On Wednesday, “Ted Lasso” returns for its third, and possibly last, season. In his recent promotional appearances for the Apple TV+ show, star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis is cagily saying that the upcoming season is “the end of the story that [they] wanted to tell.” Perhaps Ted’s arc will end, but the show will spin off into “Roy Kent” or “Jamie Tartt” and stick with AFC Richmond and its feelgood battles.
In only two seasons, “Ted Lasso” has become a phenomenon, and not just because of the popularity, the critical embrace, and the Emmy love (which has brought it 11 statues, including two for best comedy). The show has helped to usher a tone into TV comedy that resists irony and satire — two qualities that have dominated the genre — instead focusing on the better parts of human nature. “Shrinking,” whose creators include Brett Goldstein and Bill Lawrence of “Ted Lasso,” projects the same kind of positivity, of moving through adversity to come out the other side. Ultimately, both shows are about triumph and making peace with demons.
Which brings me to Nate, who has become the new demon in “Ted Lasso,” as he turned on Ted and Richmond last season and took a coaching job with the team’s nemesis, Rupert Mannion. He’s the classic bad guy whose aggressions are rooted in insecurity, and actor Nick Mohammed has tracked Nate’s changes beautifully. This season (I’ve seen four episodes), even as he fights to beat his former friends, Nate is more of a sad, lost fellow than a full-on villain; we know that he just needs healing, that he is a good man underneath it all.
Season three opens with Richmond at the very bottom of the heap, as experts predict that the team will finish in last place. Ted, with his usual optimism, turns that into motivation for the players. Meanwhile, Rebecca (the always enjoyable Hannah Waddingham) has her own motivation: to beat her ex-husband. You want her to prevail, but you also want her to free herself of the hatred. Keeley, too, is positioned as an underdog, as she struggles to run her PR company her own way.
As usual, the highlight of “Ted Lasso” is the friendship among the characters, the rituals and banter they create together, and the caring they lavish on one another when the chips are down. That warmth remains fully intact into season three, whose new episodes will arrive every Wednesday.