Nauseatingly nice ‘Ted Lasso’ doesn’t work without COVID

Thank you for your service, “Ted Lasso.” Now pack up your cleats and go home.

The hit Apple TV+ comedy series about a doofy college football coach who becomes an unlikely Premier League soccer club manager in the UK debuted during the first, trying year of the pandemic — in August 2020.

And the initially excellent show, starring Jason Sudeikis, proved a cathartic break from the onslaught of bleak news and our 3 a.m. doomscrolling.

Ted was our guy.

We cried when it turned out those delicious biscuits in the pink box he gave AFC Richmond owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) every day were actually baked by him the whole time. Awww! 

And we sniffled when the Richmond fans did the “He’s here, he’s there!” chant for aging midfielder Roy Kent in his time of need.

The team was being mean to kit man Nate (Nick Mohammed) — and then Ted taught them to be nice to kit man Nate. Blubber blubber blubber.

During wine-soaked lockdowns, we cooed at these basic acts of kindness like they were Olympic gold medal-winning feats that could never occur in unforgiving reality. Getting arrogant striker Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) to work together with his teammates was a successfully landed quadruple axel. 

Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso
“Ted Lasso,” starring Jason Sudeikis, was a cathartic break during the early days of the pandemic, but now the coach’s kindness has worn thin.
Courtesy of Apple

But now that the pandemic is over — as President Joe Biden said that it is — and life has gotten back to business as usual, Care Bear Ted has overstayed his welcome. 

“I know why I came,” Ted tells his therapist, Dr. Sharon (Sarah Niles), in the sugary first episode of Season 3, which premiered March 15. “It’s the sticking around I can’t quite figure out.” 

Neither can we, Ted. Your non-stop goodness is flippin’ exhausting, and no longer required.

Juno Temple as Keeley
Keeley (Juno Temple) tries to get a job for her under-qualified model friend in the new season of “Ted Lasso.”
Courtesy of Apple

During the first two episodes of Season 3,  Ted cutely tries to get his always-professional therapist to confide personal details; journalist Trent Crimm (James Lance) emotionally — unrealistically — apologizes to Roy for being cruel to him early in his reporting career to “make a name for myself”; and Saint Keeley (Juno Temple) attempts to get a model friend a job despite her total lack of qualifications.

And hokey Ted, with groaner puns at the ready, takes his cartoony team down into the Richmond sewage system to teach them an inspirational lesson about how they must collaborate like the pipes and tunnels do. Oy vey.

That stunt leads to Nate, who is now the rival manager of West Ham United, mocking Ted during a press conference by saying, “They probably had to train in a sewer because their coach is so s – – tty.” 

Nick Mohammed as Nate, and Jason Sudeikis as Ted
Nate (Nick Mohammed) and Ted (Sudeikis) have a rivalry in Season 3 — and even that is super sweet.
Colin Hutton/Courtesy of Apple

Barney The Dinosaur, er, Ted then shoots back during his remarks — by ridiculing himself! “I look like Ned Flanders is doing cosplay as Ned Flanders,” he jokes as the press corps smiles and laughs and heart-tugging music plays.

That was the fill-in-the-blank moment of every episode that’s meant to make us cry tears of affirmation. However, I didn’t weep this time — I winced. 

This constant sweetness has gone from necessary to nauseating.

Ted isn’t a character anymore so much as a flat embodiment of the askew motivational “Believe” poster he hangs in the locker room. 

And, like Ted, AFC Richmond are perpetual underdogs who absorb and repeat niceties while treading water. Or sewage, as the case may be.

The cast of Ted Lasso
The cast of “Ted Lasso” is all smiles, all the time.
Courtesy of Apple

Television tastes have changed. The biggest new show on TV this year is HBO’s “The Last of Us” — about a zombie apocalypse.

Another recent talker, which debuted in late 2022, was Hulu’s dramedy “Fleishman Is In Trouble,” in which a young NYC dad’s life is thrown into chaos when his ex-wife has an affair and abandons him to raise their kids alone. 

And HBO’s “Succession,” with its cutthroat, loveless family vying for power, scored its best ratings of all time — 2.3 million — for last week’s premiere.

Audiences are no longer looking to be coddled.

Sure, there will always be room for feel-good stories on TV or at the movies. Successes like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” weren’t dark journeys into despair, but they weren’t a kindergarten singalong either.

Simply put, “Ted Lasso” OD’d on heart.

Season 1’s finale was called “The Hope That Kills You.” Too right.

New episodes of “Ted Lasso” stream Wednesdays on Apple TV+.

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