"Keep it simple, smartypants." Not my words, but those of mustachioed manager Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) in the fourth episode of his show’s third – and likely final – season. As the full-time whistle approaches on the hit Apple Plus comedy, it’s clear that the series should heed its own lead’s advice by not complicating things.
A vocal minority of naysayers from years prior has turned into a swelling chorus for Ted Lasso season 3. The common refrain? Episodes are too long, too crowded, and too scattered.
Take the Amsterdam episode, for instance, which saw AFC Richmond’s team (and boss Rebecca) head to the Dutch capital for some much-needed R&R and a friendly against Ajax. While not as divisive as Coach Beard’s After Hours-style jaunt through London in the second season, it personally reads like a perfect case study in where this season has gone wrong – even if it occasionally recaptures the magic that stole hearts and minds on both sides of the pond.
One only has to look at the near feature-length runtime for ‘Sunflowers’ to see where things are going wrong. Jamie and Roy’s windmill tilt, Colin and Trent Crimm’s heart-to-heart, an entire episode’s worth of Rebecca’s meet cute, Ted’s tactical revelation, Higgins’ jazz performance, and a bafflingly stretched-out meeting between the players to decide which parts of Amsterdam’s nightlife are worth sampling are all crammed into the episode.
A show of two halves
Frustratingly, there’s a tighter 30-minute version of that episode that could be a classic, likely revolving around Jamie, Roy, Colin, and Trent. It says a lot that the biggest football-centric storyline, Ted’s Total Football brainwave, is lost in the mix – much like how his character has felt like part of the furniture or, worse, a dispensable joke machine all season.
That level of bloat is present throughout, whether it’s Keeley’s quick on-again, off-again relationship with Jack alongside her PR ventures, or Nate’s oddly-paced redemption arc. Each are so far removed from the show that they may as well be their own spin-offs. It speaks to a series that has taken on too much, too quickly. With the finish line in sight, it’s going to take a Zava-esque effort to hit the target on all these disparate plots before all is said and done.
It has to be said, the warnings were there from the second season. Apple added two episodes – the aforementioned Coach Board odyssey and its Christmas episode – to its usual 10-episode order, and things have snowballed from there.
A report from Puck suggested the problems ran even deeper this season. According to the outlet, Jason Sudeikis "personally decided the scripts needed a significant rewrite" and scripts were changed "on the fly". While this is likely more common than we’d realize for major shows, it all amounts to a series that basked in its own glory and flew a little too close to the sun, with one eye on riding off into the sunset with our favorite Kansas native.
That’s not to say Ted Lasso season 3 has been a total disaster. Far from it. Jamie Tartt’s gradual character development is among TV’s healthiest comeback stories, with the Mancunian maverick firmly taking his place at the heart of the show. The best moments this season, too, have focused on simple ideas, executed well. Ted vs. Nate and this week’s Rebecca vs. Roy scenes have been brief but have stood out. The latter, in particular, felt like a template the show should have followed all year. Rebecca’s dressing down of a down-in-the-dumps Roy was a fresh, energetic dynamic that allowed for natural (and earned) character development – crucially, without having to sit through hour-long PSA-style dramatics.
Even if Ted Lasso does take a tumble from being a top-of-the-table comedy to one languishing in the middle of the pack, there’s still time for the show to pick itself up again. Cut the fat, focus on Ted and his team, and we could be on to a winner. The show was always at its best when it did its talking on the pitch and when AFC Richmond’s squad was all pulling in the same direction towards one common goal. Or, to put it another way: keep it simple, smartypants.
Ted Lasso is currently streaming on Apple TV Plus. Need something to watch next? Check out our list of the best Apple TV shows. Then dive into AFC Richmond's story with our interviews with actors James Lance and Billy Harris on Trent and Colin's heart-to-heart, plus Nick Mohammed talking Nate's evolution.