Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Friday Night Lights: Hey there, shaky shaky-cam

Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" just as soon as I run a few suicide sprints...

I never got around to writing up last week's episode, but as I was contemplating it, I had a conversation with Fienberg about the obviously NBC-mandated changes the series had undergone lately. I pointed to the speechifying, the way characters who were originally presented as mysteries for us to unravel were giving regular monologues about their feelings and aspirations. Dan pointed to the more traditional cinematography, the loss of the jittery documentary look of the pilot and first few episodes. It wasn't that the show had become bad, just that it had lost many of its most distinctive elements -- had started to feel like just another TV show, albeit a very well-made one -- in a futile attempt to bring in more viewers.

I don't know if Kevin Reilly just had his back turned the week tonight's episode was produced, or if this was the point in the production cycle where Peter Berg and Jason Katims said, "Screw it; we're going back to making our show," or if it was just a fluke, but tonight's episode felt the most "Friday Night Light"-ish since very early in the season.

The shaky-cam made its triumphant return, along with a cameo appearance by the car window cam. While Taylor did a bit of monologuing with Smash, most of the interesting interactions featured things unsaid (Riggins father and son bonding by falling off the wagon at the same time) or said casually (Taylor having a laugh with Street). And I got chills when Smash gave his pre-game prayer all the way through the arrival of Mr. Riggins (even though I could see it coming), the first time the show's affected me deeply in a while. I know it would get old if they showed Smash's prayer every single week, but the use of prayer and religion has always been one of this show's goldmines, and it was good to see that back, too.

Not everything was perfect. Tyra and Julie are apparently best friends now -- even though Tyra looks like she's 10 years older than Julie -- as part of the ongoing Operation: Give Adrianne Palicki Something to Do. And Grandma Saracen, senile or no, seemed out of character both in the scene where Tyra gave Julie advice on how to manipulate Matt and the one where the rally girls kidnapped Matt in his boxers.

But I'm excited to see the next episode, just to see if this one was a fluke or a return to the original form. (Plus, I never object to seeing Hey It's That Guy Brett Cullen, here suitably seedy as Pa Riggins.)

What did everybody else think?

10 comments:

Manuel said...

Last night's episode of FNL was absolutely riveting. And I found Matt's grandmother rather sweet.
I think it's good to remind the audience that she's not always a mess.

Alan Sepinwall said...

My issue wasn't with Grandma being lucid, as we've seen that many times before, but rather with her anything goes approach to her son and the apparently many women in his life. She struck me as more old-fashioned than that.

Also, I was bummed that Old 97's didn't get a cameo. I love those guys.

Kristen said...

I thought Grandma seemed to be not only lucid, but letting herself enjoy being with some young girls and acting a little bit like a young girl herself, even temporarily. (Did you catch the makeup Tyra had already put on her, and the color toenail polish she was getting?) I got the impression she was very much aware of everything going on, and that made her enjoyment of the moment that much more enjoyable to watch.

mp said...

Great episode. Jeez, Brett Cullen is a dead ringer for Chris Cooper.

Anonymous said...

After last week's Dale Watson cameo, I was sure we'd really get to see a couple of the Old 97s. Although I have to wonder whether the high school kids really think they're cool.

jdj said...

I thought Mr. Riggins was being portrayed by PJ O'Rourke on his book tour....

Anonymous said...

Have to agree that the Tyra-Julie friendship went from zero to 60 in no time flat. That seemed odd. Julie seems to have been around Grandma enough that they'd be OK in each other's presence. And how is she not already being called Matt's girlfriend?

Blankity-Blank said...

I don't see why the speed of Tyra and Julie's friendship is a problem, that sort of thing happens all the time (though it lasts a lot less frequently), but a shoplifting scene? It's like this show became DeGrassi. (Old DeGrassi, because these days you'd be happy to see those kids just shoplifting.)

Of course, this show is packed with awfully trite plot points. They just present everything so well that it doesn't seem to matter. In that way, Friday Night Lights has never changed.

kevbo nobo said...

Love to see the old 97s as well, but I think they are defunct or on hiatus while Rhett Miller pursues solo stardom.

Anonymous said...

I think Grandma is so in love with Matt being the star QB that she is excited about anything having to do with it, so the rally girls kidnapping Matt was OK, because it was a football tradition. Also, she probably thought they would go out for milkshakes or something, not get drunk in a hot tub.