Is It About the Show’s Backlash?

Ted Lasso faced quite the wave of backlash nearly two years ago as it premiered its second season. Did the show just bite back against its detractors?

A large argument was waged in 2021 after a controversial article in the New Yorker, headlined Ted Lasso Can’t Save Us,” cut the show down to size, bashing Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) “unabating optimism.” Unleash the discourse. While some folks came to bat for Ted and Richmond AFC, spotlighting the anti-cynical tone and the wonderful lead performances, critics of the show came at the second season pretty hard.

While this third season has yet to improve on quality (in my opinion, the dip in quality from Season 1 to Season 2 was minimal, whereas the show has taken quite a hit in Season 3 so far), it has commented on the critical discourse. Or, at least, Ted Lasso seems to have commented. Of course, this comes in the most Ted Lasso way possible—via brooding, slightly egotistical Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein).

The Independent reporter (and, because I’m a predictable journalist, my favorite character) Trent Crimm returns in the second episode only to reveal that he’ll no longer be pestering Ted at press conferences. He’s quit his job as a journalist! Instead, he’ll be in everyone’s faces because he’s writing a whole book about Richmond AFC. What a treat! (Look out for The Official Ted Lasso Story on shelves at the Apple Store soon.)

Everyone is interested in the book—except Roy, who rejects Trent’s presence entirely. That’s a problem, as Ted agrees to allow Trent to shadow the team—but he’ll have to share an office with Roy. Roy tortures Trent with mind games: popping balloons loudly in his ear, making players give him the silent treatment, etc. What’s with all this spite? Trent’s been an advocate for the team for quite a while now.

After Ted gives Roy a pep-talk—love Ted or hate him, this moment is a somber heart-to-heart, and I appreciated the earnest tone the show took—the gruff assistant coach finally confronts Trent. Roy reads from a withered piece of newspaper.

“‘Newcomer Roy Kent is an overhyped, so-called prodigy whose unbridled rage and mediocre talent rendered his Premier League debut a profound disappointment,’” he says, reading Trent’s thoughts from a paper that was published when Roy was just 17 years old. “This fucking wrecked me.”

“I thought I was being edgy,” Trent responds. “I was trying to make a name for myself. All I really did was look for the worst in people. I’m sorry.”

The two make peace with one another, Roy tells the team to be cool to Trent, and harmony is restored once again in the Ted Lasso universe. But that quote from Roy sounds pretty familiar. The New Statesman recently called Ted Lasso the “most overrated show on TV”—though that was from March 2023, after this line was written. Still, critics on Reddit and Twitter (where most of the discourse actually took place in 2021) have been adamant that it’s “overrated.”

There were plenty of articles about why Season 2 was deemed a “disappointment.”More called it “mediocre.” Both words were also used by Trent to describe Roy.

These words, aimed at Roy Kent in the series, feel ripped straight out of the discourse two years ago. It’s not a very humble look for Ted Lasso, to assume that critics and journalists are hunting “for the worst in people,” or trying to be “edgy.” That Trent apologizes for his words and takes back his statements entirely is even worse—no, Trent! Stand by your words!

It is (or rather, was) Trent’s job to be honest about football and those who play. Especially since Roy’s “unbridled rage” is such a key component of the show’s makeup. Time and time again, Ted teaches Roy how to harness that anger. Why, then, is a journalist in trouble for calling it out, while Roy gives Ted little-to-no pushback when he scolds him for the same issue?

But who knows—maybe this scene has nothing to do with the discourse, and it’s just a pure coincidence that some of these words align with criticism of Ted Lasso.

Though this sequence is a bit annoying, the second episode, “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea,” offers a ray of hope for the series—especially after a tired first episode of Season 3. Ted Lasso is at its best when the team comes together. I love a good, tense football scene, in which the camera whips around to nervous Ted and pissed-off Roy on the sidelines, over to Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) and Keeley (Juno Temple) in the stands, and then back to the players on the field.

Rebecca’s speech to newcomer Zava (Maximilian Osinski)—in which she convinces the headstrong player to sign to Richmond AFC instead of Rupert’s West Ham—is brilliant. Even when the show falters, Waddingham gives her all to Ted Lasso. Things are on the up and up (minus the questionable Trent/Roy debacle) in Ted Lasso, but I’m still just a tinge nervous for what awaits in the rest of Season 3.

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