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FANDOM FLAMES: NYCC is this weekend, but can we please talk about TED LASSO?

I'm trying to BELIEVE, Ted, I really am, but the Internet is making it hard.

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Don’t worry, there will be a column about NYCC next Friday. It’s too early to judge whether it’s a smashing success or a miserable failure or just meh, but at least the press room has tables. No, this week I want to talk about Ted Lasso — both the critical and fandom response to it.

First off, I am tired of the discourse surrounding the show. It’s a dramedy that talks about mental illness and which stars a white man as its lead, surrounded by a diverse cast of characters. It’s fairly typical as sitcoms go. It wasn’t meant to be the savior of TV comedy that some of y’all think it was supposed to be. It’s also not all about Tedbecca, the portmanteau of Ted/Rebecca, the most popular ship in the fandom. Like, its fans are genuinely some of the most contradicted-ly earnest and terrifying people I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some rabid shippers. Fandom and criticism have combined to create a monster blob of people who hate the second season of the show and the show itself for being…exactly what it was in its first season.

I think part of the reason so much of the discourse is just toxic to me is because the show is very personal to me. Ted’s struggles with his anxiety and depression, as well as his family history of mental illness, hit home to me. Ted Lasso is a show about a collection of mostly broken people, and so I wonder what exactly people thought was going to happen in its middle act. Ted Lasso might be unusual in that it had a three-season arc plotted out from the beginning, and star and co-showrunner Jason Sudeikis said repeatedly that this is “The Empire Strikes Back” season of the show. The Empire Strikes Back, I needn’t remind you, is the grimmest of a trilogy that is filled, in my opinion, with plenty of grim moments already. Any film that ends with the fan-favorite character being frozen in carbonite and captured by a bounty hunter is grim.

I’m also tired of TV critics judging a book before they’ve read the ending or seen it, in this case. Some of them have seen the entire season, but even if they have seen it, they shouldn’t even be hinting at the ending, due to embargo reasons. The Atlantic has a good piece that’s a transcript of a podcast that essentially says what I’ve been thinking: the first season may have felt purely cheery and happy due to the fact we were in the thick of the still ongoing pandemic.

But the first season of Ted Lasso still had the titular character having panic attacks, as well as multiple characters confronting divorce and their own toxic masculinity and the pain of losing and so much more. It’s not a happy, feel-good show when you get down to it. I recently started rewatching Ted Lasso from its start, and I was surprised to find that it was just as funny as it was when I first watched it, but that there was a tinge of sadness to everything already being baked into the show.

If TV critics judge a book by its cover the book is over, so does fandom, and to an even worse degree. When a controversial couple got together on the show, Tedbecca shippers rioted, and it was honestly ugly. Ageism against one of the pair, and racism against the other quickly ensued. This was all on Tumblr, which is not known for its sensitive handling of either topic, but ageism, in particular, was rampant. It’s also impossible to talk about the issues on how fandom reacted to the couple without nearly revealing their identities, so apologies for potential spoilers.

Ever since the dawn of weekly TV recaps, as well as week-to-week serialized television, which Ted Lasso verges on, we’ve had to contend with wild theories and angry fans and critics who decide to critique it before they can see the whole picture. This doesn’t mean rabid Ted Lasso supporters are blameless — don’t be rude to the critics, as some of the critiques are valid, and really, don’t be rude in general. But this is more a column about its heavy detractors, the ones who disparage a show’s whole season arc without having the whole arc.

Maybe I’m just tired of the culture on the Internet surrounding shows that become hits overnight and just as quickly lose their star status. As most of my columns boil down to: if you don’t like it, don’t watch it, and certainly don’t flood the tags with hate and fighting. Just let people enjoy things. I think that’s what Ted Lasso would say, too.

I can’t publish what Roy Kent would say, though.

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