“Who Do You Think You Are?”
January 18th, 2008
While I am certainly not overly antagonistic towards the most recent episode of Friday Night Lights, I can’t help but ask whether or not the titular query should be posed to the series itself rather than its character. On a night in which two guest stars evoked two similarly praised drama series featuring teenage storylines, it would have been helpful if the characters were in line with what we’ve seen in recent weeks.
However, everything was completely out of whack: Smash and Noelle’s relationship went from being dangerous due to her influence to dangerous due to her whiteness, and Riggins went from running from the law to pining after Lyla Garrity. It’s one thing to switch gears, but these two storyline were abrupt shifts to say the least. Combined with a heavy dose of thug life for Santiago and Buddy, and the tragic tale of Matt’s First Quinceañera, I can honestly only say that Eric and Tami Taylor came out as people who understood just who they are.
As for who those guest stars were, and how the episode went off the rails, read on.
Matt Czuchry (Logan on Gilmore Girls) and Francis Capra (Weevil on Veronica Mars) made the leap to one of the “real” networks, and the result was two performance that we come to expect: Czuchry was charming in the way Logan could occasionally be, and Capra was playing Weevil without a conscience. I think what frustrated me about both was how one-dimensional they were in this episode: I don’t even know their names, but rather the fact that one is a love-interest for Lyla and the other a disruption for Santiago’s new life.
If they continue into future episodes, which I would expect only of Czuchry, I really hope that I have reason to remember that his name is “Chris Kennedy” – it appears like his stint will last for at least a little while, but there needs to be some dimension to his character if he’s going to add anything to the series. While the series has gotten great work out of persistent guest stars like Brad Leland (Buddy Garrity) and Liz Mike (Mama Smash), as evidenced in this episode, short term guests have seemed like NBC stunt-casting as opposed to real dramatic impact. It’s no fault of Czuchry, he plays a teenager like no 30-year old should.
In terms of the remainder of the episode, it really was Riggins and Smash that frustrated me. In the latter case, Smash and Noelle’s “Meet the Parents and Have Them Question Your Interracial Relationship” meeting was just bizarre – not only did it seem an inappropriately uncomfortable setting for them to broach the subject of race, but Mama Smash should know better. I know she doesn’t like Noelle, but is she really going to let that cloud the fact that these a suburban white couple just suggested that they should lie down and accept the racism inherent in Texas culture?
It seemed horribly out of character, and it really feels like a forced attempt to reinstate the question of race into the series. Last time, it felt realistic and interesting: racism hits not just the town itself, but rather comes face to face with football and the core of the series. With that core largely ignored this season, this simply felt forced – while realistic, race conflict is anything but subtle and is something the show has used in the past in a far more interesting fashion.
And yet, at the very least that storyline seemed to give Smash real emotional levity following his movie theatre altercation – Riggins, meanwhile, ends last week paranoid about the cops raiding his house and then spends this week prank-calling Lyla’s new Talk Radio show with Herc and drinking alone in his house. For someone so charming and engaging when he was being a more respectable citizen, here he was just normal ol’ Riggins before his bizarre and strange epiphany that he’s still in love with Lyla.
Of course, when he finally decides to proclaim his love with flowers he spots Lyla making out with Chris (Czuchry, proving as alluring as ever for female television leads), and thus his life is thrown into slow-motion ruin. I don’t buy this for a second: how could he be so dejected after not even interacting with Lyla for numerous episodes? I wasn’t overly excited to see Riggins vs. The Law or anything, but I also wasn’t really looking for the show to ignore the fact the plot exists.
Santiago and Matt Saracen’s Guatemalan lover are two storylines I’ve lamented in the past, and both were asked to do a lot in this episode. I think that the limitations of Benny Ciaramello’s acting held back Santiago’s big moment where he is forced to choose between his old life (Francis Capra playing the Weevil-equivalent thug who draws him back) and his new privilege never felt satisfying, much as most of his storylines have simply lacked the spark present in other parts of the series. In the case of Matt’s love affair, QB1 was back to being engaging this week (He even talked to Landry about his fling, finally) but the point of the affair appears to have been to teach him to love but then take her away – the show will have to work hard in the weeks ahead to convince me it was worth it.
And if you read through that excessive ranting session, you’re probably convinced I hated it – however, Eric and Tami Taylor remain the greatest married couple on television. Whether it’s Connie Britton running from the daycare like she’s escaping from a prison, or Kyle Chandler seamlessly integrating a discussion about his situation into watching game film with Mac, their scenes were brilliance when isolated from the rest of the episode. Combine with a great dinner table fight which they claimed wasn’t a fight, and a late night realization that separation anxiety is normal, and you have a fantastic storyline trapped in what was, for the most part, teenage melodrama.
- Is anyone else getting worried about the inadequacy of the Dillon Police Department? You’ve got Riggins’ theft, Smash’s assault, Santiago kicking Weevil’s ass, Tim’s underage drinking…it seems like people are piling up misdemeanors left and right, and I just have to wonder if someone is going to get arrested at some point. I guess, though, that if you don’t arrest Landry it’s kind of hypocritical to arrest anyone else.
- Nice for Jason Street to stop by for about 15 seconds – if this is how they’re going to use his character, he must be mighty pissed that the Justice League movie got cancelled.
- My favourite line of the episode was definitely Tami’s deadpan “It’s Buddy. He’s got a box.” as he interrupted the Taylors’ dinner. Nothing like an imposing Buddy Garrity to brighten my mood.