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Friday Night Lights – “New York, New York”


“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”


“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 – “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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Season Premiere: Friday Night Lights – “Last Days of Summer”

“Last Days of Summer”

October 5th, 2007

The world of Dillon, Texas is askew as Friday Night Lights starts its second season…well, actually, no its not. Dillon is taking a backseat, more or less removed from the series’ credits in favour of shiny pictures of its actors. The show operates as if its finale had established a laundry list of character problems, but the only real drama was for the Taylor Family and Panther Football.

And yet, Jason Katims has chosen to add drama for every single other character: Matt and Julie are drifting apart thanks to a Swede, Landry is trying to impress his father by trying out for football, Street feels left out by the new coach, Tyra is being stalked by last season’s attacker, Buddy is stalking his future ex-wife, Riggins has become a drunken lout (again), and only Lyla has found solace (Although not much) in Jesus.

I know that there needed to be an obvious problem to solve when Coach Taylor returned, but the show has been thrown into too much turmoil too quickly. This used to be a series about a town that, while football crazed, was at its heart full of decent people. Instead, it’s about scandalous teenagers and people in over their heads. My faith in the series can’t help but wane in this moment: have they forgotten what made the show what it was?

Well, the answer is no…they’re just taking a little while to get back to it. And, well, I’m okay with that. I think. Until the murder.

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