By now “Ted Lasso” has reached the formula stage, following a familiar game plan in kicking off its third and presumably final season. That’s not a knock on the Emmy-winning comedy as much as a tacit endorsement of wrapping things up, with the show and its trademark niceness having run its course after offering the right prescription for our Covid times.
The new season picks up with the departure of Nate (Nick Mohammed) for the rival club West Ham United, lured away by the siren song of Rupert (Anthony Head), the sneering ex of AFC Richmond owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham).
Rupert can’t help sticking the knife in at the prospect of Richmond struggling, leading to jokes about the team finishing 21st out of the league’s 20 contenders. Yet while Nate wants to please the new boss, it’s clear that his heart isn’t fully in that, suggesting his old coach’s sunny disposition might have rubbed off more than he cares to acknowledge.
As for Ted (Jason Sudeikis), unlike his assistants he wants to take the high road, although he’s again plagued (somewhat tiresomely) by domestic issues regarding his far-away family, the one blight on his otherwise-positive outlook.
The season’s other major subplot involves a sought-after soccer star blessed with the kind of incandescent talent that can quickly turn a team’s fortunes. Even that, though, comes with inherent risks.
The unlikely arc of “Ted Lasso” – from NBC ads to fish-out-of-water TV show to two-time Emmy winner – already makes the series a success story and, perhaps more significantly, a key building block in establishing Apple TV+ as a viable streaming alternative. The show’s simple pleasures come from a variety of sources, including just listening to the way Brett Goldstein’s Roy can creatively put together a string of expletives.
That said, the service has launched several standout titles in its wake, including “Severance” and more recently “Shrinking,” another comedy from members of the “Ted” creative brain trust.
The reliance on “Ted Lasso” thus seems less pronounced. While the traditional pattern in television is to hang onto hits for as long as possible, streaming and premium TV producers are pushing for more finite runs, with “Succession,” “Barry” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” among other shows heading into their final seasons. (While Sudeikis has indicated this season will conclude the story, he’s also mentioned possible spinoffs, which is surely music to Apple’s ears.)
“Ted Lasso” doesn’t have anything left to prove, other than perhaps demonstrating that it can finish as well as it started. However the show goes about getting there, the one certainty seems to be that its namesake will be smiling and rattling off odd analogies all the way to the final gun.
“Ted Lasso” begins its third season March 15 on Apple TV+. (Disclosure: Lowry’s wife works for a division of Apple.)