“I have never,” I began to tweet about Ted Lasso last week, “seen a show tumble from Season 1 heights to Season 2 dreck so far and so fast.”
But just before I hit “send,” fifteen years of typing about media stayed my hand.
Desperate Housewives, a tired voice reminded.
Friday Night Lights.
Sometimes lightning in a bottle blinks out when the lid is unscrewed for another go, and that’s okay. Better that it exist and implode than never exist at all.
“This show is so far up its own (posterior),” I once saw someone post about Glee, as a full review of an entire episode, and that single sentence amongst many paragraphs of wrought analysis said far more than all the other paragraphs put together. Such is the danger of a sophomore slump. A creation soars for a space of twelve episodes, and then it collapses into itself like a great star.
This happens when writers become self-aware. They’re watching us. We’d better say something Important. We must stay in their good graces. Miss Emmy is a curse and there’s a reason why her fallen older brother, Oscar, rarely visits a sequel.
Having come late to Ted Lasso but arriving at last thanks to a free Apple TV trial, I watched both seasons in a string. The contrast was breathtaking in its utter determination to swing from entertaining to twelve hours of Very Special. One moment I was watching a show about the raw pain of divorce and the heartbreaking attempts of a generational star managing his inevitable descent, and the next we’re all getting really real for a three-episode arc about the ecological challenges of Nigeria.
They’re watching us.
Pressure plays a part in this, no doubt, but what really destroys the at-bat directly after a grand slam is the unbearable weight of they’re watching us. The athlete who cannot bear this is understood and excused- for a time. The athlete who can overcome and exceed gets boosted merchandise sales. That’s why everyone but Massachusetts and all fourteen people who follow the Bucs hates to hate Tom Brady. His norm is the Super Bowl. That’s the baseline. He’s up in your face whether whether anybody’s watching or not.
The chapter of Wire to Wire Reds I turned to first was the final one, which tracked the World Series champions’ alarmingly swift slide into obscurity. I was a child and hadn’t realized it was happening until it was over. As an adult who aunted a full generation of nephews who had zero idea of what it felt like to win any form of any playoff game at all, I wanted to understand what happened.
What happened is what always happened: Injuries, trades, retirements, sell-offs. But here’s where the real damage was done: The Reds came from the basement to the pennant and the Commissioner’s Trophy and then… they were watching us. They figured us out. We moved to Season Two on Wisteria Lane and it was not pretty.
It’s not an excuse that applies anymore, though. Not when Tom Browning is dropping used car ads for a Chevrolet dealership in Florence.
But wouldn’t you rather have blown the aftermath than not have any happy historical stories to tell at all?
And wouldn’t it be great if the disappointment of a mere second-place finish were our biggest problem right now?