Timing can be everything. If you’re not ready, the unexpected can be jarring. It can also be a welcome surprise. The Christmas episode of AppleTV+’s Ted Lasso is a good example.
Let’s take a moment this holiday season to appreciate the joy of the unexpected. Over a year ago, “Carol of the Bells” popped up out of nowhere near the end of summer like Christmas trees in August at Costco. The immediate reaction was mostly and understandably mixed. Episode 4 of season 2 was completely out of place, a divergent narrative that had nothing to do with the storylines at the time. Bah! Humbug! Of course, we now understand the reasons behind this.
Carol of the Bells felt like a standalone episode because it was. Season 2 was supposed to be 10 episodes, but Apple wanted two more, so extra shows were added. This was a bonus, and some of us initially resisted as if it were a lump of coal in our stockings.
Funny how timing works. We’re all starving for Season 3. If this Christmas special came out now to satiate us, it would be universally applauded. Because, in retrospect, it’s a breezy, fun reminder of how helping someone out can be an awesome gift.
The opening scene sets the tone. AFC Richmond is having its holiday party, and one person forgot to bring a Secret Santa present for his teammate. That guy is, of course, self-absorbed striker Jamie Tartt. Ted and his staff immediately spring into action with an impromptu gift that they wrap in seconds. After receiving this Christmas miracle, Tartt delivers one of his best lines.
“God bless me, everyone” might be the most on-brand thing Tartt has ever said. The punchline works because a selfish man is the recipient of a selfless act and still acts selfishly.
Ted and his staff come through for Tartt. Rebecca comes through for Lasso, who is spending his first Christmas as a divorced dad. They in turn come through for needy families. Higgins comes through for the team by hosting a holiday dinner at his home. And the best is Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) coming through for his kid niece Phoebe, whose alarming bad breath requires medical attention.
That last one is especially endearing, as it plays to Goldstein’s strengths. His ability to be simultaneously gruff and sweet is one of the many reasons why he won an Emmy. Kent’s ridiculous plan of knocking on the doors of random strangers in his neighborhood to find a dentist is a wonderful spoof of Love Actually.
We get the fabulous payoff with the cue-card scene when Kent, Keeley, and Phoebe confront the school bully. Very relatable because we all wish we could have that cathartic confrontation with someone who hurt our feelings.
Over-the-top gestures are what most Christmas specials/movies are all about. But in Carol of the Bells, there are several examples of practical kind acts. You can check in on a friend who might have experienced a loss. You can make charitable giving a part of your routine. You can invite lonely coworkers to dinner. We wouldn’t recommend the Kent strategy but his relationship with his niece is laudable.
Ted Lasso has always been a show that appeals to our better nature. It debuted at the height of the pandemic when we were all desperately searching for something to feel good about. With so many shows focused on anti-heroes, this felt like a relief. While some of us might have complained about the timing of Carol of the Bells, in true Ted Lasso fashion, it has won us over with kindness.
Make it a tradition. Watch the Ted Lasso Christmas episode every year.
[Top image from YouTube]