Technically, “Beard After Hours” wasn’t supposed to exist.
The bottle episode that divided fans and created critical applause appeared as episode 9 of the second season of “Ted Lasso” and came at a critical moment in the narrative: the Greyhounds had just lost a heartbreaking game. against Manchester City, romances were rekindling and the team members had an identity crisis. So where did the Emmy-winning series choose to go next?
By following a supporting character on a long, dark night of the soul, in a “Ted Lasso” without Ted, without virtually every other familiar face on the show except Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt). It was a bold move, but one that only existed because Apple TV was really, really proud of the series.
“We had planned a 10-episode season and we were breaking episodes when season 1 started,” notes Hunt. “Ten days later, not only were we fully picked up for Season 2, but we were also picked up for two more episodes, so those must have been episodes that we hadn’t planned.
That’s how the second season of the Emmy-winning series ended with a Boxing Day/Christmas episode and the left-hander of “Beard After Hours,” written by Brett Goldstein and Joe Kelly. Goldstein, fans may note, isn’t just a writer and executive producer on the show… but also the actor who plays the foul-mouthed Roy Kent.
“We approached him with the device of ‘What would an episode of ‘Ted Lasso’ look like if told from Coach Beard’s perspective?”, Goldstein wrote in an email. “That is why the theme melody and its appearance, tone and style [are different]. It’s a whole different atmosphere. Much darker and weirder. Because Beard’s brain isn’t as bright as Ted’s.
“Beard After Hours” is an episode many fans didn’t know they wanted until they got it. Beard has always been an enigma: quiet where Lasso is talkative, introverted when his coaching partner is all outgoing. But it gave the show a chance to prove that not all stories should use Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) as a hub and come together more as a whole.
In the episode, Beard stoically rides the subway home after the crushing defeat, imagines the TV announcers directly scolding him, and heads out into the night. What ensues is a mix of philosophy, romance, bravery, beatings, lots of booze and ripped pants, sometimes with team fans, sometimes with strangers.
“Lasso” first director Sam Jones came on board for the standalone episode, and he says he had “free rein” to make it look exactly the way he wanted. (Jones had worked with Sudeikis on the 2013 music video for Mumford & Sons’ “Hopeless Wanderer,” where Sudeikis, Will Forte, Ed Helms and Jason Bateman played band members.)
“We didn’t want to use any of the normal locations or most of the actors,” Jones explains. “[Sudeikis] I really wanted to have a different feeling with it.
Another difference from the episode was that Hunt was unable to see the script until it was almost time to film. “I was kicked out very early on,” he said. “They didn’t get back to me until production was close, but by then I thought everything was clear. They were going to put me through [the wringer]but not f— with me.
“We threw it all away,” Goldstein says. “Greek mythology, music, dance, signs, threat, films, self-destruction, redemption and love.”
The episode is full of subtle callbacks beginning with the title, an homage to Martin Scorsese’s 1985 film “After Hours,” itself an overnight trip to the eerie underworld of New York City. Jones says he took inspiration from Wes Anderson when it came to directing a show with no commercial breaks or B-story to provide natural cutaways; he notes that Anderson is adept at sticking with a character for an extended period of time. Then there’s the “Clockwork Orange” style slow-motion ride down Beard Street and fans take it all while wearing new duds. This shot was made for “Lasso” by the cameraman’s son who had worked on “Orange” in 1971, Jones says.
Still, it wasn’t a painless shoot, especially for Hunt, who took a beating from all the errands he had to do, a challenge for a man with “really high arches,” says- he. “My braces were falling apart and they made me run around. I didn’t dance at my highest level.
“It was a big load for one person,” admits Jones. “I was worried people wouldn’t accept it and say they wanted more Jason and more story, but it’s just the opposite. People love that it’s not a typical ‘Ted Lasso’.
Arches aside, Hunt is happy with the results. “I’m okay with that, because it allows the audience to get a more complete view of Beard, but not so complete that it interferes with any story we have going forward. It opens up his life – but not in front of any of the other characters.
Still, Goldstein says if he could do it all over again, he has some thoughts. “No more dancing,” he said. “I will never get tired of watching Brendan Hunt dance. It’s a pure joyful wonder.