‘Ted Lasso:’ A great show, or just the right show at the time we needed it?

Is “Ted Lasso” a great show, or was it just the show we (or at least a lot of us) needed last summer during the pandemic? That’s the question as the Apple TV+ series returns for its second season, fresh off a record haul of Emmy nominations for a first-year comedy, and with plenty of outspoken fans.

Starring Jason Sudeikis as the title character, a US football coach who is improbably hired to coach soccer in England, the show won praise as a breath of fresh air with its upbeat, can-do attitude, Ted’s folksy charm and the eccentric players and personnel that fleshed out the team.

Frankly, the whole thing looked — or at least sounded — like a conventional fish-out-of-water concept, calculated to cash in on the cross-cultural currents and incorporate a helpful sports hook. (As Sports Illustrated detailed, Sudeikis actually introduced the character in NBC Sports promos back in 2013.)

But the program caught on, earning the kind of attention that has largely eluded Apple since it made its entry into the streaming game. Writer Sara Stewart described the show as a “mental health stealth bomb.” Emmy voters concurred, with its 20 Emmy nominations besting “Glee’s” first-year tally in 2010.

So in advance of the second-season premiere on July 23, CNN’s Sandra Gonzalez and Brian Lowry weigh in on whether “Ted Lasso” justifies the hoopla, and whether the new 12-episode season (eight episodes of which were made available to press before the premiere was released to the public) meets the expectations raised by the first.

Lowry: I must confess, I mostly dismissed this show when it premiered because it looked so much like a conventional sitcom premise. But I think Mike Hale of the New York Times nailed it — in an otherwise not-very-positive review — when he wrote, “What you wouldn’t guess, and may be continually stunned by, is how determinedly cornball the show is. It’s as if Sudeikis et al. foresaw the chaos and terror of the summer of 2020 and wanted to prove that America could do something right.”

Gonzalez: “Ted Lasso” definitely benefitted from excellent timing. But we needed “Ted Lasso” long before the pandemic hit, and had it come out even a year before, it still would have been successful. Executive producer Bill Lawrence explained in an interview with The Wrap, “in social media, politics, public discourse right now, there’s this weird combination in our country of ignorance and arrogance,” and Ted, he said, was created to be “ignorance with curiosity.”

Anyone familiar with Bill Lawrence humor (see: “Scrubs” and the highly underrated “Cougar Town”) knows cornball with kindness is something of his brand. That he found in collaborators Jason Sudeikis, Brandon Hunt and Joe Kelly a way to elevate his own approach to material is not just good timing, that’s how you make good TV … take it from me, a person who’s never made TV in my life.

Lowry: Without spoiling anything, do you have a favorite part of the new season? I thought introducing the sports psychologist was a nice touch, as was watching the arc involving Roy (Brett Goldstein).

Gonzalez: I loved that the writers took Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) on an unexpected path to start the season. I howled when that reveal was made. And I’m with you on Roy. The character’s comedic potential has soared this season as he tackles some new challenges. I apologize for the vagueness, but I hear too many spoilers make Apple, well, turn rotten.

A question for you, Lowry: Having seen part of Season 2 and given your so-so feelings on Season 1, how do you think the show’s Emmy chances stack up, given it will be riding its sophomore season wave when voting takes place?

Lowry: I still think the show’s basically pretty good (meaning a little overrated), but I can appreciate why people were attracted to it. Regarding the Emmys, handicapping those things is always dicey but I think it’s the odds-on favorite. The show benefits from being heavily tilted toward comedy, as opposed to some of the other nominees (“The Flight Attendant” and “Cobra Kai” come to mind) that fall in a sort of no-man’s land between comedy and drama.

Say what you want about “Ted Lasso,” but it knows its position on the field.

“Ted Lasso” Season 2 premieres July 23 on Apple TV+.

The-CNN-Wire
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