England's exciting run at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament has set the stage rather nicely for the return of Apple TV+ comedy Ted Lasso. For this cult hit, we shift focus away from the Three Lions to fictional West London club Richmond FC, where the eponymous American Football coach (played by Jason Sudeikis) continues to wrap his head around the beautiful game.
In the season two opener, we see that the team has been faring relatively well since their relegation to the Championship, but is in need of some outright victories after a near-unprecedented run of ties. Breaking out of that rut becomes even more difficult after the club's ever-optimistic Mexican star Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) has a crisis of confidence following an unfortunate encounter with mascot Earl Greyhound.
It's a surprisingly dark gag for a show that has a reputation for its sunny outlook on life, and the writers seem conscious of that, attempting to put a positive spin on the macabre situation with a philosophical speech from Lasso to reporters. It doesn't quite work. There can be no denying that the delightfully earnest coach is a likeable lead character, but the show sometimes buys into his saccharine wisdom a tad too heavily.
Hopefully, the addition of stern sports psychologist Dr Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) will help correct that balance. Her presence alone is evidence enough that – contrary to how this show often positions him – Lasso doesn't have the answers to all of life's questions. In the season premiere, Sharon is deliberately written as distant and enigmatic, which doesn't give Niles a huge amount of room to play, but the character's potential is already clear to see.
There's also plenty of time to get reacquainted with our favourites from season one, some of whom find themselves at a markedly different place in their lives. Former Richmond FC superstar Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) is now trying his hand at coaching primary school football, but rest assured his expletive-filled dialogue and generally spiky persona aren't going anywhere. That said, the gravelly voice that Goldstein puts on for the role is becoming less convincing, as he audibly struggles to sustain it in a couple of scenes – presumably they ran out of Strepsils on set.
Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple continue their strong on-screen chemistry as club owner Rebecca and model-turned-publicist Keeley, who became unlikely besties over the course of season one. But it's a softer return for Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Nate the Great (Nick Mohammed), neither of whom have a great deal going on, with the latter offering little besides uncharacteristically catty remarks.
Fortunately, there's plenty of great side characters around to pick up the slack, used sparingly to breathe life into any scene. Whether it's Richmond FC's rising stars Sam (Toheeb Jimoh), Isaac (Kola Bokinni) and Colin (Billy Harris) or tough-as-nails pub landlord Mae (Annette Badland), the writers always pick the right moment to bring a member of their sturdy recurring cast to the forefront with a quirky comment or one-liner.
That said, Ted Lasso rarely gets you giggling in the way that other sitcoms can, but oddly that doesn't make it any less entertaining. What the show lacks in laughs it makes up for in heart, with the uplifting story of Richmond FC and its eccentric coach being remarkably easy to get wrapped up in – whether you're a fan of the sport or not. Indeed, the only football match I've ever shed a tear over was in Ted Lasso, which is a testament to the quality of the show given that I barely understand the offside rule.
Ted Lasso season two premieres on Apple TV+ on Friday 23rd July. While you're waiting, check out what's on tonight with our TV Guide.