Category Archives: Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights – “Game of the Week”

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“Game of the Week”

December 3rd, 2008

“It would be good to get the ball rollin’, you know?”

It’s “Beer-Thirty” in the afternoon in Dillon, Texas, and Buddy Garrity sits in his recliner with a beer and a football game. A knock at the door sends him a reminder: it can’t be his ex-wife, who hates him, or one of his friends, because he doesn’t have any of them. For Buddy Garrity, his life is football.

But while the show has always used football as a point of dramatic tension in the lives of these players, and this episode featured some of the most football-oriented plotting since the show’s first season, this episode was about the show’s continued reminder that their lives go beyond the gridiron. While our two “goodbyes” pre-planned before the season may be over, this doesn’t mean that the theme won’t continue: they have a lot of characters to send off into some form of television sunset, and we’re starting to see the plot, well, get the ball rolling.

While the stories don’t quite have the same resonance as did the emotional exits for Smash and Street yet, what they do have is football. If this week’s game is any indication, the stakes are higher than ever and we’re back to having the big games as the backdrop for our action. What resulted here was a reminder that, as the stakes for the Panthers grow higher by the week, so too do the characters’ drive to go to college, to solve their interpersonal crises, and to (in some cases) get over significant hurdles to their future.

And if things are this captivating now, I’m fairly certain the State Championship will be happening in my living room, live in person.

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Friday Night Lights – “New York, New York”

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“New York, New York”

November 19th, 2008

[NOTE: I go into what might be considered spoiler territory before the fold (it just worked out that way), so if you’re waiting until Spring and don’t want to know anything scroll away now! Hope this warning works – MM]

When Smash Williams received his swan song on Friday Night Lights, we ended that episode on an image of Smash’s face, smiling of pride (and his justifiably reinflated ego). It was a moment where you couldn’t help but feel like there was pride in his success, hope for his future, and that small tinge of disappointment that he was exiting our narrative and entering into another part of his life that doesn’t involve Dillon, Texas.

But for what will be Scott Porter’s last episode portraying Jason Street, we do not end on a shot of an admittedly fantastic Porter after pouring his heart out to Erin. Rather, we end on a shot of Tim Riggins, one that (for me) was far more emotionally affective. What is so amazing about Porter’s performance, and the character of Street as a whole, is that what could have been a hokey period after that pilot developed into someone who can serve as emotional and inspirational anchors for this series. While watching Smash succeed was satisfying, watching Jason grow into a man and a provider (even when the means were highly suspect) feels like the kind of story this show was born to tell: a story about a kid who was supposed to be on the path to greatness proving that, even when the terms changed, he never left that path.

And when we cut to Tim Riggins, of all people, overcome by emotion at the sight of Jason Street’s final moment, we realize that within both the show’s universe and our own, it doesn’t get much better than this.

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Friday Night Lights – “Keeping Up Appearances”

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“Keeping Up Appearances”

November 12th, 2008

One of the concerns I’ve had with the most recent set of episodes in Friday Night Lights’ third season is that the behind-the-scenes planning is becoming fairly transparent: it feels like things are happening that are in fact predictable, and in some cases feel less like organic character development and more like pieces being moved on a chess board. Last week, though, everything moved in the right direction: even if it was predictable, it felt totally in character, and like the proper culmination to the storylines set up over this season and last season, for that matter.

What doesn’t work in “Keeping Up Appearances,” however, is that none of it felt natural: every storyline had an element to it that felt artificial. Whether it was in order to rush Jason Street to a happy ending, or introduce a potential character for a reboot-driven fourth season, or push Tim Riggins into college, everything felt dialed in on that purpose. And in an episode all about selling (house, people, football, etc.), I feel like the show was all too willing to show us, their audience, that they had a (somewhat) shameless agenda on the table.

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Friday Night Lights – “It Ain’t Easy Being J.D. McCoy”

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“It Ain’t Easy Being J.D. McCoy”

November 5th, 2008

In our new era of highly serialized television, we have vilified predictability. We want to be shocked, surprised, knocked off our feet by revelations and swept up in complex storylines that twist and turn every which way. However, evidence shows that execution becomes a much larger concern when one gets caught up in walking off the beaten path: look at what has happened to a show like Heroes, one that is so obsessed with being unpredictable that a lack of logic has become, well, predictable.

So when I say that Friday Night Lights’ third season has been preditable, I don’t want you to look at it as something with negative connotations, at least not entirely. See, I won’t argue that predictable can be bad: last week’s episode of Friday Night Lights, even, was predictable to a fault, retreading old storylines that were not all that interesting to begin with. I speak more of the fact that, now almost halfway through the shortened 13-episode season, I don’t feel as if anything has snuck up and surprised me yet.

But do we really need to be surprised when a show is operating at such a high level? While the various events of this week’s episode have been long foreshadowed by the show’s trajectory, the payoff was exactly what we were looking for; the fact that I “called” the character of J.D. McCoy during his silence of early episodes does not mean I didn’t enjoy seeing it, and the sheer inevitability of the episode’s romantic climax was handled with such grace that it’s yet another powerful emotional moment for a season that’s had more than a few.

The real surprise for Friday Night Lights these days is that it isn’t trying to surprise us, and yet here I am sucked in more than ever; I just hope that, considering the show’s past attempts to surprise us with homicide, they’re content with dramatically satisfying predictability and don’t feel the need to shake the boat too much.

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Friday Night Lights – “Hello, Goodbye”

“Hello, Goodbye”

October 22nd, 2008

Well, it’s good to be back. I figured that this week’s FNL episode title was as good an excuse as any to get back in the blogging frame of mind. While my week and a half off has taught me that perhaps I’ll have to cut back on some shows I review, it has also taught me that not talking about them is almost as challenging.

And, really, this week’s episode of Friday Night Lights, airing exclusively on DirecTV’s 101, is the perfect example of both why I blog about television shows in general, and why it would be darn near impossible to not blog about Friday Night Lights ahead of its more accessible airings on NBC starting early next year. When a show is this good, and is coming off of a season that wasn’t this good at all, you have an episode that demands to be written about.

“Hello, Goodbye” is an episode about the small things: the small ways people react, the small ways people make mistakes, and the small ways that decisions are thought out and rationalized without becoming overly complicated or convoluted. In short, it’s an episode about all of what Friday Night Lights such a fascinating investigation of marriage, family, and football in Dillon, Texas, and everything that they failed to do in the show’s second season.

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Season Premiere: Friday Night Lights – “I Knew You When”

“I Knew You When”

October 1st, 2008

There is something very intoxicating about Friday Night Lights. I knew this before, I guess, but this is the ultimate test. Although a mere check of my ‘About’ page would tell readers of this post that there’s something amiss with my doing this review, I just can’t help it. Even with too many shows by half already on my schedule, and numerous real life commitments, it is not within my level of will power to wait until whenever NBC decides that they’re going to run the third season of Friday Night Lights.

The DirecTV exclusivity deal is designed to save the series, to give it one last chance to prove itself within a more financially viable model, and I hate to be “part of the problem” when it comes to the effectiveness of this model. But, I want to live in a world where that deal doesn’t exist, or doesn’t need to: the show itself was in enough of a creative rut last season that seeing whether Jason Katims can prove himself is more than enough to drive me to dig into the show’s third season premiere.

What I found in “I Knew You When” was vintage FNL, a show that seems to have returned to a less convoluted and ultimately more effective structure. While many of the season’s clear trajectories are left mostly untouched in the premiere (Saracen, in particular, gets short-shifted something fierce), what we see is a very common theme: much as with the show’s chances for a fourth season (or an extension of the existing order), there are those who think that it can’t be done, and those who hold out hope for something better. To put it into football terms, something the show smartly does this season, there’s a lot of people thinking about calling a Hail Mary, and that has created an environment rife with an excitement about the future – and even if the show never gets to see it, watching the characters move towards the end of the tunnel seems like it will be worth it.

[If you are amongst those waiting until the show airs on NBC, first off I admire your willpower. Second, I will be discussing the episode in detail, so feel free to view this all-too tempting opening as your sign that the show is on the right track to start off.]

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Friday Night Lights – “Humble Pie”

“Humble Pie”

January 25th, 2008

The WGA Strike afflicting Hollywood was supposed to be a blessing of sorts for Friday Night Lights, as it stands as one of the only series left with a considerable number of episodes in the can. However, it is obviously also a curse, as “Humble Pie” came across as a stagnant filler episode that provided (attempted) payoff for contrived storylines introduced in the previous episodes.

This is not to say it was all bad: I was happy to finally return to the world of Jason Street, and the Landry storyline was effectively charming to allow me to ignore the lack of post-traumatic stress in his vicinity. But, they were mere sidenotes in an episode that otherwise didn’t seem to go anywhere, and never really settled on what it wanted to be (What DOES Friday Night Lights think it is, anyways?). The result was something that, really, someone could miss and not really mind all that much. And that’s not the Friday Night Lights that can leverage this strike situation.

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Friday Night Lights – “Who Do You Think You Are?”

“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.

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Friday Night Lights – “There Goes the Neighbourhood”

“There Goes the Neighbourhood”

January 4th, 2007

Every series tends to have a character or two that are incredibly versatile – they can be thrown into a scene with pretty much any character in an ensemble and get the best out of them. Part of what made Friday Night Lights’ first season so effective was that almost all of its characters fell within this category. This season, characters have been far too isolated for us to watch this magic take place…and then Tim Riggins moved into the Taylor homestead.

The funny thing about this episode is that its title is patently false: if anything, it finally regained the sense of neighbourhood and environment that makes this series what it is. The show even mentioned the whole concept of the elephant in the room, and with the murder storyline dead and gone perhaps that is the case – all of a sudden we’re returning to drama that seems real and not sensationalist. After spending far too long in the police station, Friday Night Lights heads back to the football field and the lives of its residents – the result is perhaps the season’s finest episode.

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10 Shows to (Hopefully) Watch in 2008: #7-5

If 2007 saw the downfall of Heroes and The Office, it also saw the emergence of these three series as critical favourites. In different season, critics were adamant that these series would be the future of television. Now, with the fate of each up in the air considering the Writers’ Strike, let’s take a look at what to expect from some more fresh faces.

Of 2007’s drama series, only one has made this list. Ultimately, while there are a few series I enjoyed during the fall season, none have been able to supplant other series except for Pushing Daisies. Bryan Fuller’s series has managed to earn him his first full-season order, and it is perhaps one of the only series which might actually benefit from the writer’s strike. While I have remained fairly consistently entertained over the first nine episodes, I will have to admit that the long-term longevity of the series has yet to be decided.

This is on both creative and commercial sides of the coin. In terms of ratings, the series hit some road bumps during the latter portion of the fall, and the result is that the naysayers are rampant. But really, did anyone expect the series to maintain its 12+ Million viewers from the premiere? This was always going to be a divisive show, and the fact that it maintained as much of that audience as it did (Especially compared to other series like NBC’s Bionic Woman) is a success story.

However, the creative question is far more intriguing. While I’ve enjoyed the series’ laidback procedural flow, as it has allowed Chi McBride and Kristen Chenoweth to turn in some dynamite supporting turns sadly unnoticed by recent award shows, others raise concerns regarding the longevity of this atmosphere. It does have the danger of relying on quirkiness for too long, but I have faith that the emotional investment the viewer has placed in these characters is strong enough to sustain whatever format Fuller moves forward with. Plus, I am looking forward to seeing if Fuller is able to pull together a musical episode in the new year – fingers crossed.

Pushing Daisies has received a full season order, but only finished 9 (Already Aired) episodes out of 22. The show will return to production once the writers’ strike resumes. 

YouTube – “Hopelessly Devoted…” from Olive Snook

Matthew Weiner’s drama series debuted on AMC in the summer of 2007 with extremely little buzz. It was only the prodding of various critics that convinced me to give the series a shot, and what I discovered was something quite interesting. I’m on the short list of those who will in the future be forced to catch up on the entirety of The Sopranos, but Matthew Weiner proved his worth for me with Mad Men, perhaps the sharpest new drama of 2007.

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