FYI…contains spoilers for Series 1 and 2
The second series of Ted Lasso has sadly come to an end, albeit in spectacular fashion, and dedicated fans of A.F.C. Richmond face an agonising wait for the Greyhounds return to the Premier League.
Ted Lasso has captured the hearts of viewers since its premiere in 2020, mixing awkward fish-out-of-water comedy with charming characters resulting in one of the most heart-warming shows on television right now. However, it is far more than just a simple sitcom. Ted Lasso draws strongly on themes of mental health, with many of its major characters struggling with their own inner turmoils and the conquest to overcome them constitutes a major motif of the series. It does not just seek to show the struggles of mental health on screen but also broadcasts its message of how mental illness should be treated in modern society, focusing on how those afflicted should treat themselves and how we should all treat each other.
Mental health is obviously a very delicate topic to approach in any medium, especially in a light-hearted comedy programme, but a lot of credit can be given to Ted Lasso for incorporating the subject so tastefully and sensitively, depicting its characters affected by their mental issues, but never defined by them. Indeed, if you were asked to make a list of Ted’s ten most defining characteristics, I doubt his trauma and panic attacks would get anywhere near it. This does not mean that the show is ever shy about portraying the adverse effect of its characters afflictions and can at some times be uncomfortable when their pain is showed explicitly on screen, such as Rebecca’s breakdown at the charity function after Rupert triggers her trauma. In this way, Ted Lasso broadcasts the message that the pain mental health issues can bring on is completely valid and to ignore it can lead to much worse outcomes later on but at the same time it should not define any one individual, constituting only one aspect of what makes them who they are. Through this message, Ted Lasso encourages those with mental illness to be more content with themselves, but it also shows the importance of understanding outside influence.
The most important message of the series is most succinctly put by Jason Sudeikis, the man behind the Diamond Dog founder himself, who in a recent interview described the thing he would most like people to take away from the series as a hesitance in judgement of others. This is one of the most potent and important messages that the show portrays on screen as it can be applied to every character differently but with no less importance. Ted is the most obvious example of this quality’s importance as the persona he projects in a social setting and the problems that he deals with in his personal life differ greatly from each other, but both need to be respected. Ted displays his charming and heart-warming personality often throughout the series and does a lot to help the people closest to him and as a result, his friends start to depend on him for all their problems, a situation that only worsens his mental state. The show does not present the actions of those relying on Ted as wrong or insensitive only as overwhelming as they assume that Ted’s caring and giving nature would be receptive to each of their calls for help. The assumption that Ted’s friendly personality represents all of him is a crucial mistake in assuming to know someone’s entire story based upon their interactions with them.
The importance of this sentiment is shown not to be limited to sympathetic and endearing characters like Ted but is extend towards less likeable members of the cast, such as the depiction of the star striker Jamie Tartt. Many words can be used to describe Jamie’s behaviour in the first series but very few of them are positive as he projects a caricature of the brash, arrogant footballer persona associated with many in the sport. Jamie’s personality is naturally combative, and many members of the team rise to meet it, often trading barbs and even outright berating him. This is all shown in good spirit, framed as the defeat of the show’s great enemy through each insult hauled, until revelations about Jamie’s personal life are revealed. Midway through the first series Jamie reveals the toxic relationship he has with his father and his determination to avoid being perceived as weak, thus exhibiting an overly aggressive persona to compensate. This knowledge completely changes the dynamic between Jamie and the rest of the team in the minds of the audience. His behaviour is not excused or forgiven as a result, but the contentious methods employed in response by those around him are newly perceived as ineffective and deepening his reliance on his belligerent persona. As the series progresses, Jamie is slowly cajoled away from this mindset, not through aggressive actions his personality would inspire, but through caring and compassionate words from those closest to him and by the end of series 2, Jamie is a completely different person.
Assuming anyone is an uncomplicated being and that the side that they show in public must be the only side they have is a mindset that is easy to adopt but difficult to abandon and can be a natural reaction to dealing with the Jamie Tartt’s of the world, but Ted Lasso makes its point that it is not healthy as no-one can truly know how much anyone is really hurting inside.
Ted Lasso, therefore, is one of the most extraordinary shows currently on television, in addition to being equal parts hilarious, gripping and moving, it offers real food for thought about how we can improve ourselves in day-to-day life and has done much to raise awareness about the importance of caring for our own mental health and how we should discuss the topic. It doesn’t hit you over the head or berate you with its messaging, instead it allows its rich characters to display its ideas in the most compelling way possible and works well to imbed its themes in your mind for long after the end credits have rolled.