‘Ted Lasso’ Needs to Stop Being About Jason Sudeikis’ Divorce
Flashback to August 2020. COVID rages, lockdowns abound and the country stands divided on innumerable issues ahead of an historically contentious presidential election. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, AppleTV+ releases what would become its flagship product, a soccer-commercial-turned-soccer-sitcom about an American football coach who takes on the monumental task of managing a struggling Premier League team as he fights cynicism with sincerity, slowly endearing himself to his doubters. Ted Lasso took streaming (and the Emmys) by storm with its upbeat earnestness in the face of overwhelming pessimism, and the feel-good series seemed set to dominate the comedy zeitgeist for years to come.
Since its first season, Ted Lasso’s themes have been linked to the personal struggles of its co-creator and star, Saturday Night Live’s Jason Sudeikis — just two months after the launch of Ted Lasso, Sudeikis and Wilde ended their relationship after seven years of marriage and two kids. Sudeikis’ titular character grapples with the fracturing of his own family throughout Ted Lasso despite his best attempts to mend his marriage by undergoing counseling, then giving his wife an entire ocean of space to sort out her feelings. Ted’s divorce gave the series a needed emotional weight, but it didn’t distract from the central struggle of a middling soccer team who, simply, learns to believe.
Flash forward to 2023, and, with only four episodes left in the series, Ted Lasso is now the tale of an extremely divorced and borderline psychotic soccer coach who stalks his ex across Europe after finding out that she’s sleeping with their former marriage counselor. What was once a feel-good sitcom sensation is now a prestige divorce drama with the set dressing of a soccer team that has awful, ham-fisted conversations about nude photos that play like they were written by the show’s HR department.
The Sudeikis-Wilde split has been fodder for tabloids since Don’t Worry Darling first began its disastrous, drama-filled media tour. The pertinent points for Ted Lasso fans are as such — Wilde started hooking up with Styles while she was directing him in the Stepford Wives knockoff, Sudeikis tried to stop her from seeing the One Direction star by laying down underneath the rear bumper of her car and he even had her served custody papers while she was onstage presenting the film at CinemaCon 2022.
In short, Sudeikis’ divorce was super messy and super public.
Fans who have followed Ted Lasso into the current season may have noticed that Ted is, uh, a little obsessed with his ex-wife and her new beau. With near-hour long episodes to trod through Ted’s divorce drama, we’re even getting other leads wrapped up into Ted’s BS. Case in point: in the most recent episode, Coach Beard had to awkwardly explain to Ted’s son Henry how the Beatles song “Hey Jude” was written by another guy who had to watch his friend fuck up at being a father while his divorce took over his life. In past seasons, Ted’s marital problems comprised just one part of the main character’s arc as he unpacked his own psyche and strove to be a better man. In the last few episodes, the divorce hasn’t just taken over Ted’s subconscious — it’s taken over the show.
Going into Ted Lasso Season Three, co-creator and showrunner Bill Lawrence took a step back from the project to work on the therapy dramedy Shrinking with Ted Lasso writer and star Brett Goldstein, leaving Sudeikis in charge of the last installment of the series. This final season has, thus far, felt like Sudeikis is running the show as his own personal therapeutic exercise while he processes his profoundly public breakup. Though some of the side stories have survived the startling change in topic and tone and have managed to carry the watchability of Ted Lasso, Ted’s fixation on his ex-wife’s new relationship is so uncomfortably personal that it’s hard to remember a time when this show felt like a warm hug and not just a wet shoulder.
With only four episodes left to go, I sincerely hope that Sudeikis will right the ship and give Ted a send-off that doesn’t drag any more real-life drama into story — the cars in Europe are simply too low-profile to fit Ted beneath their bumpers.