How did one of television’s biggest hits end up giving viewers a Christmas episode in August? Thank Apple.
Last year, when the company first released “Ted Lasso,” its streaming comedy series about an American football coach leading an English soccer team, writers were already hard at work on a second season. They had season 2 mapped out in a 10-episode arc. Then Apple Inc. TV executives wanted more, and asked if the writers had other stories to add.
Enter the Christmas episode, which arrives Friday. It features a locker-room Secret Santa exchange, seasonal Ted-icisms (“Hold me closer tiny Dancer, Prancer and Vixen”) and a potluck holiday party for AFC Richmond players away from their homes in foreign countries. There are acts of generosity, characters singing and homages to canonical rom-com “Love Actually.” (A second extra episode will come later in the 12-episode season.)
All the good cheer is on brand for Apple. When the tech company first got into original programming a few years ago, Apple took caution to avoid content with gratuitous violence, sex or profanity. The slate of shows that eventually landed on Apple TV+ have varied in style, including TV-MA rated series that dip into provocative material. But it’s “Ted Lasso” (despite the florid cursing of character Roy Kent and some decidedly adult comedy) that epitomizes the optimism Apple tries to project in its product marketing and much of its programming. Apple TV+ launched with the tagline “Stories to believe in”; in “Ted Lasso,” “BELIEVE” is a message taped over a locker-room doorway.
The series earned a record 20 Emmy nominations for a freshman comedy series (including four out of the eight nominations for best supporting actor). For Apple, in only its second year of Emmy eligibility, those nominations signal a boost in the streaming wars and a validation of its programming strategy.