Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" coming up just as soon as I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by my punching them in the face...
There are only three games left in the Dillon football season? Whoza whazza wha?
I've had lots of problems with "FNL" season two, but none moreso than the way the show has completely lost track of the damn team. We've seen, what, six games in 13 episodes? (With Smash playing terribly in almost all of them, which makes his big college recruiting story seem doubly baffling.) And now there are only three more before the playoffs start? And we spend an entire episode with zero football action or practice, but with a subplot devoted to the girls' volleyball team?
I know the company line is that "FNL" isn't really about football, but that's just a lie to lure in the people who would otherwise refuse to watch a show about football -- and who, based on the ratings for season two, aren't going to watch anyway. Season one was absolutely about football, and that's what made it great. It was about how a town defined itself through this team and how the pressure of being that defining element shaped the lives of the coaches, the players and their friends and family. There was plenty of action that took place away from the gridiron, but the season was always there in the background. We were always aware of how the Panthers were doing, how Saracen and Smash and Riggins were playing, how secure Eric's job was, etc.
Football was the foundation on which everything else was built, and now it's become this obligatory thing that the writers feel like they have to bring up from time to time, when they'd rather be spending time on another romance or crime plot.
Think of some of the stories that could have been told this year within the framework of what's been established: How is proud outcast Landry fitting into this celebrity jock subculture? How much heat is Coach getting in and around town for his role in what's been a very troubled post-championship season? How is Street going to shape a life for himself without football still living in this town where everyone knows his tragic story? But they've either been given cursory treatment or ignored entirely in favor of silly, off-mission stuff like manslaughter and Carlotta and stolen drug money.
I'm not saying there needs to be game action every single week, but we need to have a sense that games have been played in between episodes, how the team is doing, how Smash is still playing brilliantly enough to attract all these recruiters, how Matt's playing now that he's the undisputed leader of the team, etc. I complained a while back about how all the characters seemed sealed off from one another in separate little shows. The football team and its season is the show's unifying element. Without it being front and center, you've got... well, you've got "Friday Night Lights" season two.
(Oddly, if NBC was really that insistent on downplaying the football stuff, Katims and company had a built-in way to accomplish that without ignoring the reality of this world: they could have had season two begin not long after season one, covering the spring semester of the school year. There could still be some football content -- spring practices, maybe some early recruitment -- but the game's absence wouldn't have been as glaring, and we also wouldn't have had to skip over major events like the team adjusting to the post-championship glow, Eric's early days at TMU, Smash and Waverly breaking up, etc.)
By making the football such a minor element, it takes away a lot of the power from a story like tonight's Smash plot. Okay, so he's going to miss the final three games of the season. But what does that mean? Are they struggling so much that they won't qualify for the playoffs if they lose two or three of these games? What little game action we've seen suggests the team has almost been winning in spite of Smash; how big a blow is this, really?
That said, Smash's story and Street: car salesman were the highlights of "Humble Pie." Not coincidentally, both had at least a tangential connection to football.
Gaius Charles is often underutilized (he was MIA for the early part of this season), but when called upon -- in this case, in the scene where he has to listen to Mama Smash (Liz Mike, wonderful as always) tell him to take the damn deal, and the one where he comforts his little sister after she gets the prank call -- he delivers. I just think the plot would have been better if we had more context about the season.
Scott Porter's been MIA of late, because I think the writers are at a loss about what to do with Street as Jason himself is. I don't know that having him sell Chevys is the ideal answer for either man or show, but at least it plays off Jason's history with Buddy (who was on his way to being Street's father-in-law once upon a time) and puts him in another place where he has to use his force of will to beat a stacked deck. Plus, Herc is never not funny, and the brief montage of Jason getting dressed for work was another nice reminder of the commitment the show and Porter have given to showing what life in a chair is like.
The rest of the episode? Meh. Tyra as volleyball badass was amusing, but not nearly as amusing as Tyra as Powder Puff badass. (Plus, nowhere is it mentioned that Tami's new coaching job is eating into more time she could be spending with the beautiful baby she feels so guilty about leaving at daycare.) I think I went into a coma at some point in the Lyla/Tim/Logan Huntzberger triangle story. (Also, my review screener had some sound problems, so the line may have been looped in later, but how does Lyla know how much money Tim owes Guy? And how easily can a girl in Dillon -- even the daughter of Buddy Garrity -- toss around three grand?) I got a kick out of "God's little gift to Landry," as Matt described little Jean, but given the way the show is now completely ignoring any emotional fallout from the rapist story, it makes me regret its existence even more. I watch Landry hanging out with Riggins and Smash like they're total BFFs, and I wish we could have spent the first half of the season showing how he got to that point, instead of on stupid melodrama that no longer has any impact on what's happening on the show.
What did everybody else think?