‘Ted Lasso’ returns for final season on Apple TV+

WTOP's Jason Fraley celebrates the return of 'Ted Lasso' (Season 3)

It’s a bittersweet feeling knowing that a beloved TV sitcom is returning for its final season. On the one hand, we can’t wait to dive back in to laugh with our favorite characters. On the other, we really don’t want it to end.

That’s the case with the adorable sports sitcom “Ted Lasso,” which returns for its third and final season this Wednesday on Apple TV+ with new episodes dropping every week until the series finale on May 31.

If you’ve somehow been living under a soccer-ball-sized rock, the series began in 2020 with American football coach Ted Lasso being hired to coach a British soccer team, AFC Richmond. Unbeknownst to him, he was hired to lose by a scheming owner trying to tank her ex-husband’s team in order to sell it like “Major League” (1989).

“SNL” alum Jason Sudeikis has won two Emmys as the pollyannish coach with a heart of gold, a character initially created for NBC Sports promos. Season 1 introduced us to Ted’s aw-shucks demeanor, corny jokes and Diamond Dog banter. Season 2 revealed the darker side of Ted’s panic attacks with his therapist (Sarah Niles). Now, Season 3 finds him putting his son back on a plane to America, asking for assurances that he’s doing the right thing.

“Do you understand why I’m still here?” Ted asks.

“Of course,” his son says. “To win the whole thing!”

“Now don’t forget, winning ain’t everything.”

“Yeah, Dad, but you’ve gotta try, right?”

The pressure of that task is getting to owner Rebecca Welton, a role that won Hannah Waddingham an Emmy for the best character arc of Season 1 as her ice-cold villainy thawed one shortbread biscuit at a time. Season 2 awkwardly gave her an inappropriate relationship with her employee, Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh), but Season 3 gets back on track by growing Rebecca’s lovable friendship with cockney publicist Keeley Jones (Juno Temple).

Until now, Keeley’s romantic relationship with grouchy soccer vet Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) has been the best subplot, especially when Roy retired after Season 1 to become a smartass coach in Season 2. Sadly, Season 3 might pose some problems for the couple with more demanding jobs. In real life, it’s great to see both pivoting to extra success with Temple starring in “The Offer” (Paramount+) and Goldstein producing “Shrinking” (Apple TV+).

While Goldstein is clearly the show’s secret weapon as a two-time Emmy winner, the biggest transformation has been Phil Dunster as cocky soccer superstar Jamie Tart (“doo doo doo doo doo”). While we were conditioned to hate him in Season 1, we were allowed to see a more sympathetic side to his character in Season 2 by seeing his father’s harsh treatment. Believe it or not, he’s a voice of reason in Season 3 with a “poopy” locker-room pep talk.

Mostly, Season 3 relies on goodwill (and ill will) built up from back story episodes of the assistant coaches in Season 2. Episode 9 (“Beard After Hours”) endeared us to Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), who hit the town to drink away ex-girlfriend Jane (Phoebe Walsh), while Episode 5 (“Rainbow”) followed the personal life of waterboy-turned-coach Nate “the Great” Shelley (Nick Mohammed), setting him up for a heel turn to coach a rival team.

The central tension of the Season 3 premiere finds Nate reveling in headlines of his “genius” (though the press calls him “wonder kid” instead of “wunderkind”). When asked why his former team is ranked No. 20 to start the season, he trashes them at a press conference by replying, “Because there aren’t 21 teams.” True to character, Ted takes the high road, which only gets under Nate’s skin more and only causes we the viewers to love Ted even more.

At this rate, Season 3 is shaping up to be a true underdog story. Here’s hoping the rivalry builds all the way to Ted’s AFC Richmond facing Nate’s West Ham United in the championship, so that Ted can fulfill his promise of “winning the whole thing.” Dog-gone-it, the humble man deserves to win, if only because he doesn’t think he does. Emmy voters agree, bestowing Outstanding Comedy Series on the first two seasons. Can it go 3 for 3 for a three-peat?

Win, lose or draw, the true winners are we the viewers, who have one last season to bask in streaming sitcom glory. Soak it up, folks. Enjoy it. Shows this smart, this funny and this heartfelt don’t come around very often.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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