
The discourse this weekend (and god, “discourse” is the most exhausting word in the English language) kicked off when a The Daily Show writer, Daniel Radosh, began a long Twitter thread thusly:
A lot of people still aren't ready to admit it but it's clear that season 2 of Ted Lasso is not good, certainly not as good as S1. And I think the reason is everyone completely misunderstands why everyone loved S1.— Daniel Radosh (@danielradosh) August 22, 2021
The premise of his argument begins with the assertion that everyone — including the viewers — hated Ted Lasso from the outset and that the whole point of those first episodes was for Lasso to win us over, and there’s no conflict in season two because Lasso has already done his job in that regard. I think he’s only partially correct about Lasso because most viewers loved him from the moment we met him on the airplane and saw his viral championship dance. I will concede, however, that yes: Most of the first season’s “conflict” arose not from trying to get people to like him — he was well-liked all along — but in proving that his methods could be successful.
Given the team’s record, so far — AFC Richmond is currently trying to avoid being relegated again — he still has a lot of work to do, and the conflict this season has come in attempting to not only build a team with good chemistry who all respect one another but to also win. I thought that Dr. Sharon Fieldstone made that clear early on, and not for nothing, but a coach manning a team that is relegated two seasons in a row certainly seems like a coach that ought to be fired, no matter how nice and earnest he is or how many biscuits he bakes for his boss.
If you look at the arc of the season, so far, the conflict has come in building that team by helping pull Dani out of despair after he accidentally killed a dog; bringing a playmaker like Jamie Tartt back without upsetting team chemistry; and helping Isaac get out of his own head by bringing Roy in as coach. Excusing the stand-alone Christmas episode, the entire season’s conflict has been about overcoming poor play on the pitch and building a team that can not only avoid relegation but advance back up to the next level.
There’s still work to do, in that regard, namely finding a place for Nate where he’s comfortable, and the biggest obstacle of all, which is Ted’s own insecurities. I have screeners, but I don’t watch ahead because I want to savor it, but my guess is that Ted has a lot of issues to work through given the nature of his relationship to his ex-wife and kid, and his father’s death (as Dan suggested on the Podjiba podcast, it’s likely that Ted’s father took his own life). Plus, despite having all of those friends and admiring co-workers, one can sense that Ted still feels alone in some sense (see, e.g. the Christmas episode where he was prepared to spend the day watching It’s a Wonderful Life and drinking whiskey).
We’re only five episodes through a 12-episode season, and as other critics who have watched ahead have suggested, the show has been seeding conflict all along and that’s going to pay off in the coming episodes. That is probably true (I heard it from Joanna Robinson herself!), but I have found little fault in the five episodes we have already seen. Every episode has had a stand-out moment that has elicited big emotions, whether it was Roy telling Rebecca that she deserves “someone that makes you feel like you’ve been struck by f—king lightning,” to Jamie Tartt’s entrance, to Rebecca’s boss-ass bitch moment, to Sam’s press conference, to Roy walking off the set of a live telecast and rom-com running to be a coach for Ted. Was the Christmas episode slight? Sure! But it was a stand-alone episode that still gave us a few wonderful moments, including Roy’s niece forgiving the bully Love Actally-style, and Rebecca singing. If you can’t appreciate Hannah Waddingham belting out a Christmas song in August, the problem is with you, buddy.
Granted, the backlash was inevitable. If someone on Twitter sees someone else experiencing joy, it’s in the nature of the platform to want to take it away from them. People who spend too much time on Twitter expect “conflict” to take the form of a toxic sludge of hate, pettiness, and call-outs. It’s boring (and unhealthy).
In the meantime, showrunner Bill Lawrence seems to suggest that upcoming episodes will be even better, which is a tall goddamn order for a show that’s already as good as it is. But I’m sure that Twitter will continue to find fault because that’s what it does. No one on that godforsaken platform has an ounce of patience or chill except Dionne Warwick. Bless.
I feel like we’ve set up a lot. Maybe you’ll dig where it goes. Maybe not. And look, I watch tv the same way. This just stung more than usual. Not sure why, yet. I’m usually Teflon. Still, no biggie. I just now feel you’re obligated to watch and report back either way. TV!! 😀— Bill Lawrence (@VDOOZER) August 22, 2021
Header Image Source: Apple TV+