It is the good-humoured, fish-out-of-water comedy that has become a global hit, thanks to the irrepressible positivity of its chipper title character.
But as Ted Lasso returned for its third – and most likely final – series on Apple TV+ last week, there has been only one question on the minds of fans: what on earth is wrong with Ted?
The exploits of the charmingly optimistic but woefully inexperienced American struggling to coach fictional London football club AFC Richmond usually delight viewers, but many have been turned off by an unexpectedly downbeat tone to the opening episode. ‘Dreary,’ one fan called it.
And here may be a good reason for that, as the private life of its star, writer and executive producer Jason Sudeikis was in turmoil as the series was being made. At the time he was in bitter dispute with his ex, actress Olivia Wilde, who had left him for former One Direction star Harry Styles.
Soon after the new series of Ted Lasso began shooting in London last year, lawyers acting for former stand-up comic Sudeikis served custody papers on Ms Wilde while she was on stage in Las Vegas.
Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde attend the Don’t Worry Darling red carpet at the 79th Venice International Film Festival
Pictured: Jason Sudeikis. The exploits of the charmingly optimistic but woefully inexperienced American struggling to coach fictional London football club AFC Richmond usually delight viewers, but many have been turned off by an unexpectedly downbeat tone to the opening episode. ‘Dreary,’ one fan called it
She slammed the ‘outrageous legal tactics’ which she said ‘clearly intended to threaten me… he chose to serve me in the most aggressive manner possible’.
The pair’s acrimonious split came in late 2020, about the time the third series of the comedy was commissioned by Apple executives who realised they had a hit on their hands. Sudeikis, now 47, and Wilde, 39, had been together for almost a decade and share a son Otis, now eight, and daughter Daisy, six.
Just weeks after they announced their supposedly ‘amicable’ split, Wilde was photographed holding hands with Styles – who is a decade her junior – having met on the set of her film Don’t Worry Darling.
Sudeikis – who at the time was said to be heartbroken – appears to have drawn on his agony to inspire Ted Lasso, as his character went through a divorce, straining the relationship with his son. At the end of last week’s episode, he learned that his ex-wife is seeing a new man.
Last night, a source who knows both Sudeikis and Wilde said: ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the drama in his private life might spill on to the page. The whole narrative in the new series speaks to the pain of a marriage breakdown.’
However, ‘pain’ is not what fans tune in for. At the Prince’s Head pub in Richmond, South-West London – which doubles as The Crown and Anchor in the show – one viewer lamented on Friday: ‘I’ve never felt so depressed watching a comedy.’
The change of tone did not escape TV critics, who have been given a preview of the first four episodes of the new series. The Washington Post noted that the ‘main character is in a rut’ and said the show was treading water. ‘Ted has already checked out, whether he realises it or not,’ reviewer Lili Loofbourow wrote. And Los Angeles writer Valerie Ettenhofer said the show ‘is more likely to make viewers cry than laugh’.
Pictured: Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis. The private life of Ted Lasso’s star, writer and executive producer Jason Sudeikis was in turmoil as the series was being made. At the time he was in bitter dispute with his ex, actress Olivia Wilde, who had left him for former One Direction star Harry Styles
After his well-publicised split from Wilde, Sudeikis started dating Ted Lasso co-star Keeley Hazell, the former glamour model who plays Bex in the series. However they, too, reportedly split up soon after filming began last year, and at the launch of the new series in LA last month they were seen to keep their distance.
But it seems his split from Wilde has cast a long shadow. One studio executive called their break-up ‘the biggest s***show since Brangelina’ – a reference to the scandal that engulfed Brad Pitt when he dumped his wife Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie in 2005.
‘Jason is well-liked in Hollywood,’ the insider added. ‘He’s someone who worked his way up through the ranks before he hit it big with Ted Lasso. The show has become so important that Tim Cook [Apple’s chief executive] came to the launch party. Everyone felt sorry for Jason when his private life became tabloid fodder.’
Another source described how the split was ‘a hard time for Olivia and Jason’, but insisted the reality was not as toxic as many believed.
‘There was so much drama, but much of it was whipped up by social media,’ they said. ‘It was just one negative headline after another. But they always put the needs of their children first.’
A friend of Sudeikis says he has now moved on emotionally after his break-up with Wilde.
The pair were recently photographed together in Los Angeles, prompting speculation they may even have reunited – although The Mail on Sunday has been told: ‘That is not the case. Olivia and Jason remain good friends and are committed to the welfare of their children.’
Representatives for Sudeikis, who is worth a reported £25 million, declined to comment, but a source said: ‘He’s busy promoting the show. The noise and drama was a distraction, but Jason is in a great place. He’s happy and looking forward to the future.’