It must have been intimidating for the writers of the Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso” to try and top a rookie season that led to 20 Emmy nominations and a leading five Television Critics Association nominations.
But off the first eight episodes made available for review out of 12 that will eventually air, the writers manage to make season 2 an even bigger triumph.
There were some occasional serious moments in season 1 involving Lasso’s disintegrating marriage. But it was mostly fun and games.
The second season has its share of fun, a little less game action and more serious moments.
The feel-good series starring Jason Sudeikis as an American football coach sent to England to coach a struggling soccer team became an unexpected, uplifting hit in season 1 during the Covid-19 pandemic. In season 2, it takes a much deeper dive into the personal lives of players and coaches that viewers learned to love in the first season.
As enjoyable as it was in season 1 to discover the characters, learning to better understand the demons that they battle in season 2 makes the series much richer and even more poignant.
Spoiler alert: Before watching season 2, which premieres an episode weekly starting with the first episode Friday, I suggest you watch last season’s finale.
In it, the AFC Richmond team coached by Lasso lost in heartbreaking fashion and is relegated to the Champions League from the more important Premier League.
The relegation perfectly sets up season 2, with Richmond trying to get back to the Premier League led by a coach who doesn’t know the rules of the game. It now has the owner, Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) on its side after she subverted its chances last season to get back at her ex-husband in a plot worthy of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.”
Sudeikis and Waddingham were two of five “Lasso” actors nominated for Emmys. The other three nominated are Juno Temple as marketing guru Keeley Jones, Brett Goldstein as aging star Roy Kent, Brendan Hunt as deadpan assistant Coach Beard and Nick Mohammed as fragile clubhouse attendant Nathan, who gets a promotion. Sudeikis and Hunt also were nominated for two Emmys in the writing category. Goldstein also is a writer on the show.
Judging by the early episodes of season 2, Toheeb Jimoh, who plays the sensitive star Sam Obisanya verbally abused by bad boy Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) last season, could join the Emmy acting parade next season.
The new season introduces a sports therapist named Sharon played by Sarah Niles (HBO’s “I May Destroy You”), who is brought in to deal with psychological issues impacting the players’ performance and Coach Lasso that humanize the stereotypical characters.
The show is as adorable as it was in season 1, sprinkled with optimistic Lasso sayings and rhymes that viewers eventually learn cover up some of his painful family memories. “Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing,” is Lasso's philosophy.
The season deals with one player’s issues with a verbally abusive father, another player becoming socially aware of his country being damaged by the team’s primary sponsor, the rich owner finding love in an unexpected way and an outwardly tough character becoming a father figure and being reduced to mush by a little girl.
One might complain that the series developed by Sudeikis, Hunt, Joe Kelly and Bill Lawrence (“Scrubs,” “Spin City”) becomes more than a little predictable, with the writers repeatedly setting up things as if they won’t happen when viewers undoubtedly guess correctly that they eventually will happen.
But only a pessimist would nit-pick. Besides, delaying positivity is a common writing practice of narrative structure in movies and television.
In season 2, there is an amusing joke about the New York Jets that Bills fans are bound to enjoy.
There also is a not-too-subtle shot at the inanity of sports pregame and halftime show conversations by Kent, now retired, who is brought in to be the English version of Charles Barkley to speak truth to the other panelists.
In addition, there is the clever creation of a dating site that focuses on what people have in common rather than appearance.
And there is a clever takeoff on the classic line – “you had me at hello” that Renee Zellweger told Tom Cruise in the movie “Jerry Maguire.”
Of course, there are too many name-dropping pop culture references to count, with one comparing Ted Danson to a “Seinfeld” star particularly amusing. The references are part of the “Ted Lasso” charm that makes it more relatable.
The best of the eight episodes made available for review is tough to select but the fourth one – a Christmas episode that will air Aug. 13 and speaks to the power of friendship – is my favorite.
It allows Waddingham, who is a singer, to again showcase that part of her talent. The music chosen to run with each episode also enhances each program, which generally run between 30 and 45 minutes.
As adorable and sweet as it is most times, the language and some PG-13 situations in “Lasso” can be too rough for young children to watch. The writers seem to realize that Kent’s repeated use of a curse word is too much because they eventually have him explain to a child it is what “footballers” do and shouldn’t be emulated.
But other than the repetitive curse words, “Ted Lasso” has little to apologize for. As a follow-up second season, it is as good as it gets.