By JASON MARTIN (@JMartRadio – July 23, 2021)
Earl Greyhound was a very very good boy. He was a very special boy. He ran and he played right up until that last moment, chasing a bird that had flown onto the pitch, like any good boy should. He was having fun and being a dog… always there to offer support to AFC Richmond.
And then Dani Rojas murdered him in cold blood.
Football is life… or it’s death… or it’s just football, but luckily, by the end of the episode, it’s MOSTLY life. Randy Johnson would be proud. But I digress… well, we’re back on the pitch with AFC Richmond, we’ve got a dead canine, some new faces, and an impeccably accurate statement about the Gin Blossoms. Follow You Down is my favorite song, but certainly Hey Jealousy is the biggest song. Just showed my age. Don’t care. Barbecue sauce.
In 35 minutes or so, Ted Lasso did exactly what every fan would want. It successfully executed being Ted Lasso. That’s all we need. Reinventing the wheel can be rewarding, but when a show is entering the second season, the big mistake is to mess with the formula or get too cute. Bill Lawrence and Jason Sudeikis know precisely what the vision of the series is and what the audience desires from the show as well, and as a result, what the viewer gets is much more of what he or she already liked.
It’s different enough to remind you we’ve moved from Richmond hiring Lasso to relegation and now playing in a league that isn’t, as Higgins suggests, always on television. But the daggone internet though, right? We catch up with Ted and Coach Beard (how awesome is Brendan Hunt) and Nate the Great attempting to lead their squad to something other than a draw. Seven of ’em in a row isn’t what the team needs, nor what Rebecca and ownership needs. What’s most interesting about Lasso as a coach is that we all like him and root for him despite the fact that in terms of success, he hasn’t had a whole heck of a lot.
But, when you can answer a question as well as Ted navigates Trent Crimm’s query about Earl, it doesn’t seem to matter all that much. That answer, which focused on a story from his own childhood, being afraid of a dog that bit him and then taking care of the pooch later for an older gentleman who had to be put into a home, was equal parts inspirational and grounding. He disarmed the situation without even trying to, because it’s just who he is. I once heard Frank Sinatra described as the coolest guy in every room largely because for a while, he had no idea he was.
Ted Lasso, the man and the coach, is the essence of kindness, despite the reality of a broken marriage where, as he describes late in the episode, therapy turned out to be a place to be attacked and told how much he had done wrong. Just as the series opener ended with the reveal of separation, this episode spent some time showcasing the scrapes and scars of several characters, from Ted to Rebecca and her attempt to date John (Buffalo) (not Stamos) Wingsnight, which fails as soon as Roy Kent lets her know she deserves someone truly special.
This was a strong episode for Brett Goldstein, who had to drop four letter words on eight year olds with his career now over following the knee injury, and then go nuts with f-bombs to his niece, who may pay her way through college with his swear jar of sorts. 1,236 POUNDS… and what an odd number to choose, because later in the episode we find out that the office record for paper ball volley is also 1,236. I didn’t catch the significance other than just repeating the same number, but perhaps there will be more to it.
Keeley wants Roy to consider doing TV work and he’s vehemently opposed to it, which isn’t a surprise, but at the same time he makes sure on the phone call just before the close of the episode to tell her he appreciates how much she cares about him. Again, we have seen such growth from the Roy Kent character, which has been the case for most on Ted Lasso, a show that subtly preaches grace and hope in a time where the world desperately needs to offer both and receive both. Those two characteristics are infectious, which is why Ted Lasso resonates with so many of us, regardless of our own backgrounds or ideologies.
Finally, we’ve got Doc…tor Sharon Fieldstone, who could become an antagonist because of her gruff exterior and the wall she has up that somehow deflects Lasso’s charm. That said, Rebecca had the same issues and he broke her down. Sarah Niles does a nice job with the role, exuding both confidence and no nonsense professionalism as she gets through to Dani and ends up holding court with a few of his teammates. Ted looks a little less than thrilled, but the results as Rojas bends one into the net off the Midnight Poutine is hard to ignore. Oh, and she definitely saw Lasso turn around and wave at her.
Notice I haven’t used the “Y” word in this piece? Roy McAvoy would appreciate it, and I’m sure AFC Richmond does as well, even if Fieldstone would criticize me for the denial. “He who will not be named” Sharon. Need I say more?
A few rapid fire observations (or just “hey remember this” to send us out.
- “I sure can Arlo, but that’s because I’m a right brained dominant with a knack for make believe.
- “Oh god, did we really make Michael Jordan cry?”
- “Well, I recommend a little soap. Helps get the eternal rest out of the hard to reach places.”
- “I feel like a bigger loser than the biggest loser on The Biggest Loser.”
- The Tom Cruise ponytail Magnolia/Last Samurai discussion
- “Like a murderer.”
- The Groucho/Harpo emoji discussion
- HOLY CRAP… that New York Jets line was not just gold, but PLATINUM.
Oh, and then there was this. What a way to end the episode with the yoga mums and Roy watching “Lust Conquers All.” Jamie Tartt is still with us folks, and in rare form as well. “You can’t get rid of me. I’m the island’s top scorer… sexually.”
Here’s how well-scripted the open was, and folks this was an all-timer (or it was close). Not quite Kevin Malone with the chili but in the same zip code at least for today’s television. We knew the team’s mascot was a dog because of the logo, but not only do we meet Earl, but the dialogue makes it clear how important he is. It’s a pure setup in the writing, like asking whether Dani will bring the “good boy his first win of the season.” There are just a few canine references in the run-up to the soccer ball to the dome that primes us and then the needle comes off the record player. Perfectly crafted without a focus that made it too obvious. Now, once Earl got loose, it was the most predictable result ever, but that’s only because it was the right creative choice.
Roy is in transition, Jamie is on British Love Island, the team stinks, Rebecca is dating, Coach Beard is reminiscing about how many cruise ship dancing girls he’s dated, the Dutch guy is a turd, Sharon ain’t feeling the Lasso charm, Keeley is doing Keeley things, Dani’s scoring goals again and Cristo Fernandez had his best performance yet, Nate needs to chill, and as for Ted… he’s hoping for Diane Sawyer to ask him to dinner and regretting that red hat he wore to that gathering that one time.
Lasso is off and rolling. Great episode to open the season that clearly indicates a lot is going to happen over the course of the next few months. Roy says “Don’t you dare settle for fine” to Rebecca (Waddingham was on fire this episode, but has been since moment one with this show) and he might as well have said it to us. Because the show he’s on… is darn good. In fact, it kicks butt from soup to nuts. By no means is Ted Lasso a New Miserable Experience.
So happy it’s back. It brings such overwhelming joy.
And Found Out About You and Allison Road are also pretty terrific.
Note: Probably won’t just remark about the cast every week. I left some folks out here and there wasn’t ONE performance unworthy of praise. Juno was great. Everybody was great. The show is beautifully cast and that’s not likely to change.