NEW YORK (AP) – Roy Kent cries. Nate Shelley apologizes. Rebecca Welton let go of her anger. Trent Krim completes his book. Keely Jones embraces her strength. And kind-to-a-fault but often-lost Ted Lasso finally — after three seasons, but arguably almost a lifetime — finds himself where he needs to be.
Criticized by some for losing its way in its third season, “Ted Lasso” ended up being exactly on brand – carrying a swiftly drawn ensemble of characters who had lost their ways and felt stuck, and they were freed from shackles that were often of their own making. “Can people change?” Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) wonders. The answer, after Wednesday, is a resounding “maybe”.
“Perfect is boring,” says Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) at one point in the season (and potentially series) finale. And if there was a travel guide to the three seasons of the Apple TV+ show, that quote would probably be on the opposite side of the title page.
“Ted Lasso” has been a Whitmanian specimen of pandemic-era speculation with a message that, whether delivered with a subtle glance or a huge narrative mallet, cannot help but resonate in the post-pandemic landscape. IS: The moments that stuck you don’t have to last forever.
It was hard to find a show with such a collection of people who were trapped — trapped in the embers of their own circumstances or choices. Keili (Juno’s temple) was trapped. Roy was trapped. Jamie (Phil Dunster) was trapped. Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) was trapped. Trent, Colin and Sam (James Lance, Billy Harris and Toheb Jimoh) were trapped. Nate (Nick Mohammed) was trapped. Even sports psychologist Sharon (Sarah Niles) was somewhat stumped.
And of course Ted himself (Jason Sudeikis), a lost guy with a mustache and a lot of trivia who’s been mired in a swamp of sadness for most of his life and, it turns out, a mission to help others. He needed to find his way to move forward.
‘Stuck’ is a theme TV loves
The character stuck in the mud is not a new one. It has been a useful and frequently used narrative engine from “Groundhog Day” (1993) and onwards to “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946). But lately something more intense has been happening. Take a tour across genres across the American streaming landscape in the past, say, four years, and you’ll find a lot of consternation no matter which direction you look.
Scarlet Witch in Marvel’s “WandaVision”? Stuck. Nadia in “Russian Doll”? Seasons one and two branched out in different ways. Alma in “Undone”, Carmi in “The Bear” and “Mare of Easttown”? Trapped, trapped and trapped. Even some of streaming’s most recent stars — “Severance,” “The Shrinkage” and the recently concluded “Star Trek: Picard” — focus on central characters who make bad choices, trauma or a lost sense of purpose. stuck with.
Then there are shows about the very embodiment of entanglement: “Ghost” and “School Spirits,” both of which address the problem from the vantage points of people who have shied away from the mortal coil, but still — don’t seem like it. Can find out where they are going.
“Ted Lasso” distills this topic to the Nth degree without resorting to supernatural activity. This cluster of humans, seen from a distance, was a complete bastion of speculation – albeit in different ways.
Keely was paralyzed by uncertainty, Roy by anger, Jamie by trauma and arrogance, Trent by expectations. Nate was derailed by feelings of inadequacy and Colin by fear of judgment. Sam was bound by family and national expectations. Rebecca was drowning in the scars of psychological abuse from a partner. Arguably the only main character not stuck was Leslie Higgins (Jeremy Swift), jazz virtuoso and devoted family man – and the only character to understand at all that he was here, right now where he wanted to be.
He had a leg up on many of us. The COVID-19 pandemic was stuck for a time. On August 14, 2020, “Ted Lasso” debuted right in the middle of it. Now, nearly three years later, aren’t we navigating through an isolating pandemic and a whole generation coming of age amid deep political rifts? Aren’t millions of people throughout the republic locked in small, personal struggles, trying to avoid being trapped or – possibly even more difficult – to avoid living this way?
Americans learn from across the pond
The other elephant in the room “Ted Lasso” – the one directly related to entanglement – is also something that invokes the British-American divide that is often played for laughs in the show.
A few weeks ago, the cast of “Lasso” visited the White House to talk about mental health. At the time, Sudeikis had this to say: “We shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help ourselves.”
It suggests – no, openly proposes – that it is not always possible to go it alone “American-style” and that as the poet John Donne said several centuries ago, “No man is an island unto himself.” is; every man is a part of the continent, a part of the main. Bringing together so many different people from so many places – an international football team – provided the ideal canvas for the show’s thesis. that different approaches may yield better results. Go find out.
Those who say that “Ted Lasso” was treacherous and strayed a bit during the third season make valid points. Plot lines were dropped or overly condensed. Subtle anti-heroes were not the show’s jam, and never did dark deeds define the day. The only true villain – Rupert Mannion (Anthony Head) – was a moustache-wielder with a goatee (the moustache, of course, was already taken) and mostly a foil, a scheming island alone in a sea of sentimentality.
That was fine. Because if the show had any message for those stuck among us, it was this: Maybe, just maybe, the sentimentality of rank can get you unstuck. And more importantly, you might get stuck bringing out a part of you in front of everyone. “The best we can do,” Higgins says, “is to keep seeking help and accepting it when you can.”
In the United States of America in 2023, it’s still a tougher message to sell than it should be. But it is more relevant than ever. Emotions hold you down, but emotions also set you free. Effort may make you weak, but effort counts.
“I just had to try,” Rebecca tells Ted at one point in the finale. Ultimately this is the answer to getting stuck. And it pointed to the song we heard every week over the opening credits — the key, ultimately, to unlocking the entire show.
“It may be all that you get.
I think it might be ok.
But God knows I tried…”
Ted Anthony, director of New Storytelling and Newsroom Innovation at the Associated Press, has been writing about American culture since 1990. follow them on twitter