Archive for Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights (S03E03): “How the Other Half Lives”

Posted in Friday Night Lights, TV with tags , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: A-

If Friday Night Lights doesn’t get renewed for another season, it won’t have been for quality reasons. This season came crashing out of the gates with a revamped and rejuvenated show and continues to maintain its steady course in “How the Other Half Lives”. The Panther’s may have lost their fictional game, but the episode is a win with the exception of a few very minor weak spots.

In football, tough calls have to be made on the fly, but the people of Dillon are all finding those hard choices playing out off the field in this episode. Coach Taylor is being made to choose between a boy he knows and one he doesn’t; a boy with crazy-mad drive and spirit and a boy with years of silver spoon-fed talent. Smash has to face his future and decide whether to go for his dreams by playing football at TMU or supporting his family by taking a promotion at the Alamo Freeze. And then Tim is finding his loyalty split between his brother and Lyla, and realizing having to choose between blood and love isn’t easy.

What makes Eric’s decision work so well is the way that the writer’s have decided to portray JD and the McCoys. Mr. and Mrs McCoy are the villains of the season, with their fake smiles and deep pockets, but their son may not be an apple from their tree even if they’ve slapped a coat of glossy, red paint on him. When Matt and Julie find JD’s “shrine” in his home at the big Panther party (hosted at the McCoy’s home rather than the Taylors, after the planning proves too stressful for principal Taylor), JD finds them and makes a little joke at his own expense about showing them his gold plated diaper. The coach probably says it best when accosted by Buddy, Mr. McCoy and others: He knows who Matt is, both as a person and as a player, but he knows very little about the very young JD, and though it doesn’t mean the kid isn’t good or that he doesn’t have all kinds of potential, he’s going to stick with his guy, Matt. This whole setup could make room for JD as an upcoming character, possibly to replace seniors like Matt, who could become a very likable addition to the cast. He just doesn’t seem like another VooDoo, meant only to serve as an antagonist, and outside of his headache inducing parents could be a really good character with a lot of baggage to bring to the pile.

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Friday Night Lights (S03E02): “Tami Knows Best”

Posted in Friday Night Lights, TV with tags , , , on October 11, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: A

It almost seems as if season two of Friday Night Lights was the product of network pressures and of a show trying too hard to bring up the ratings and prove its worth in order to be renewed by going out of its comfort zone and, thus, straying from what it did best. This feeling comes two episodes into the third season, where the show many of us fell hard for is back in its prime and not letting outside anxieties rule the show’s direction. The crazy drama of last year did not feel like the next step forward for FNL, but last weeks premier and tonight’s “Tami Knows Best” feel like the next stage in evolution for this show. Perhaps the writers and producers examined their own mantra, because this episode is full of heart, though my eyes were definitely not always clear.

It’s Tami vs. football again this week,  which boils down to pretty much everyone except her family. Buddy and the rest of the Booster club go on the offense to get their jumbo tron, but give Tami a chance to admit she made a big mistake by reallocating the funds. She won’t budge and chooses instead to stick it to them all in one of the episode’s best moments. However, as awesome as her tirade against the religion of football was and how education should come first, there’s still the question of whether it’s right of her to take money that was raised for a specific thing only to have it taken away and used in a different way. Personally, I’m taking Tami’s side, but I do appreciate the shades of gray they’ve plopped into this story. Unfortunately, the people of Dillon aren’t seeing her decision in such a positive way. Last episode, everyone was squawking about needing new text books and more teachers, but this week they’ve gotten that and are instead causing a ruckus over not getting their over sized football TV. Tami’s feeling pretty lost right about now, and even her husband can’t give much comfort as he tries to stick to middle ground to avoid the whole stink causing a strain on their relationship (perhaps sparked by a nasty article in the paper that turned what Tami said into a story about her new job causing marital strife). What’s most interesting is that the mayor and other influential members of the community seem to put so much more passion into football than the needs of the community and its youth, and whether Tami’s decision was right or wrong, you can’t fault her for what she’s done. She’s coming from a pure place, whereas the rest of the angered people play off as totally selfish. Guess the town really is a bit of a devil town, as the song suggests, where football is clearly the religion of choice. And god certainly comes before education, I suppose, only it’s a pigskin being bowed down to.

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Friday Night Lights (S03E01): Washed in Gatorade

Posted in Friday Night Lights, TV with tags , , on October 4, 2008 by scenescreen

Grade: A

Friday Night Lights returned on DirecTV this week, after being saved from certain death by one of the biggest experiments in TV history, and brought back a leaner, better show that tries hard to forget the missteps from a shaky second season. The network move (although episodes will air on NBC at a date TBD) is a starting over point in many ways, where new storylines take center stage and old ones are hardly mentioned, if at all. Captured best by the great moments in Panther football history video near the end of the hour, this episode passes the torch: to new faces, new struggles, and new goals. And, somehow, the new ushers in a Friday Night Lights feeling very much like its old, wonderful self — cleansed by a bucket of ice cold Gatorade over the head.

It’s very clear after the lengthy recap, meant to hopefully rope in new viewers, that Jason Katims and his crew want to move on and distance their show from its mistakes. There is no mention of Tyra or the rapist and the fiasco that followed or Riggins and the meth man. In fact, the recap is composed mostly of season one footage. This move is good for a number of reasons, I think. Not only does it give FNL virgins a good jumping in point, but it also reaches out to long time fans that had drifted away over negative feelings from season two. This idea is a success on both counts, and while the premiere may not be FNL at it’s very best, it’s certainly a show on its way back to what it once was.

Let’s be honest: After a stellar birth into the TV world, that had critics and fans (even people like me who are hardly interested in the sport of football) raving, Friday Night Lights strayed from what made it great and gave all those supporters a follow-up season that was hard to love. It wasn’t all bad, though. Smash and his horrendous senior year of injury and scholarship losses, Tyra and Landry being brought closer (M-u-r-d-e-r aside), and Coach Taylor’s triumphant return to Dillon were some of the highlights, but there were plenty of other moments to love as well. Really, the mediocre second outing was still better than many shows at their best, but the problem cropped up when a handful of potentially great stories were mixed in with some truly outlandish ones.

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