For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to convince myself that I’m enjoying Ted Lasso season 3. But after slogging through another underwhelming episode earlier this week, I’ve come to the conclusion that whatever magic the show had has been lost for me.
I’ll admit when I first started starting watching Ted Lasso, I wanted to dislike it. That didn't last, as it smashed through my defenses with its infectious optimism and its lovable cast of characters. Then Ted Lasso season 2 took things up a notch, and I found myself enjoying its sophomore effort even more than its debut season.
The glowing early praise for the latest season (check out our Ted Lasso season 3 review) had me believing the show’s creative team had done it again, but halfway through what appears to be the show’s final season, I’m itching for the finale already. And I don't seem to be the only one with issues this season as a Ted Lasso backlash is gathering some steam on social media, though one of my colleagues is able to find things he loves and hates about Ted Lasso this year.
It’s pretty telling that in recent weeks the release of each new episode on Apple TV Plus has felt like an annoying obligation rather than something to eagerly look forward to. To be honest, I have quite a lengthy list of problems with Ted Lasso season 3, some big and some small, but I’ve distilled my issues down to the four core flaws (of a show that's been one of the best Apple TV Plus shows) that are the most severe.
I’m already bracing myself for backlash. I’m aware that my dissatisfaction with Ted Lasso's long-awaited return likely falls into the “unpopular opinions” category, but these four reasons are why Ted Lasso season 3 is my biggest TV show disappointment in a very long time.
Ted Lasso season 3 is aimless
Ted Lasso season 3 is running into a problem that plagues many shows as they get deeper into their runs: storylines become increasingly aimless with too many characters to juggle.
A great example of Ted Lasso’s underwhelming approach to storytelling this season would be the sudden emergence and then disappearance of Zava (Maximilian Osinkski). This larger-than-life character was introduced in episode 2, scored some goals for Afc Richmond, delivered a few comedically pompous quips, then in episode 5 announced his retirement from the sport of soccer. Leaving this viewer wondering why he was added to the show in the first place.
Perhaps Zava will return in a later episode (maybe in West Ham colors?), but for now, he’s a character that added very little to the show. His inclusion ultimately felt like filler. And it’s not just new characters that are getting the short end of the stick either. Club owners Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham) and PR guru Keeley Jones (Juno Temple) also seem to be spinning their wheels.
It’s particularly disappointing that Ted Lasso's two prominent female characters are the biggest victim of the show’s increasingly weak writing. But right now, Rebecca and Keeley are having a little impact when it comes to driving the show forward, and on too many occasions are shoved to the side to accommodate another repetitive Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) and Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) bromance beat.
Episodes are far too long
Curiously, Ted Lasso season 3 has transitioned the show away from its previous 35-minute episodes to jumbo-sized episodes that can run more than an hour in length. Series co-creator Brendan Hunt told TheWrap that this change “wasn’t that conscious of a decision” but perhaps it's something the show’s creative team should have thought twice about.
Ted Lasso worked extremely well as a 30-minute comedy show in its first two seasons. Episodes were generally zippy, packed with jokes and would move the main plotlines along at a solid pace. In season 3, episodes stretch on for far too long with storylines regularly dragged out. The longer runtimes have only further added to the overall aimless feel of the show right now.
Did we need multiple scenes of the Richmond squad trying to decide whether to go to a party or a sex show in episode 7? And what of the yawn-inducing plotline in episode 5 where Keeley discovers a disgruntled former employee has left a stinky sheep in the conference room of her PR company? These storylines could have been tackled in single scenes but instead were drawn out beyond breaking point. I can’t help but feel a more ruthless edit would have greatly improved the overall pacing of the season.
There is a very good reason that the vast majority of sitcoms have shorter episodes than prestige dramas, and Ted Lasso season 3 seems to have forgotten that. Hunt also noted that “Apple didn’t seem to mind if they were longer than expected” and I can’t help but wonder if the longer episodes aren’t a sign of a little too much self-indulgence from the writers. Sometimes a tighter leash is needed to keep a show on track.
I’m sick of Ted always being right
Is it just me or is the character of Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) becoming slightly insufferable this season? He’s still plenty charismatic, his optimism is inspiring, and I love that his personal struggles and anxieties are still being explored. But just once I'd like his "take the high road" approach to be presented as flawed.
Case in point, in episode 3, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Roy want to show the team footage of Nate (Nick Mohammed) ripping up the iconic “Believe” sign to fire up the Richmond players ahead of their match against West Ham. But Ted disagrees with this plan.
Nevertheless, at halftime, and without Ted’s permission, the duo shows the squad the footage and the whole squad is outraged. They emerge for the second half and their anger boils over. They receive multiple red cards and suffer a heavy defeat. Congratulations Ted, you were right, yet again!
There have been cases like this throughout the show’s run, where Ted has refused to follow advice or change up his approach to a situation, and it pretty much always pans out that he was correct to ignore what those around him suggested.
It would have been extremely refreshing if Ted’s approach had been shown to be incorrect on this occasion. Perhaps viewing the footage could have increased the team’s determination rather than just turning them all into hot-heads. This would have made it clear that Ted is not totally infallible, and sometimes he needs to listen to those around him.
In the end of season 3's latest episode, we saw the team right one of Ted’s comical wrongs. Roy Kent knew that pushing Total Football this quickly was wrong, and Ted should be thanking Jamie for doing the real coaching work for him.
Outlook: Can we get some more focus on the game?
This fourth issue may be rather personal to me specifically as a soccer (football!) loving Brit, but I want to see more on-the-pitch action in Ted Lasso season 3.
Obviously, I understand that Ted Lasso is not a sports documentary. If I want one of those, I can rewatch Sunderland ‘Til I Die on Netflix. Nevertheless, the on-the-pitch events have felt pretty irrelevant this season, and that's a shame.
I’m not expecting an episode where we watch AFC Richmond play a full match, but I want more scenes on the training pitch showing the squad working on tactics, and to be kept up to date with the team’s progress in the Premier League as they seek to “win the whole f**king thing.” The good news on this front is that the latest episode, The Strings That Bind Us, focused significantly more on this aspect as Roy got ... creative in his attempts to teach the Richmond players Total Football tactics.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that episode 7 is a sign of things to come. Perhaps as we build towards the season (and maybe series?) finale, there will be a larger focus on the drama on the pitch.