From left to right, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt and Jason Sudeikis return in "Ted Lasso" Season 3. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
LOS ANGELES, March 10 (UPI) -- Ted Lasso Season 3, premiering Wednesday on Apple TV+, continues the same good-natured comedy that has won the show its fans and awards.
The season premiere catches up with the series regulars, sprinkling in lighthearted observations about their personal lives or the sport. In the new U.K. soccer season, Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) still struggles with being so far away from his son in the United States.
AFC Richmond owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) is coping with having a team starting out in the Championship League, having been demoted from the Premier League. Keeley (Juno Temple) is running her new business and Roy (Brett Goldstein) is still figuring out his role in coaching after retiring from playing.
Former Richmond coach Nate (Nick Mohammed) is at work at rival team West Ham. This is the show's newest development, and turncoat Nate is more awful than one would even imagine based on his behavior in Season 2.
Ted wins the moral battle between AFC and West Ham by being his self-deprecating self. The actual score will be decided by the players on the field.
The character interactions benefit from two seasons of knowing each other. Ted can talk to Roy in direct ways to solve problems, since they've done the dance by now. Rebecca connects with Keeley at her new job in endearing ways.
It's still Ted's show, and his emotional turmoil and coaching challenges still are pivotal, but supporting characters have rightfully broken through. Rebecca aims to make the most of the Championship League by jockeying for a coveted player.
Roy still is dealing with some old beefs. Keeley's new job allows her to bring her light to a potentially toxic corporate world.
Assistant coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) is stunned by several new developments and expresses himself in hilarious ways. The AFC players are a little bit more of a supporting ensemble, but their unique personalities still come through.
The soccer is exciting because we know the stakes. AFC just got downgraded, so it has has to work its way up this new league -- especially when the inevitable AFC/West Ham match arrives, there's history there.
Ted's non sequitur jokes rise to the expectations of a third season. He includes a Wordle reference, as that game took off since Season 2 aired, and constructs an elaborate Wayne's World reference, among others.
New characters bring quirky traits that fit in with the show's good-natured tone. Those characters also challenge the status quo by injecting new behavior into the team dynamic.
Season 2's last three episodes extended from 30 minutes to 45 each. Each of the four Season 3 episodes available to press are 45 to 50 minutes. So even if this proves to be the last season, the total running time could still end up being nearly twice as much Ted Lasso.
The most impressive aspect of the show is the subtlety of setting drama and comedy scenes in full stadiums. The production either fills enough seats in the stands or uses visual effects to put cheering crowds behind the action.
Either technique adds production value that the viewer takes for granted. Of course, those scenes happen during games.
That it's difficult to fill the stadium is production's problem, a challenge met seamlessly. The cast also plays soccer in front of those crowds.
By Season 3, Ted Lasso shows the confidence that what it's done for two seasons worked. That is, in fact, the very message of the show and Ted himself: Be true to yourself and success will follow.
New episodes of Ted Lasso premiere weekly on Apple TV+.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.