Category Archives: recaps/Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights, “On the Outside Looking In”: Babies smoke in Texas.

Granted this is only my second review of Friday Night Lights, but it’s just getting tough recognizing each week what a solid show this is and that this will be its last season. Even more tough looking at the ‘this new show looks so terrible, I can’t stop from groaning every single time I see its ridiculous previews” replacements that surely won’t fill the FNL void. But this episode (expectedly) seemed to have more meat to it than the first, now that we’ve gotten through the off-season catching up. While there weren’t any crazy revelations, scandals or football sparkle reels, we did see some dimension and conflict added to a few of our newer, less familiar characters. Conflict like, perhaps, being the outsider…looking in [/callback].

Anywho. To borrow from Superman, East Dillon is starting to look a bit like bizzarro Dillon, where opposite…is opposite. Mrs. Coach Tami Taylor is mega unpopular. Jess is fighting in the girls room and binge drinking. No one knows the name of star running back Luke Cafferty.  Mrs. Billy Riggins is actually acting like a parent. Becky is keeping her emotions in check and acting like an adult (besides missing curfew). And the freshly top-of-the-world East Dillon Lions aren’t even ranked. Normally I’d write off this much change to a show just getting desperate to keep things fresh, keep the ratings up. But the writers have kept the changes close enough to the realm of possibility to make it really interesting. And while I’ve never particularly cared for the Jess and Mindy characters, I was a little surprised to find myself identifying—or at least commiserating—with them through this episode. I’ll be curious to see how the writers play out both of their identity question marks.

The one move that wasn’t so uncharacteristic, unfortunately, was with Vince. Not to delve into the whole race issue—especially race in sports…in Texas—but please, please tell me we’re not being set up for another Smash-type fall from greatness. Back in—what was it, Season 1? Season 2?—Smash was at the top of his game, football had helped him stay off the streets and work toward a better life, letters of interest were coming in. Then he starts juicing. Downhill from there. And with Vince now in a similar situation—East Dillon had a great season, he’s getting some recognition as QB, his relationship with Jess is pretty solid, he’s also getting some collegiate interest—are we really going to see another black kid from the poor side of town get the rug pulled out from under him? Because if they’re busting Luke for rough tackles, does anyone believe they’ll get away with Vince’s mom’s new wink-wink-under-the-table job? Please, for the love, let just one kid keep his head on straight, get the college scholarship and go on to have a successfully football career.

But on a similar note, I continue to appreciate how realistic the scenarios and dialog are in this show. For those who aren’t familiar with Texas football, especially high school football, these same issues of eligibility, drugs, rabid parents/boosters and lawsuits are pulled right out of the local headlines. It makes the show feel real, rather than just pulling from the same old tired football clichés of learning to work together, homecoming rivalries, stealing the QB’s girlfriend, or whatever. And beyond football, kudos to whoever wrote the scene that introduces us to Epic. That snotty, teenage, defeatist attitude and the helplessness of Tami as she watches Epic just walk off campus makes me grind my teeth, flashing back to my time as a substitute teacher. If they’re going to keep this one realistic, though, it had better take the better part of the season, not an episode or two, for Tami to win over Epic.

Questions for pondering:

  • What’s up with Tami’s co-worker enemy all of a sudden turning on a dime to help her out? Ulterior motive?
  • Is it just me or is Julie’s TA kind of a creep? (And by creep I partly mean not a great actor.) He’s got to be married or something, right? I just don’t understand why she can’t get back together with Matt—you can make it work!!!
  • How cute was Coach Taylor relaying the message to his wife that their creepy-looking baby would like mac and cheese for breakfast.
  • Are there any other Parenthood/FNL watchers out there who are kind of getting Vince’s character on Parenthood and his character on FNL mixed up a little? Because I have to sometimes remind myself that he’s not cheating on Jess with Haddie. At least on Parenthood he’s got the evil-Spock goatee to help us tell the two apart.
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Friday Night Lights, “Expectations”: What the hell kinda name is Ruckle?

What better way to introduce a new show to the TV review line up than to wait until its last season! We couldn’t agree more. We here at Working Title, Inc. resisted getting into Friday Night Lights for years, despite years of peer pressure from our parents (“You really would like this show!” “Okay, Mom, Brothers & Sisters on the DVR, got it.”). But once our good friends mentioned they watched the show, we gave it a shot—since we clearly value their opinions more—and were instantly hooked. Possibly because we live in Austin, where they film FNL, and clap like idiots every time they show a local landmark we recognize. Possibly because this is a football town. Possibly because it really is some of the best writing on TV right now, especially for realistic high school characters. Regardless, the past four seasons have been pretty consistent in delivering a healthy balance of character development (and character turn-over), football action and drama, without needing to pack every single episode with a bunch of crazy stunts ala Heroes or 24.

The final season (heart wrench) started out much the same way—just a good, solid episode with some exposition but nothing earth shattering. Since it’s the end of August in the show, and everyone’s about to head back to school, let’s take a moment to talk about how much everyone has changed over the summer break:

Is it possible that Mr. and Mrs. Coach got better looking?? Because I think they did….I want so much what they have. Once swaggered and rugged Tim “Hey, Tim Riggins!” Riggins, with his mane of wild hair, has become pale and mangy. It makes me sad. Lance, too, has grown out his hair, which lends to his looking more and more like one of the “normal” kids…funny that it happened long after Tyra is out of the picture. Baby Coach has actually become even more strange looking, which I didn’t think was possible. Becks looks the same, but her crap storm of a life continues to rain down on her after Step Mom (nothing at all like Julia Roberts in the movie of the same name) and half-sister move in while Dad is on the road.

The first episode was a kind of weird, but not awkward, mix of looking back and looking forward at the rest of the season. It seemed to also act as a snapshot of who has their life together and whose has fallen apart. Julie and Landry enjoy their last  hurrah in Dillon before heading off to college. Coach Taylor is riding high on a strong finish last (football) season, while staying grounded for the season ahead. Tami Taylor has started her new gig as College Prep Chancellor at the School of Hard Knocks. Tim has adopted a healthy dose of resentment toward his brother—whose life seems to be on the onward and upward—while still maintaining his true to form, cool as ice demeanor. And Jess and Vince’s relationship has blossomed, partly due to their new role as Mom and Dad of her brothers while her dad is taking care of business in Dallas—no doubt a meth ring, last season twist!! Oh also, there’s some new kid. He has mad ups, ya’ll.

I don’t want to say that I don’t have high hopes for the season, I’m just saying that I’m keeping my expectations at a low, manageable level so that I’m not disappointed when every episode in the last season isn’t jam-packed full of blockbuster action/drama.

Likes:

  • Texas insider references like Corpus, Whataburger and New Braunfels that make us locals clap like idiots.
  • Moments that make us well up, like Coach pausing to look at his family (and his series???) and saying, “I’m going to miss this.”
  • Coach Billy Riggins pulling a note out of his pocket to read his favorite quote: “If you can believe it, your mind can achieve it.”
  • The tender and funny scene with Lance visiting Grandma Saracen, despite it opening right back up the wound left by sweet Matt Saracen’s departure; bonus like: Grandma putting Crucifictorious on her “MP player.”
  • Mr. and Mrs. Coach sending their little girl off to college, solidifying them in my book as the most realistic couple on TV right now.

Strangely Uncharacteristic:

  • Tami Taylor being so oblivious of her new work surroundings, for someone who’s typically so savvy.
  • Julie dropping Landry off at The Landing Strip…what?
  • A ‘true to Texas football’ TV show expecting us to believe that any coach would put a kid on the field who probably has his jock on backwards with seconds to go, down by 8.
  • The heart-to-heart, ‘you’re the man of the house now’ scene between Vince and Jess’s little brother. Where was the Full House moral of the story music?