“Despite the irony of furious takedowns and defensiveness inspired by a show about treating people with respect, Ted Lasso has become a shibboleth of TV discourse. Mild critiques become backlash; responses become defenses; the whole thing is frankly a little bonkers.” — Vulture, August 25, 2021
Warning: This article contains spoilers about season two of Ted Lasso and the immortal souls of television critics who are wrong about it.
Ted Lasso was the most surprising show of 2020. In its debut season, the plucky underdog sitcom delighted an audience tired of pandemic fears, political conflicts, and natural disasters. They retreated into a comforting world in which a single good person—Ted Lasso, an American football coach played by the charming Jason Sudeikis—overcomes the doubts and malign intentions of strangers not by destroying them, but by transforming them into better versions of themselves. As viewers, we felt a similar process take place in our own living rooms. Well, most of us did. Some detractors revealed their true nature as vessels for unadulterated evil who deserve pain because they can’t let us enjoy one thing on this awful planet, which got that way thanks to monsters like them.
As season two of the award-winning Apple TV+ project started streaming into homes, it faced heightened scrutiny from television critics who want to wreck the delicate psyches of those who depend on Ted Lasso for thirty minutes of fleeting happiness each week. Instead of air and food, these villains’ bodies run on the misfortune of others. They endeavor to erase the love that the Warner Bros. Television production has generated. These charlatans have said that there’s not enough conflict in the series’ follow-up season. How’s this for conflict? If you don’t like Ted Lasso, you should die and rot for eternity in the sulfur-infused inferno ruled by Satan himself—where your Caviar order is always waiting to be picked up by the Dasher and the only streaming service is CrackleMax, a paid version of Crackle that’s 100 percent advertisements.
Ted Lasso has a lot in common with the man at its center. Just as one looks at Ted Lasso, a mustachioed American who doesn’t know a whit about the game he’s supposed to coach, and assumes there’s no way he can make a friend in London—let alone find success with AFC Richmond—at first glance it’s hard to see the promise of the program. A streaming half-hour comedy based on TV commercials for Premier League broadcasts could have been doomed from the start. Yet—the same way Ted won those around him over with a barrage of one-liners and a conviction that every single person is, at their core, worthwhile—the show melted down our defenses, laying waste to our misguided belief that positive things were no longer possible. Hacks who think that optimism is somehow “saccharine” should encounter something even more saccharine—a ten-thousand-gallon drum of the artificial sweetener saccharin, in which they drown for the sin of denouncing the one pure entity in this universe.
These people snarl at the notion that Rebecca, who sets out to crush her team and Ted out of spite, could harbor depths of compassion and generosity waiting to be revealed by the right circumstances. They refuse to accept one of Ted Lasso’s most resonant messages: none of us are enemies, and we must break the cycle of cruelty and heal one another. Any alleged “professional writers” who find that beyond their grasp are irredeemable. They say midsummer was “not time” for a touching Christmas special. May they face a never-ending future in which it is always time for eleven Jamie Tartts and their twenty-two muscular legs to kick them nearly—but never quite fully—to death.
There are those who aren’t fond of the new character Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, a sports psychologist who works with the members of AFC Richmond. They’re sickened that Ted, once skeptical of therapy’s value, comes to see that Dr. Fieldstone can help him conquer his demons—because they know that this could influence fans to improve their own outlooks on life. That’s what the show has done for me. Ted Lasso arrived onto a dispiriting landscape, ravaged by apparently insurmountable problems, and—like its hero—defeated them with its fundamental decency. It’s no exaggeration to say that watching this sitcom changed me from an embittered, hopeless, hostile mess into someone kinder and more reminiscent of the title character.
Ted and Ted achieved what had seemed impossible: they cured my anger. When I hear anybody claim they can’t understand that, I’m filled with a white-hot desire to find whatever art they cherish most and tear it to shreds, purchase their childhood home and smash it with a wrecking ball, and snuff out all the stars in the sky we share—just for the pleasure of seeing the look in their eyes as they realize it is all gone forever, much like the cynicism I felt before welcoming Ted Lasso into my heart.