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‘Ted Lasso’ and the Kindness Revolution

Apple TV+'s "Ted Lasso."
Apple TV+'s "Ted Lasso." By Courtesy of: Apple TV+
By A.J. Veneziano, Contributing Writer

“Ted Lasso,” which premiered in Aug. 2020, garnered 20 Emmy nominations after its first season on Apple TV+ and won seven, including Outstanding Comedy Series. The innocent, charismatic American soccer coach played by Jason Sudeikis won the hearts of millions of viewers as he stumbled through England and coached a team in the English Premier League, AFC Richmond, armed with only his whistle and his motto: “Believe.” Featuring loveable characters such as bad boy football star Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), internet influencer Keeley Jones (Juno Temple), and kit-man Nathan Shelley (Nick Mohammed), the show had all the keys to a fun situational comedy, with strong recurring jokes and opportunities to laugh at good-old Ted Lasso and his antics.

However, the writers took the show in a different direction in Season Two.

With the introduction of sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) in the season premiere, the focus of the plot turned from a silly American abroad to the complexities of mental health and the desire to belong in today’s fragmented world. Originally brought in to help player Danny Rojas (Cristo Fernández) recover from the trauma of accidentally killing a dog with a penalty kick, Dr. Sharon has played an increasingly large role in each episode. Following his traumatic divorce, Lasso’s distrust of therapists forces a tension with Dr. Sharon and the players who benefit from her assistance. These tensions build to a climax in the eighth episode in which Dr. Sharon’s bike crash and a physical altercation between Jamie Tartt and his abusive father prompt Lasso to reveal a traumatic childhood event.

Although his crumbling marriage and isolation in London developed Lasso’s character in the first season, this climax reveals a new Ted, one who is completely unrecognizable from the goofy Kansan in the first season. While the old Ted is compelling for the sake of a comedy series, the new Ted brings a beautifully human truth to the table: Pain can lurk within seemingly endless joy. Many times, one finds the wish to bring joy to others precisely from within this pain.

Additionally, Dr. Sharon’s development as a psychiatrist facing her own mental struggles creates a level of nuance not often found in therapist roles on television. She is neither the all-knowing doctor nor a character introduced solely to guide Ted in the right direction, but her symbiotic relationship with the ever-developing Ted shows that coaches and psychiatrists face the same problems as everyone else.

And what better place to tackle the complex theme of mental health struggles than a transatlantic comedy series about soccer? Seriously — it works.

Film and television often tackle mental health in a variety of ways, from teenage drug abuse in “Euphoria” to sardonic nihilism in “BoJack Horseman,” but rarely do we see athletes at the forefront of our discussions of mental health. Do athletes not struggle in silence like the rest of us? Representation in all sectors of our world is pivotal in creating a society in which people are not afraid to discuss the issues they are facing. If anything, sports is an area where mental health should be prioritized. Competitive attitudes, rigorous training, and overarching perceptions of masculinity can place unnecessary burdens on athletes, ones which they are not comfortable to share with teammates or coaches. Recently, American superstar and Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic opened up about his mental health and revealed he has been seeing a psychiatrist in London to deal with the isolation of living alone in a foreign country. “I felt like if I were to talk about the way I felt that I was weak or something like that,” he said to CBS Sports.

“Ted Lasso” is tackling this stigma in its sophomore season, all the while analyzing the complexities of family, friendships, and coaching soccer in a new country. One biscuit at a time, Ted continues to spread his revolution of kindness and show that, indeed, “football is life.”

New episodes of “Tes Lasso” are released on Fridays on Apple TV+.

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