Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Night Lights, "May the Best Man Win": Give it a chance

Spoilers for the final "Friday Night Lights" (until the strike ends? of the season? ever?) coming up just as soon as I defend my wife's honor...

"Give it a chance." How perfect -- and sad -- is it that this would be the last line of dialogue, maybe ever?

As Jason Katims notes in his interview with Mo Ryan, "May the Best Man" win wasn't intended as any kind of finale, be it season or series. But even if the strike ends this weekend, I don't know that NBC's going to feel compelled to order more episodes for this season, and unless Ben Silverman's "Who cares about 'Friday Night Lights' when we've got '30 Rock'?" comments were wildly inaccurate, I'm not feeling confident that we'll get more new episodes ever. But intentional finale or not, there's something incredibly touching that the final line of this episode would be "Give it a chance," you know?

"May the Best Man Win" wasn't quite as outstanding as last week's effort -- far too much of Lyla and Logan for my taste, and the Smash story took too long to get to the idea that there would still be colleges dying to give Brian a scholarship, plus the ongoing weirdness of The Murder That Must Not Be Discussed Even Though It Explains Everything About Tyra and Landry -- but it was still damn good.

The Mo story was lightweight but a fine comic showcase for Connie Britton and, especially, Kyle Chandler (I loved the way his lip curled at the first mention of Mo), and it even feels appropriate that Peter Berg would finally step in front of the camera for what may or may not be the swan song. Gaius Charles played the hell out of his scenes (even the ones that were BS, like him pondering arena football for even a half-second). It was nice to see the Panthers finally get a completely easy win (as well as an acknowledgement that, whatever his heroics were many episodes back, Landry is still second string), Riggins on the radio was hilarious (even though the story was tied to Lyla), and Scott Porter was superb in his story. (Though I imagine, as with "Knocked Up" and "Juno," there will be some complaints about the script trying to stack the deck against getting the abortion.)

I don't regret any of my complaints about this season. The problems were real and at times very, very bad. But, dammit, I'm not ready to say goodbye to this town, to this team, to these people just yet.

Give it a chance, Ben Silverman. There can be room on NBC for two charity cases that aren't owned by your production company, can't there?

What did everybody else think?

33 comments:

Danny said...

I'm a bit confused about the discussion of Smash's alternative options (arena football vs. Whitmore? or are those the same thing? I'm really displaying my lack of sports knowledge here). But I did very much like this ep, and would hate to see this be the final one ever... it clearly wasn't planned as such. If this show can't get a season three, I'd at least love to see a finale the way the writers want it to be done. We deserve closure and so do the brilliant people behind the show!

Alap said...

i probably missed this way at the beginning of this episode, but did the panthers win the game they were running out of the locker room to play at the end of the last episode?

Alap said...

also (sorry to do the two comments in a row thing) wasn't mo in the right for laying into coach taylor for allowing the other team to score at the end of the game? seems like in a real life football game the other team would feel more insulted by the panthers just gifting them a touchdown.

Rachel said...

I loved this episode. Maybe it was Jason getting a storyline, maybe it was finally having all of the main characters at least have a line or two, maybe it was Landry and Matt hanging out, maybe it was Coach Deeks showing up again, maybe it was Pete Berg or maybe it was the Dodgeball...

I have to admit, I'm in denial. This show is probably too good for television, but I can only hope that someone out there can figure out that it's worth keeping on.

Thanks for all of your support, Alan.

D. Bones said...

Amen to both your points, Alap.

There has been no time for such luxuries as attention to the continuity of the football season when we've got to deal with murder cover-ups, love triangles, hot Guatamalan live-in caregivers, volleyball!, one-night-stand parapalegic pregnancies, and Christian radio broadcasts (which seem to exist in some sort time-space continuum loophole both before, during and after school days).

But you hit the nail on the head when it comes to sportsmanship. Coach puts in the second team (somehow neglecting to take out QB1 and RB1), allowing them to run some razzle-dazzle gimmick play to team mascot Lance/Landry so he can get a feel-good touchdown in garbage time? This is early non-perfect season Patriots crap almost unworthy of Bill Belichicken.

But allowing your beat-up opponent a gimme TD would start a riot in Texas. The idea of sportsmanship is to continue to compete without running up the score. To give anything but a full effort on defense is insulting. And for the opposing coach to celebrate as though he didn't realize he was handed a gift is just moronic.

Beyond that, this was a complete bizarro season struggling to appease some fictional wider audience that didn't deserve a show as good as season one. Worth watching almost as much as it's worth forgetting.

Carlos said...

Wow, I'm stunned to see the positive comments -- and I count myself one of this shows biggest fans.

I thought this episode should have been called Three Stupid Storylines.

Tim pursuing Lyla is both boring (as a story) and pathetic (for Tim). She is dull as dirt, and at this point her character kills all characters she comes into contact with. Although the implicit suggestion that she's going to end up with Tim b/c Helmet Hair won't give it to her is pretty (unintentionally) hilarious.

Smash's storyline (as pointed out last week) is so completely unbelievable I cannot believe it shows up on what used to be a very grounded series. Are we sure these are the same writers who gave us such small, honest, stunningly sad moments like in Season 1 when the unnamed girl wants Tammy's advice on whether she should do a threesome with her Panther b/c he says if she does she can be her girlfriend. And these writers give us the Great Record Setting Tailback Who Cannot Get a Top D1 Scholarship Because He's the First Prospect To Ever Get Into A Fight. Oy.

And the third storyline? When that girl showed up at the dealer, I turned to my wife and said, "She's pregnant. Ugh." Double Ugh. What a stoopid story. What the h*ll is Street doing anyway? Go to college already!

Alanna said...

Smash's arena football scene might've been silly, but I could see him at least entertaining the thought for a few minutes. Ever since the pilot, he has wanted the fame, the glory, and a huge paycheck to take care of his mother and sister. College was always a means to an end; though he seems quite intelligent, he doesn't give a damn about an education. Now that his big fancy scholarship has been (unfairly) revoked, he might just get an excellent education that'll serve him far better than a hit-or-miss pro career.

I was also touched by the subtle symbolism of him being welcomed onto the field by the Whitmore players and coach (who is definitely Smash's new father figure.) He got into this predicament because of racism, and while I don't think the show meant his choice of an HBCU as a reaction to that -- or if they even meant to draw a parallel -- there was a sense of potential camaraderie that made me hope Smash truly feels comfortable there.

I'm proudly pro-choice, and I appreciated the way they handled the issue tonight. Was the deck stacked against abortion? Perhaps. But at least they approached the issue with dignity and a sense of the characters seriously weighing their options. How many other shows would even mention "shmamortion", especially a series that, whether we agree or not, is perceived to be one upholding more traditional values? If I'd known about the storyline in advance, I would've expected it to be brought up once -- perhaps with euphemisms or the characters recoiling at the idea -- followed by them embracing parenthood. As with so many things on FNL, Jason and Erin's choice felt earned.

Maybe Peter Berg's appearance was an in-joke or stunt casting, but damn, it was funny. (Though is this the first we've heard of Tami growing up in Dillon? I thought she was a transplant. *sigh*)

My favorite bit of that storyline was watching Julie -- back to her season one self -- smirking and rolling her eyes at Coach's jealously. And she held the baby! Perhaps there's hope for her after all.

Finally, Alan, thank you for mentioning "Give it a chance." Made me a bit teary.

So it goes said...

Red Light?

Alap said...

k, i think you got the wrong idea from my nitpicking in the above comments...this episode was boooommmb. i'm not blind; season 2 did have it's pointless storylines and numb-skull inconsistencies. but i did appreciate how, in the last two episodes especially, the writers acknowledged the absurdity of the carlotta storyline with that "mexican maid" conversation, signaling that the show maybe was moving on, to storylines that actually mattered (like the street one...how cool was it that he so dearly wanted the baby?), and scenes like the shower one, which rivals "matt singing to his grandma" as the most chilling moment the series has had. the season had momentum. finally. it looked like the show was back.

maybe this explanation wasn't necessary. but if this really was the last episode, i didn't wanna my last word to sound so negative on this show i loved through and through.

love, i mean. hurts to use the past tense.

SteveInHouston said...

Smash was definitely dumped by TMU for his transgression (which as I read it, was due not to the fight but his rash disavowal of his apology). But the Bama coach wasn't rejecting him because of the fight - he was rejecting Smash because Bama had gotten a RB probably just as good as Smash - and a guy who definitely wasn't flailing around in desperation, trying to use Bama, of all places, as a back-up pick.

(I never cared much for Nicole's character, since I had no idea who she was until about two episodes ago, but it would have been interesting to see how long she stuck with Smash once he decided on the much-lower-profile Whitmore.)

One thing struck me about the Lyla storyline. Recall earlier this season when Riggins snuck into her room and came onto her, saying "I feel closer to God when I'm with you." A lot of viewers joined Lyla in thinking that it was just a come on, but I always saw it as about the most sincere thing Riggins has ever said.

Tonight, we saw a kind of reversal: Lyla, who clearly likes (if not loves) Chris, was ready to share herself with him. I have little doubt that she would regard sex as a spiritual as well as physical experience. She just can't trust Riggins feels the same way, for obvious and legitimate reasons.

The girl really has been through a lot in the past year, and I'm sure she's going to be really knotted up about a) making herself available and vulnerable to Chris, b) what his rejection might mean, c) whether she was now a big ol' hypocrite, d) what Chris must think of her now, e) to be crudely blunt, how horny she is, which is a completely valid human state of mind. I'd liked to have seen where they went with that - maybe even a situation where Riggins, of all people, tried to keep her at arm's length for his own conflicted reasons.

I'm going to hate it if this is the last episode, given that we won't get to see codas from Tyra, Grandma Saracen, Buddy, Julie, or one last exquisitely observed interaction between the Taylor family. Or, for that matter, one final lingering panoramic view of the early evening Texas sky.

Though we did get at least one more Wilco song.

Bobman said...

I'm a bit confused about the discussion of Smash's alternative options (arena football vs. Whitmore? or are those the same thing? I'm really displaying my lack of sports knowledge here)

Arena football is a professional football league that basically follows some different rules (they play on a smaller, enclosed field). So it's professional, as in the players get paid, but it's not the NFL, as in the players don't get paid much (45k/year as opposed to the lowest NFL salary being something like 350k/yr).

This is early non-perfect season Patriots crap almost unworthy of Bill Belichicken.

Aw, c'mon man, we lost, can't you just let us alone now? :)


Did anyone else notice some really strange edits in this episode? Most notably before going to the opening credits and at the very end of the episode, the cuts seemed very abrupt.

Anthony Foglia said...

My thanks to the NBC promo department and Nissan, who's mid-episode trivia quiz ruined the Smash storyline. "Will Smash end up at (a) Bama, which just forcefully turned him away, (b) arena football, or (c) a fictional college we haven't mentioned yet this episode?"

And am I the only one who finds unwanted pregnancy stories completely undramatic? They're just wastes of an episode as the characters "debate" what to do, but always end up deciding to keep the baby. On TV, abortion is so rare as to be non-existant.

mj said...

I thought these were some highlights:

• Billy Riggins in church.

• Street: “No. I didn’t wrap that puppy. You know what? And if it happened. And it’s true. And it’s mine. Then it’s miracle.” A rollercoaster of emotion from the hilarity of Herc’s puppy-wrapping to the realization of the potential for a miracle.

• The Landry-Matt conversation was classic. The highlight of it for me - Landry: “It’s a kind of a really long story. It’s kind of complicated. It’s not as easy as Tyra came into the situation.” Matt: “Ok. Well. Gimme somethin’”. Gilford nails the delivery.

• Talk-back Caller (who sounded mysteriously like Buddy Garrity) - “ I want to know what it is you’re gonna do to contribute to the salvation of this championship season?” Riggs – “You know what, I’ll tell you right now, my character has never been questioned. So, if you’ve ever been to a game live, you’ll understand how I do what I do and why.” A symbolic reference to FNL’s non-viewing audience?

• Caller Lucky Lauren – “So you’re saying it’s ok to hit somebody?” Riggs, in the context of a Christian Talk-back Radio show, with a dumb grin on his face – “At times, yeah, I am”. I howled out loud.

• The unspoken words in the scene with Coach, Smash, and Coach Deeks.

• Carmelo’s Ristorante is actually an Italian Restaurant on 5th Street in Austin, Texas.

• How the Red-Light, Red-Light exchange late in the episode completely explained the Red-Light, Green-Light exchange of pleasantries earlier in the episode.

• Coach - “The World’s Longest Business Trip, innit?”

• Mama Smash - “You come on up out this room. Come on, here”. On, up, out. Brilliant.

In addition to the “give it a chance before termination” reference, I thought it was also symbolic that there were three distinct sets of references to religion and prayer in the one episode – Lyla/Hair/Riggs-boys, Williams’, Taylor gals. I’ll also be praying for a miracle to keep the show on the air. Go ahead, NBC, have some balls and sell the show to keep it on the air. Heck, I’ll pay per episode to see tv this wonderful. On, up, out.

Anonymous said...

They fought at Carmelo's!

Jim said...

Have I become the world's biggest lightweight? I'm about coach's age, and if I downed half a bottle of Jack in less than an hour, I wouldn't be able to make a fist, much less stand up and throw a punch.
...and if Street's babymama is 19, so am I. I thought the whole point of that storyline was that he hooked up with an older woman who was mature enough to take him as he was.
...and the gift touchdown did not ring true, I agree with Alap.
In spite of my carping, I liked this episode. Isn't this show fairly cheap to make? I can't imagine somebody wouldn't pick it up.

Anonymous said...

With this down and seemingly out and The Wire five hours from finishing I think it's safe to call: R.I.P. Television 1925-2008

--AH

Anonymous said...

A satisfying finale. If it was the last episode ever then Smash and Street's storylines wrapped up nicely. Eric and his family are also left in a good place. Riggins didn't have a lot goin on in this episode, but he had such a great 2nd season anyways.

The 2nd season was up and down, at least the last 2 episodes were solid.

It's just too bad this show was on NBC. The only other shows they have that I watch is the Office, and Sunday Night NFL. They should man up and give FNL a 3rd Season or at least like a 2hr finale. They probably wont cause NBC doesnt seem to be that smart of a company. Who knows what kind of shows their lookin for, all we know is Jerry Seinfield isnt walkin through that door.

Kristin said...

My favorite part was when that caller told Riggins he kinda looked like Jesus with his long hair. Too funny!

I agree with another commenter about Lyla. She does just suck the scene dry of any drama or feeling. I wish she would go away. Riggins is a great character, and they are sticking him with her ALL the time now.

What I would like is for some other girl to get his notice. Someone who is not into Riggins or football. Who is in another group of kids entirely...

Obviously, Riggins can hook up with just about any bubbleheaded girl at school. I'd love for him to be blown away by someone completely different. Someone who would actually make him want to try to be better in life.

Lyla does nothing for him, but make him show up at church regularly. He still has absolutely no ambition. At some point, wouldn't this kid be thinking of life after high school?

I thought the baby thing was handled well, but I thought it was odd that she came to Street in the first place and told him about the pregnancy, since she didn't want his input or anything. Wouldn't it have made more sense for her to keep the knowledge to herself and never tell him? That part didn't ring true to me.

Coach with a bruised up face? Classic.

Kim said...

Someone mentioned Tammy growing up in Dillon. From the sounds of it, the Taylors grew up in Dillon, but they moved away once Coach started getting coaching jobs. I assumed they moved back when he got the Panther's coaching job. Make sense?

Mo Ryan said...

Thanks for pointing out that last line, Alan. Makes me a bit teary too.

I have lots of thoughts, but the two main things I keep coming back to are 1) I want to make Coach Taylor's line, "I don't want to spend the evening with Mo!" into my ringtone.

And 2) it can't have been a coincidence that the beautiful Wilco track they used was "In a Future Age." Amen to a Future Age for FNL. Somewhere.

In the words of Jeff Tweedy...

Some trees will bend
And some will fall
But then again
So will us all
Lets turn our prayers
Into outrageous dares
And mark our page
In a future age

nfieldr said...

Thanks to my DirecTV DVR (what a POS, but that's another story), I only got the last nine minutes of this episode. Does anyone know if NBC or one of it's sister cable channels will be re airing this episode anytime in the near future? TIA.

dcdame said...

nfielder - just watch it on nbc.com - it's up now.

nfieldr said...

Thanks for the reply, dcdame. Was hoping to catch it again on TV.... 24" iMac isn't quite the same, but definitely, better than nothing.

Miss Sou said...

I love this show and wish NBC would give the die hard fans some closure by at least finishing up the second season properly.

Anonymous said...

Save Friday Night Lights campaigns:

http://www.bestweekever.tv/2008/02/08/lights-on-send-light-bulbs-to-nbc-to-save-friday-night-lights/

http://www.myspace.com/savefnl

Andrew said...

This was the first time I watched an episode of FNL on my computer, rather than on my TV at home, and I'll be honest: There were times I actually liked it better on the computer. There is something about leaning in to look at a 15 inch screen that puts you right into the tick of things. It is such an intimate show, it almost works better on the smaller scale...

this really was a nice capper if there had to be one. Sure, it would have been nice for Katims and Co. to have gone out on their own terms, but we got some resolution for Smash, Tyra and Landry, Jason, Lyla and Riggins. The Taylors will always be OK, because they are supremely perfect together. Matt and Julie seem to be heading to better places. Buddy and Santiago made some peace with themselves earlier. If it had to end, this was a good episode for it.

I'm curious: If this was in fact the final episode of FNL that will ever be produced, are you glad there was the second season? Two weeks ago, I think most people would have agreed that it would have been better to die young after State, but after the last two tremendous, albeit flawed episodes, what do you think?

Anonymous said...

No, if this is it then I'm not glad there was a second season. Season one was near-perfect, and it ended (unfortunately) with closure on the football season and most of the storylines. I wish they would've lost the championship, spent this season showing the off-season, season three showing the winning season and season four having the coach move on to college (only, again, in the off-season).

I would love to armchair write this show.

Anyway, I hope this wasn't the end because while it's no longer Friday Night Lights, the last two episodes showed that they can still do it right. I actually hope it moves over to ESPN like there was talk of before.

It's an ABC show, right? Couldn't ABC pick it up and market it properly? And is there a need for this to be on Friday nights? Seems like their built-in-audience would be gone for at least the first half of the season with this kind of schedule.

Kristin said...

I think it was moved to Friday because of the title "Friday Night Lights." In fact, I think it was Alan himself who suggested changing it to Friday night might increase viewership because people were confused about when it was on (it was moved to different times and days last season, I seem to recall). And having "Friday" in the title of the show gave it an obvious day for optimal viewing.

I don't think it was the timeslot that affected the show. There have been many successful tv shows on Friday nights. Ghost Whisperer, The X-Files (once upon a time), and even Men In Trees has done pretty well.

I honestly think the shows fails to bring in an audience because it appears like it is about sports (to women) or a teeny bopper drama (to men).

And when I think back to the pilot, the first 45 minutes, I didn't really like it at all. The camera was too shaky and nausea-inducing (which they have since fixed), and I didn't quite get who were supposed to be getting to know with the jumping from character to character at the beginning. It was disjointed for me. So, those who may have been possible fans of the show didn't stick around to see that last 15 minutes with the football game and Street's injury. That is what won me over.

And once someone checks out during a pilot, you've most likely lost them forever.

Anonymous said...

I thought the pilot was exquisite and one of the very best episodes in terms of presentation and style, but hey.

--AH

a said...

Jim,

From what I've read, it's actually one of the most expensive shows to produce, what with large cast, shooting on location, etc.

anonymous @ 6:41

I didn't mind the Panthers winning state. After all, who knew if there would be a second season? The problem is that none of the writers seemed to have any sort of background that would enable them to imagine how difficult the next year could be. I grew up in a football-crazy town and played on the team (more Landry than Smash, though). The egos that develop in small-town kids after they win a championship provide more than enough dramatic fodder; it just seems that this staff didn't know that.

Still, I thought I would hate this show and I ended up loving it. That's fair, don't you think?

Donny said...

I just read an article linked on TV Tattle that claims Katims thinks season 2 has been stronger than season 1 overall. Is he kidding? I hope this was his way of trying to keep FNL alive.

Season 2 reminds me of '24' season 6. The big difference is that '24' had 5 unbelievable seasons while FNL had 1. It's acceptable for a show to falter in its 5th or 6th season...but in your 2nd? Just too many lame storylines and not enough revolving around the football team.

I love FNL, and hope it comes back to finish season 2 and even gets picked up for a 3rd season...but to say season 2 has been anything less than a disappointment would be lying.

Anonymous said...

Did Season 2 live up to the brillance of Season 1. No. Missteps along the way? Sure. Low ratings? Uh-huh. But to see a promo for 3 hours of Deal or No Deal and American Gladiators follwed by a Knight Rider preview?

Ben Silverman is an Asshat.

Gonna miss me some Lights, yo.

mj said...

Amen, anonymous. Amen.