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It may be time to mark the beginning of the end for 'Ted Lasso'

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

"Ted Lasso" has won over fans around the U.S. ever since he left Kansas and stumbled into the United Kingdom to coach UFC Richmond with his quirky combination of purpose, curiosity and heart.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TED LASSO")

TOHEEB JIMOH: (As Sam Obisanya) I love you guys so very much.

PHIL DUNSTER: (As Jamie Tartt) On three - 1, 2, 3.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) I love you guys so very much. Richmond.

SUMMERS: The Season 3 premiere airs today on Apple TV+. And as the show opens, Ted is hurting. Keeley's off at her new PR firm. And Nate Shelley, Lasso's former assistant coach, is now at West Ham United, hoping to lead that team to victory. Rumor has it that this season will be "Ted Lasso's" last, so we wanted to mark what just might be the beginning of the end with freelance critic Laura Sirikul, who is a big fan of the show.

Welcome.

LAURA SIRIKUL: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

SUMMERS: Thanks for being here. All right. To your mind, what do you think sets this show apart from other comedies that you watch?

SIRIKUL: I think, you know, Ted Lasso is this funny, happy-go-lucky guy that you're following, and he makes these jokes. But then, when he goes home, he's dealing with mental health problems and grief and anxiety. And you're just like, man, this guy is so funny and so charismatic, but he is someone like me. Like, we see Nate, played by Nick Mohammed - you know, he's a timid guy. He jokes around, and there's funny moments for him. But then, when you see him, like, get all serious - and it's so dark and deep regarding each of these characters - you realize they're just like us, where we have a facade, like, of how people perceive us, but we're much deeper people.

SUMMERS: I know that you've talked about how you've liked the way the show handles mental health. Ted suffers from panic attacks, and one of the big plotlines is that he has to see a therapist to help him with those.

SIRIKUL: I love that. I love that people who are successful, who seem like everything's going well for them, I love that we get to see that he's getting help. And I love the interactions between him and his therapist because you see him, like, kind of trying to make jokes - light of things when it's, like, so much deeper. And think we've all done that. I've done that with my therapist...

SUMMERS: Oh, me too.

SIRIKUL: ...Where we use humor, and then she's like, you're shielding it. And I'm like, no, no; this is just who I am. And she's like, no. Like, I think that's something that we all have done, you know? And I'm so glad he gets weekly sessions because we get to just see, like, the other side of him with - through his therapist, Sarah - like, you know...

SUMMERS: Oh, Sarah - Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, played by Sarah Niles. She's Ted's therapist.

SIRIKUL: Yes. She's such a great therapist. So I felt like, man, this show really, really cares about talking about this.

SUMMERS: You know, in this conversation so far, we've been pretty positive about Ted Lasso, the character, "Ted Lasso," the show. But we should note that, like any show, it's not perfect. There have been criticisms of the way that this show is written, certain characters. What do you think? Any criticisms of the show?

SIRIKUL: Yeah. You know, I feel like - there's only four people of color - main cast members who are people of color. Like, this season, so far, I felt like we don't really get to see much of them. And, you know, Sam had a big backstory last season, and that's great.

SUMMERS: That's Sam Obisanya. He's a player from Nigeria.

SIRIKUL: Yeah. But I feel like a lot of the people of color this season are being pushed aside. Like, with Nate, he's the villain. And I'm glad we get to see layers of him and everything, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth seeing a person of color be a villain among happy white characters. If you're going to make one a villain, then you should highlight the others. So, you know, give us something more for the people of color that are not being antagonists.

SUMMERS: Yeah. All right. Lightning round - last question. You and I are true believers. We love this show. We watch it. We sit down and binge the episodes. But for someone who has not seen this show, why should they tune in?

SIRIKUL: Oh, my. People should watch it because, yes, it's hilarious, but it's a life lesson kind of series, where you're just like, oh, you know, what would Ted Lasso do? - in a way. 'Cause, like, a part of me is like - when I get mad, I'm, like, frustrated. And I'm like, oh, I think - it reminds me of this episode of him trying to deal with impostor syndrome. And I really love that I could take something away from this and think people will too, and it will make them think. Plus, football is life.

SUMMERS: That's TV and film critic Laura Sirikul. Thank you for talking "Ted Lasso" with us.

SIRIKUL: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TED LASSO THEME")

MARCUS MUMFORD: (Singing) Again, 'cause yeah, it might be all that you get. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: March 15, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous headline and web introduction to this interview mischaracterized the new season of Ted Lasso. It's not confirmed whether the show will end with Season 3.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.