Thursday, February 22, 2007

Friday Night Lights: Gone in 180 seconds

Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" just as soon as move my hunting trophies to another room...

I'm a professional critic and therefore allegedly someone skilled at using words to describe why something was or wasn't good, and I feel like they're failing me in an attempt to capture the pure genius of the scene where Tami has The Talk with Julie. Long before Tami gave Eric her speech about not wanting to lose Julie's trust, you could see her struggling mightily between going all hellfire and brimstone or trying to be the cool mom who's her daughter's best friend, and it was funny and moving and scary and just amazing. Not that I expect this show to get much, if any, love from the Emmys, but that was Edie Falco in the coma episodes brilliant from Connie Britton. Peter Berg did not lie to her when he told her she wouldn't regret doing this role twice.

The entire sex story was masterfully handled from beginning to end. Even though I suspected NBC wasn't going to let a 15-year-old girl be deflowered on an 8 o'clock family drama -- especially since they've already cut the producers slack on letting the slightly older kids drink and have sex -- the scenes always felt honest, whether it was Saracen getting awful advice from Riggins, Smash and the guys (the camera phone thing immediately made me think of poor Antonella Barba, who appears to be Vote For the Worst's new favorite), another hilarious Landry shopping trip, Julie revealing her inner nerd to Tyra, or Saracen's discomfort at losing it in such a terrible environment. And the Coach/Mrs. Coach argument was almost as moving as The Talk. Kyle Chandler has really learned to be economical with his acting; he can make Coach seem on the verge of absolute fury with a slight twist of his mouth, and he had me laughing hysterically as he studied Saracen from the other side of the church service.

Speaking of church, damn! Buddy deserved every second of the public humiliation Tyra's mom gave him, but it was interesting to see Tyra and Lyla share that split-second look of understanding, if not actual sympathy.

There's a deleted scene from the Powderpuff episode that establishes Walt Riggins as having moved back in with Tim and Billy. When I talked to Jason Katims for the story I'm doing on deleted scenes (it's running Sunday), he said he felt okay losing it because they would re-establish the new living situation later. I think it worked fine. We knew Walt came to the playoff game, and there hadn't been anything to suggest he had skipped town yet.

Taylor Kitsch has gotten better as the season's gone along, but he's still better in silence (inviting the beating at the bar) than when he talks (defending his father to Coach). He's a fine tragic character, worse off in many ways than his sometime best buddy Street.

And speaking of which, a few other thoughts:
  • I always like the Street storylines, but he's really disappearing into his own show, aided by the fact that Scott Porter, like Adrianne Palicki, looks five years older than everyone else. So what's his motivation here with Tattoo Girl? Desire to be with someone who's not in any way connected to his former life as The Next Peyton Manning? Belated payback for Lyla screwing Riggins? Either way, this was by far the better drama episode last night to feature a character flirting with a tattoo artist.
  • I just want to say a few words in praise of Brett Cullen as Walt. Here's a guy who started out in soaps with the looks and seeming talent of several hundred other soap actors, someone whose resume is dotted with supporting roles on best-forgotten series like "Orleans" and "Legacy," but who's turned out to be quite the chameleon character actor in middle age. He was Vinick's born-again running mate on "West Wing," the treacherous Goodwin on the Tailies episode of "Lost" (and a crucial part of the best scene Michelle Rodriguez was ever involved in on that show), and he completely disappeared into playing this good-for-nothing golf hustler. Can someone please cast him in a good pilot next year instead of another "Pepper Dennis"? Pretty please?
  • Isaac over at Throwing Things points out that Tyra has gone from glorified extra to someone who's integral to three current storylines: her mom and Buddy, Julie's budding delinquency, and Riggins' battle to avoid becoming his father. When I talked to Katims, I made my pitch for Tyra as strong safety as a means for giving her something to do; he laughed and said that he'd do it so long as I was willing to answer all the complaining phone calls from NBC. At this rate, he may not need to put her in pads.
What did everybody else think?

19 comments:

Carrie said...

From top to bottom, the best episode of TV I've seen in months. Pure brilliance. I was concerned when Tami saw Matt buying condoms because that is such a TV cliche, but the storyline that sparked with Julie and her parents was so well done that I can forgive one little cliche. Connie Britton is amazing, and she made me cry at least three times just by the look on her face.

I agree that Street seems like he is in a different show but I find Scott Porter so likable that I can't begin to care. I just want to see more of his journey, which I think inevitably leads him away from Lyla.

It's too bad the extra million viewers FNL picked up last week didn't stick around. They missed out on a great one.

Scott T. said...

Another lovely episode from a show that's really hitting its groove; remarkably, it centers on a team in a football-crazy town that's deep into the playoffs, yet I never really thought about the upcoming game at all. As Alan noted, the sex stuff is really well-handled. The way Julie feels about losing her virginity seems true to me; for many, this particular rite-of-passage is something to get over with, not to look forward to, and I'm guessing that's especially true for women. Why not go through it with a nice guy like Matt? I'm wondering, though, why she felt sex was something she had to do. It's not as if Matt had any such expectations-- he seemed completely astonished by her proposal-- and there are no scenes to indicate that her peers were putting any pressure on her. Is 15 just the right age for this to happen now? Say it ain't so.

And, of course, any scene between Coach and Mrs. Coach is pure gold. Once again, it's Mrs. Coach who has to talk her irrational husband down. I think her parenting philosophy is a good one: At a certain point, parents are not going to be able to exercise as much control over their kids' lives as they used to. They just have to hope that they've given them the tools to make good decisions and that the lines of communication will remain open.

That said, my parents would have pulled a BLACK SNAKE MOAN on any of my sisters had they come home that late after lying about where they would be.

Andrew said...

My only complaint: the writer's ought to let the coach be right the next time the wife and he have a disagreement. The show is coming very close to entering that TV cliche where the wife is always on the side of right and correcting the husband.

Kristen said...

I disagree that Jason is separating off into his own show, or at least I disagree that that's a negative thing. I that's the point of his storyline, that without football in his life he is completely disconnected from the town, his friends and everything that's familiar to him. Every time he appears he's a reminder of how this all began, that shining QB1 hero they all looked up to now shuffled off into the corner and forgotten. He's a perfect contrast to Matt's stories, imo; if Jason weren't essentially cut off from everyone, Matt would never have the opportunities he has now to grow and find himself as he has been. Matt is becoming what Jason was, and yet Jason is still there, wondering what he is now.

I also don't notice the age differences like you do, I guess because again, it's part of the natural story to me: he looks older because he's growing up a lot faster than they are now. He's aged 5 years in the last 5 months, I think.

Dennis Wilson said...

Is there any chance at all that this excellent show will be picked up for a second season?

Weepingorilla said...

The scene where Saracen reacts to the cabin really got to me and it took until now to figure out why - the guy never gets a solo scene where we see the "real" Matt. Am I wrong about that? Everything about the character is put on him by another character (except his talent as QB, which we have to take on faith). What does this say about the actor?

Tom G said...

It's inconceivable to me [get it?] that this show could get cancelled. It's just too good. We need a petition or something.

Typically, I'm not as wowed by acting performances as other people are, but Connie Britton was just fantastic. As I've said already today, she made ME feel guilty about not being a virgin, and I'm a 33 year old married man.

Paul C. said...

It's amazing to me the way everyone has their own favorite moments in the show, and they're all different. There are that many great moments in a one hour show. My personal favorite was Matt's utter panic upon being told by Julie that he'd been busted the night before.

I have to say that I'm surprised by this, but I don't know that I'll be that upset if the show doesn't come back next year. This year has been sublime. I almost hate to take the chance that NBC will screw it up next year.

Geri said...

OMG...your comment about the tattoo had me rolling on the floor. I was thinking the exaxt same thing cause at least Jason´s tattoo story made sense. Hopefully tattoo girl´s brothers won´t come out of the dark and hit Jason in the next ep...Lost, that was just awful!

Were you really talking about Adrianne Palicki looking much older than the rest of the cast? I guess it´s just more obvious in her case because she has so many scenes with 17-year-old Aimee Teegarden. The majority of the cast is older than 23 with the exception of Teegarden and the wonderful Jesse Plemons so there´s a huge gap.

However Scott Porter does look extremely old. I am 23 and my university friends would just look as old/or young as Palicki, Zach Gilford or Gaius Charles but Scott Porter is definetly too old.

I was always wondering how the producers would handle Jason´s story as he´s living his very own life (or story-line) apart from the others. Other shows would quickly get rid of his character but I am sure the producers will have a great story line coming up for him. I hope so, after all his accident was the kick start of FNL.

Kristin said...

To the commenter who wants the coach to win an argument once in awhile:

Have you so quickly forgotten the episode just a couple of weeks back when Mrs. Coach proposed the talks about race that went horribly wrong? There was a short scene where she confessed to her spouse that she had messed it up royally...and that he was right in his opinion earlier about it maybe being a bad idea.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Matt is becoming what Jason was, and yet Jason is still there, wondering what he is now.

Kristen, I agree on the Jason point, but not quite on Matt. Yes, Matt is QB-1 with all the pressure and local celebrity that entails. But Street was on his way to being the starting QB at a major college and, presumably, making millions of pro dollars. Matt's going to be lucky to get a scholarship out of all this and spend four years on the bench while he gets a useful free education.

Zodin2008 said...

Amen to the scene between Mrs. Coach and Julie, and the subsequent scenes between Matt & Julie and anything else with Coach and Mrs. Taylor.

They felt so real, so authentic. The Taylor family feels like a REAL family and talks as real people talk.

That's what makes this show so good. The only characters that feel like complete cliche's to me is Tyra and her mom, but they are still interesting. And they really have given Adrienne Padilicki a much bigger role.

There are some things that have struck me since the first 2 episodes that they have changed as the show has gone on.

First, people may forget but in episode #2, Smash and Tyra had sex. This has basically been ignored because I think they realize it was heading both characters into sterotypical territory (particularly for mash and the implications of a star African American football player acting wildly promiscuos) & I think it's a good decisiion that they have given a lot more depth to Smash in particular.

Second, people may 'forget', but in the pilot episode, Coach Taylor was BRAND NEW at Dillon and had no prior relationship with say Coach Mac, Smash, Jason Street, etc. Since then, the writers have smartly re-worked that part of the script and written it as though Coach Taylor was not new to Dillon and the Dillon Panther family.

This was of particular importance some weeksn back when all the stuff when down between the Street family and Taylor...and there were some really poignant scenes of understanding between Taylor and Jason that would have had far less resonance had they stuck with the scenario that Coach Taylor was new to Dillon. I wonder if anyone else noticed that subtle change in the show?

I do think the heart of this show is not even Coach Taylor, but in fact it's Matt Saracen. He's impossible not to root for.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Just went and checked the relevant scene in the pilot (it's on my iPod), and Taylor's not new to Dillon. He's just new to being head coach. He was Street's coach all through Pee Wee football and has been the Panthers' QB coach since Street got to high school.

Zodin2008 said...

Alan,

My bad...it sure seemed like it was changed from the pilot.

swept away tv said...

The most beautiful thing about this show is that it appeals to a whole family and that they can watch it together, as we do. There is a character that each member of the family can root for. I hope NBC is aware of that appeal and next season runs with that. I do want to send Riggins to rehab though.

Kristen said...

Matt's going to be lucky to get a scholarship out of all this and spend four years on the bench while he gets a useful free education.

Alan, that could be, although it's probably too soon to tell; Matt is only a sophomore, after all, and if they win this year and he continues to improve his skills, he could grow into a star QB like Jason was on track to become. He's just a little further back on the path than Jason was.

Which is kind of what I meant: Matt is now the One with All the Potential, which used to be Jason's identity. He might go onto the big league, he might not...but he's got more of a future now than before Jason got hurt. College was probably out of his reach before, and it likely won't be now.

Pete said...

Smash and Tyra did not have sex. They almost had sex. Smash's mom walked in on them and threw Tyra out.

audreynandy said...

I just got into this series thanks to Netflix season 1 on DVD, so yes, I see I am EIGHT MONTHS late in getting into this blog, but I must say I can't believe not one person has commented on how terrible the acting by Matt and Julie is, making their whole relationship so unbelievable. Everything else is so real to me (esp the Taylor's) but I am dying to see a scene where I feel like Matt is a real person and not an actor. The closest I got to a real relationship moment was when he and Julie were joking around at the lake house after they (thank God!) decided not to have sex. Julie has such a bad attitude all the time, mostly without reason. I really want to like Julie and Matt's character, but I'm having a hard time believing them. That said, I LOVE this show and am so glad it is being picked up. Connie Britton makes me tear up nearly every episode. She's the bomb!

Anonymous said...

Taylor's not new to Dillon. He's just new to being head coach. He was Street's coach all through Pee Wee football and has been the Panthers' QB coach since Street got to high school.

And yet there's definitely some wonkiness with this issue of how long the Taylors have lived in Dillon. At the end of season 1 (avert your eyes if you're not there yet), Julie complains about moving a lot and about how she had dreaded moving to Dillon. If Eric had been in Jason's life since pee-wee, Julie would have lived there since the age of 4 or so--too young to care where she moved--and would have no real memory of ever living anywhere else.