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'Ted Lasso' Scores In Season 2 With Unexpected Twists And A Lot Of Heart

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

A year ago, in its final season on the air, the Netflix TV series called "Schitt's Creek" - that's spelled S-C-H-I-T-T-apostrophe-S - dominated the Emmy Awards in the situation comedy categories. This fall, I expect the first season of a new Apple TV+ sitcom, "Ted Lasso," will do the same thing and for many of the same reasons. Like "Schitt's Creek," "Ted Lasso" has a very talented cast and some great scripts. Also like "Schitt's Creek," and unlike most of today's TV comedies, "Ted Lasso" is nice. It has heart. It not only makes you laugh, it makes you feel good. And in these uncertain, uneasy pandemic times, that makes it an almost perfect show to watch. The first season of "Ted Lasso" is up for 20 Emmy nominations, not only for outstanding comedy series and for Jason Sudeikis in the title role, but for two of the supporting actresses and four of the supporting actors. And every nomination is well-deserved. Season 2 begins this week, and it's just as warm and just as funny.

Every episode provided for preview made me laugh out loud. It also made me happy because of the show's unexpected twists and touching character relationships. Like the Showtime sitcom "Episodes," which had two British TV writers transplanted to America to adapt their hit comedy for Hollywood, "Ted Lasso" is the story of strangers getting adjusted to a new culture and a whole new set of workplace rules. Ted Lasso is an American football coach, hired and brought overseas to coach a football team in England. But what they call football, we call soccer, which Ted has never coached professionally. That game is as foreign to him as British slang and the traffic flow.

But that's OK with Rebecca, the new team owner, who got ownership in a divorce settlement. She doesn't expect Ted to win. In fact, she's counting on the opposite just to irritate her ex. But Ted, with his stubbornly positive attitude, keeps on plugging. He seldom makes a good first impression. He talks too much and throws out too much wordplay and obscure references. But he shouldn't be underestimated. His good vibes usually end up winning the day, even if they don't necessarily win the game.

For Season 2, the focus is less on the field than on personal relationships. Ted by now has bonded with most of his players and even with his boss, Rebecca, who's played by Hannah Waddingham and, like Jason Sudeikis, is nominated for an Emmy. In this scene, Rebecca is waiting in her office for a visit from Keeley, the team's head of marketing, when Ted arrives instead.

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HANNAH WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Come in.

JASON SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) Morning, boss.

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Oh, hi, Ted.

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) Yikes. I haven't seen someone that disappointed to see me since I wore a red baseball cap to a Planned Parenthood fundraiser.

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Sorry, Ted. You're right. I was just hoping you were Keeley.

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) That's OK. I wish I was Keeley three or four times a day. Here you go.

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Thank you.

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) Let me guess. You got a fever for the (unintelligible) little girl talk, don't you? Well, shoot. Why don't you let me take a crack at it?

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Really?

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) Yeah, why not?

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Oh, OK. What the hell? So this chap I've been seeing, John...

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) Stamos?

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) No. His name's John Wingsnight (ph). But that's not the point.

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) Well, now hold on a second. His name's John Wingsnight, like at a sports night? Like, Monday night's wings night down at PJ Flats (ph).

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Ted, would you please stop?

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) Rule No. 1 - even though it's called girl talk, sometimes it to be more like girl, listen. Got it. (Unintelligible) on the fly here. Come on. Hit me.

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) All right. Thank you. So John, I mean, he's a wonderful man. He's very handsome, successful, not shy.

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) Is he nice to you?

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Yes. Yes, very.

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) Good. Yeah, he sounds great. So I'm confused. Is there a problem here or something?

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Well, I suppose not.

SUDEIKIS: (As Ted Lasso) OK. OK. So rule No. 2 is sometimes girl talk and just be blabbing away about stuff and nothing has to really change and no one has to solve anything?

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Well, that's exactly right.

BIANCULLI: Ted may not sound helpful, but his attitude of wanting to help and provide support is contagious. Later in the episode, Rebecca introduces the same potential boyfriend to Keeley, played by Juno Temple, and former team player Roy Kent, played by Brett Goldstein, yet another Emmy nominee, to get their opinion. Keeley is supportive, and Roy, in his very raw and honest way of speaking, is too - sort of.

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WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Well?

JUNO TEMPLE: (As Keeley) I think he's a really good match. I mean, he's age appropriate, financially appropriate, so shy.

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) I love that about him.

TEMPLE: (As Keeley) Totally.

BRETT GOLDSTEIN: (As Roy Kent) [Expletive] hell.

WADDINGHAM: (As Rebecca Welton) Is there a problem?

GOLDSTEIN: (As Roy Kent) Tell the truth. He's fine. That's it. Nothing wrong with that. Most people are fine. It's not about him. It's about why the [expletive] he thinks he deserves you. You should have someone who makes you feel like you've been struck by [expletive] lightning. Don't you dare settle for fine. Not that it's any of my business.

BIANCULLI: The creators and main writers of "Ted Lasso" are two of its primary cast members, former "SNL" regulars Sudeikis as Ted and Brendan Hunt, who plays Ted's best friend and assistant coach, Coach Beard. As writers, they traffic in the unexpected, both in plot twists and toss-away punch lines. The first show of Season 2 begins by introducing the new team mascot, a greyhound. What's funny about that? Ted, acclimating a bit to his British surroundings, proudly names the dog Earl, as in Earl Greyhound. Yeah, I laughed out loud at that one. And the new season of "Ted Lasso" is just getting started.

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BIANCULLI: Monday on FRESH AIR, Jad Abumrad, producer of Radiolab, the public radio show and podcast. He co-hosted the show with Robert Krulwich for 17 years until Krulwich's retirement last year. Abumrad co-reported the podcast miniseries "Dolly Parton's America," which won seven awards, including a Peabody. The new Radiolab miniseries is called The Vanishing Of Harry Pace. You may be thinking, Harry who? Well, for one thing, he founded the first Black-owned record company in 1921. Hope you can join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham with additional engineering support by Joyce Lieberman, Julian Herzfeld and Charlie Kaier. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley and Kayla Lattimore. Our producer of digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.