Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Friday Night Lights, "East of Dillon": We happy few

A new season of "Friday Night Lights" has begun, and, like last year, I'm going to review each episode as it airs on DirecTV, then repost these reviews whenever NBC gets around to showing each episode. Spoilers for the season premiere coming up just as soon as I embark upon my hero's journey...
"You think you're gonna waltz back in here, and everything's gonna be okay?" -Billy
I wrote in generalities about how much I like the new East/West Dillon set-up in today's column, so once you're done reading that (you do all read my columns, right?), I'll get to some specifics on "East of Dillon."

While characters like Eric, Tim and Landry are all struggling to walk into situations they think are familiar, but really aren't, "East of Dillon" felt very familiar in a good way. The colors of the uniforms have changed, as have some of the faces, but this is still the show we know and love so well.

The gerrymandering subplot from last season's "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" (done back when Eric had no idea he wouldn't be coaching the Panthers anymore) helped cover most of the potential plot holes. Buddy, Joe McCoy and company made sure that any kid with even a vague amount of football experience would be placed on the "west" side of town, which leaves Eric with nothing but scrubs like Landry or untrained athletes like Vince. And so the understandably desperate composition of the East Dillon Lions led to that stunning, typically "Friday Night Lights" spine-tingling, sequence in the locker room at halftime, with the Lions looking like they'd just stormed the beaches at Normandy, and Eric walking from casualty to casualty, trying to comfort each wounded, shell-shocked boy, and slowly recognizing that the only thing he could do for them was to spare them another 30 minutes of beating.

What a rough start to this new chapter of Eric Taylor's career. What a (typically) amazing performance by Kyle Chandler, who was just as good in quiet scenes like that as in loud, frothing-at-the-mouth moments like his rant to the jerk with the gold chains. Frankly, it's amazing he didn't scare away the entire team in that moment, particularly since most of these are guys with no experience in organized football, or in being yelled at by men like Eric Taylor. And you can see how much the frustration, and desperation, of his new job was fueling that rant, and how instantly he regretted it.

And while Eric is struggling to make something of the Lions, Tami finds herself in among some metaphorical lions, as she's stuck hanging with Joe McCoy, Wade Aikman and the rest of the horrible gang at West Dillon - not to mention taking all the blame from parents mad that their kids are going to East Dillon.(*) I loved seeing her take a tiny measure of revenge on Wade by not only choosing tails, but asking for the Panthers to start with the ball. It doesn't get her husband his job back, but in desperate circumstances, you have to take pleasure in the little things, and I always love watching Connie Britton play Tami smiling through well-hidden rage.

(*) Okay, so one obvious nitpick: didn't Tami say that both schools would get a lot of state money if the town agreed to the redistricting plan? Regardless of where all the best football players go, shouldn't East Dillon be less of a pit than it's being sold as?

As we move between two different high schools, and work in graduated characters like Riggins and Saracen, there's not a ton of time for the newbies, so we only get brief glimpses of Michael B. Jordan as Vince, and of Madison Burge as anthem-singing Becky, with the two other new regulars not turning up until next week's episode. And that slow integration is smart, especially since, much as I love both characters/actors, I'm not sure how much room the show really has for our two alums at this point. (That's more of an issue in episode two than here, though, so we'll deal with that next week.)

Like I said in the column, JD McCoy's heel turn was way over-the-top, particularly when he snarls, "This is my Dillon now!" (Shades of this infamous teen drama line?) I can see how he would resent Coach and even Matt after what happened in the last two episodes of last season, but they took a character who was compelling ambiguous last year and turned him into a cheesey mustache-twirler, and who's now 100 percent on his abusive dad's side.

But a few nitpicks aside (and I'll get to one or two more in the bullet points), this was a terrific return to Dillon, east or west.

Some other thoughts:

• I think that the moment where the Panthers assistant coach came to join Eric's threadbare coaching staff would have had more impact if we had any idea who this guy was, or even a name. But Mac's the only assistant coach to get any real screen time in the earlier seasons, so hopefully Random Guy and Crazy Stan will get a bit more developed as members of the Lions.

• Love that Tim once again finds himself in bed with a MILF. Did he and Lyla decided not to bother with the losing proposition of a long-distance relationship, or is this just Riggins being Riggins?

• Louanne Stephens remains a comedy machine as Grandma Saracen. "Landry? Stop throwing the ball. You look like a girl."

• "East of Dillon" seemed to have a higher concentration than normal of scenes where male characters are rolling around the floor fighting each other. An easy way to illustrate the tension in town, I suppose.

What did everybody else think?

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

What was the song that played during the final scenes? Was that Sufjan Stevens?

John Tegan said...

(Alan, I posted these comments under your general discussion of Season 4, but it's probably more appropriate here:)

I got DirecTV solely for FNL but have been fretting about the extra cost since I also kept cable.

That just ended a few minutes ago. I want to be articulate, but all I can really say is wow. What a terrific episode, following up on last year's perfect ending.

Go Big Red!

Anonymous said...

Great episode - I really missed this show. But the McCoys have just lost all nuance, haven't they?

The assistant coach has to have some sort of impediment - you could hear him repeating the ends of the phrases during the anthem too.

Anonymous said...

So glad to have FNL back. Now my son wants us to save the episodes for him but I haven't figured out what it should cost him yet! :) At least this means he might come to visit a tad more than he does now!

John Tegan said...

I agree that, at least in this episode, JD McCoy seems now to have fallen in line with Daddy, but wouldn't you expect that after he saw his father essentially buy and bully his way into getting his son a team and a guaranteed start? I think that the only other alternative would have been to reject his father completely and walk away. Another season of him straddling the middle ground might be realistic, but a bit repetitive and dramatically uncompelling.

Henry said...

So lemme get this straight: Dillon, Texas is now big enough to support two different high schools in separate parts of town, a technical college, and a palatial mansion (the home of the villainous McCoys). Strange. I thought this was supposed to be a small West Texas town.

Henry said...

That blow-up by Coach Taylor was very good. The show hasn't really had a moment like that in about two sseasons.

Henry said...

"It's the last one I have... we're out of money."

That line gave me a pretty good laugh.

David J. Loehr said...

I don't know about Texas, but I do know that around my part of the midwest, when convenient, state money can get shifted around to support the schools with the better athletics no matter how evenly the money is supposed to be distributed. We live between two high schools very similar to Dillon's, and it's a very similar situation. So I don't have any problem with that part of the storyline.

Chris Littmann said...

I think we're agreed that the J.D. turn might've been a bit over the top. But also, I thought maybe he went totally darkside after getting yanked from State.

I don't really have anything negative to say. Really enjoyed the episode. (Expanded, redundant thoughts here.

David J. Loehr said...

And yes, now I'm trying to figure out how many times I can say "very similar" in a single sentence. (facepalm)

The Wife said...

I so wish I had Direct TV. I can't wait to see these episodes. It frustrates me no end that so many people don't watch this show simply because they think it's going to be a "show about football" rather than a "great show that sometimes has some scenes with football."

Dan said...

Anon @ 10:11

I know one of the songs in the final scenes was "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"--looks like Sufjan does have a version of it.

Henry said...

Okay, I could buy the re-districting (since it's integral to the storylines), but really? When the series began, I had the impression that Dillon was a small Texas town (Tyra's constant complaints about the place helped seal that impression). How do they all of sudden get a technical college and that mansion? And where was Tim's college? Close to Dillon or in Dillon?

Dan said...

A couple more things--

I'm right there with you Henry--there were a coulpe of things from last season too that made me think--"Wait a minute, just how big is Dillon supposed to be now?". I can't remember them specifically, but the whole Technical College was another one tonight that made me think that.

Also, I don't know how you can say JD is falling in line with daddy 100%. He's still clearly rebelling against his dad by carousing with women and partaking in plenty of adult beverages.

Antonio said...

Anon @ 10:11 @ Dan

That was most certainly Sufjan singing "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

antilles said...

I'm still disappointed (held over from the S3 finale) that not a single player stood up for his coach. I had the impression they would run through a wall for him, but I guess not. What a bunch o' cowards.

Jason said...

I grew up in the Sierra foothills in California in a relatively small town. Our county had two high schools (now it has three), a community college, and yes, neighborhoods with big houses and ones that were remarkably poor. I don't think it's that unrealistic.

It's great to have Coach and Mrs. Coach back.

Kelly said...

I've never commented here before! I just wanted to say that the town the book was about has about 80-100,000 people and has two high schools. In a lot of these so-called "small West Texas towns" there are two football teams and one is always way better than the other. It doesn't always translate that one school is run-down and one is flush with money. It may be more a metaphor in this case and a way for us to see the growth of the characters and Eric's impact on the school, team and kids.

I love this show and I'm so happy I get to see it now on DirectTV and don't have to wait like I did last year!

Anonymous said...

Alan, how many episodes in S4 of FNL? I'm planning to drop DirecTV after this season ends due to that whole Versus fiasco. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I went to jh & hs in a small TX town who's football team played the original books team. I can over look a lot of stuff for plot & all, (& have) but having trouble with the idea that the boosters actually had control over dividing the school district up. Just not how it works. Still, love this show so much I'm willing to go with it.

R.A. Porter said...

Something I haven't seen discussed yet is the undercurrent of racial tension in the redistricting. It's obviously going to be there, but it looks like it will play a fairly large, if subtle, role in the stories this season. When the parents are screaming at Tami, it's the white woman who wants to know why her daughter is being "sent to that hellhole with that element." After Coach's rant, not a single white or Latino kid leaves and he specifically checks with Vince to see if he'll stay.

Plus, there are the repeated questions to Tami about whether she thinks to two schools are equal. A question that to my ears sounds like a clear reference to Brown.

I think the show is back at full strength and I am damn excited for the season.

More of my thoughts in my review, here.

Merrylegs said...

Loved the bit with Tami and the coin toss. Also very moving was Tami watching silently as Eric forfeited the game. Just a great show. Although I found 2-dimensional JD a bit of a let down, I'm willing to let it slide because this show is so good. Who knows, he may have another turn around, especially if daddy's temper affects his mother.

mj said...

Completely agree with RA about the undercurrent racial tension. The writers don't hit you over the head with these type of important storylines (unlike, say, a tractor-mower running over the foot of a star executive in a Manhattan office) - instead you can just *feel* it is there.
The internal conflict in Coach's decision to forfeit was brilliantly played by Kyle Chandler who masterfully used minimal dialogue to set it up. He was clearly agitated, he got angry at the referee who did nothing wrong ("do you want a dissertation?"), and most notably he didn't even look up at his wife when he walked back into the changerooms, despite walking right past her. At first it seemed to me to be so out of character that Coach would call the game at half time. But Coach has always been about progressing the players as men rather than as football players. What a lesson in life he has taught them here.

Karen said...

The two things that stand out for me in the entire show, murder-plot included, as the most unrealistic are Landry on the football team and Riggins getting into college. Best I remember, Riggins can hardly even read. Watching him throw those books out the window of his truck, and everything that followed, all I could think was, Great, it's that old plot device, Riggins Regresses... Again. I like him, I like Taylor Kitsch (despite the ultra-Canadian pronunciation of the word "college" that popped out of his mouth several times last night), but it would be nice to have some of the growth we've seen in the character actually stick.

Otherwise - very happy to have FNL back. Almost makes it worth our DirecTV satellite signal going out at the slightest hint of drizzle...

LP said...

Brilliant. I don't know what more to say.


Also, @Henry and Dan, Dillon Tech was established last season (or maybe season two?)... I remember it being mentioned a few times through out Tyra's college storyline.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I forgot to ask: what do the new opening credits look like? The two screeners so far have last season's credits, including shots of Tyra and Lyla and all the other old stuff.

sawks said...

alan, here is a snapshot of the credits, mix of old and new

http://twitpic.com/ndptv/full

mj said...

Definitely there are new images in the opening credits. There was a hint of getting the names closer to the images of the actors but still not there. Brad Leland is not included in the opening titles but three new actors are included. The final shot in the opening credits is the final shot of Season 3.
After the show on directv, there was a talking head of Peter Berg describing his experience at directing an episode for the first time since the pilot. He directed the Season 4 premiere.

David Coleman said...

Two thoughts: One, it's really not too far-fetched that the town now has two schools. As I remember, Odessa got three schools over the course of Buzz Bissinger's book. And didn't they say that Tim would be going to school in San Antonio last season?

As for J.D McCoy, I was really surprised with how much of a villain they made him, but then I thought about it some more. This kid just spent the entire offseason humiliated because his coach took him out of the title game, which the team then lost. For someone who's never, EVER experienced failure before (remember all those trophies?), it's gotta be tough to accept that loss. So, naturally, he blamed poor Matty and Coach and sided more with his dad.

Anonymous said...

Re: the opening credits - basically the same as far as I noticed. Just some different names in there.

A few thoughts I had:

* I assume the "big game" for this season won't be any sort of championship, but East Dillon v. West Dillon. I look forward to it.

* They might be getting too cartoony with Wade Aikman. Driving around practice all the time? Really? It almost seems inevitable that they are setting us up for Buddy and the boosters to turn on Wade and Joe and ask Eric to come back. That would just be so obvious and lame. There's something to be said for having good people on both sides of the ball.

* JD McCoy was over the top, but I think expectedly. Being what he's been through, with this huge fight between his father and his coach, and his coach leaves him...what is he supposed to do? There's no middle ground to tread. He either goes to the dark side of he goes to the light. And the kid ends up being whole hog with his father. If we get anything more with McCoy this year I might expect some deepening, but not much. What I *do* hope to see is Eric interact with JD, because that would be something. I would fully expect JD to be spitting hatred at Eric while Eric has nothing but kindness for the boy. Hope we get to see it.

* I agree Riggins doesn't seem to have a role on the show. But as long as Matt is Landry's best friend and the love of Julie's life, he has a place. He's too tied into the other characters.

* Finally...how the hell is Landry still in high school? We're to believe he was a freshman in the first season? Come on.

-DamnYankees

R.A. Porter said...

@anon-10:44am - Of course we're supposed to believe Landry was a freshman the first season. What could possibly make us suspect that the smartest kid in school *who already had his driver's license* was anything but a freshman. ;)

Kidding, of course. We can't expect a show like FNL to provide as realistic a representation of its characters ages as something more grounded in reality, like Buffy.

Snark aside, I recall Katims discussing retrofitting everyone's ages between seasons two and three.

belinda said...

Ah, I've missed the show.

Love Stan already. I just love seeing Coach Taylor's face reacting to this guy. "You're freaking me out!" Hee.

From seeing the team fretting about the game, then seeing them genuinely smile with Eric's pep talk, 'clear eyes full hearts' of course, then seeing them completely decimated and torn up at half time yet still asking to play, and finally seeing Coach call forfeit for the sake of his team - great, great sequence. We don't know anything about anyone on the team (other than Landry and Coach), and already I'm feeling for them. Good sign.

Tami and Eric, still the best couple on TV. I just love watching this couple so much.

As for J.D., I think it's too early to tell whether he'd be a one note 'evil' douche just yet. It's only been one episode. I have high hopes the writers will not give us a one dimensional character in JD, not after building it all up from last season.

I also feel that Matt has a closer bond to the present cast, so I can see how his storyline can develop while he's still in Dillon, but Riggens (as much as I love his boyish good looks) does seem to be a bit out of sync being here - especially since we've seen from earlier seasons how ex-football stars deal with their loss of identity with Street and to a certain extent Smash (before he got his scholarship). Granted, all very different circumstances, so hopefully they could make the Riggens story be different and interesting.

Finally...how the hell is Landry still in high school? We're to believe he was a freshman in the first season? Come on.

They've shifted almost everyone's grade (my impression was that the series started with Lyla, Riggens, Street, Tyra as all seniors (who became sophomores), Smash was a junior? and Julie, Saracen and Landry were all sophs, so all the kids but Saracen and Smash 'changed' ages)after season 1, so while it was a little annoying at first, I can certainly understand why and was glad to have seen the bulk of the cast in S1-S3.

Gosh, wrote too much, sorry about that!

GO LIONS!

Anonymous said...

They've shifted almost everyone's grade (my impression was that the series started with Lyla, Riggens, Street, Tyra as all seniors (who became sophomores), Smash was a junior? and Julie, Saracen and Landry were all sophs, so all the kids but Saracen and Smash 'changed' ages)after season 1, so while it was a little annoying at first, I can certainly understand why and was glad to have seen the bulk of the cast in S1-S3.

Street's age didn't change. He was always a senior, from what I understand. The only problem with that is that his best friend was a sophomore, which is a little weird in high school. But I think they only really changed Lyla, Tyra and Riggins, and I guess Landry.

-DamnYankees

belinda said...

Oh, one question: Is NBC's deal with directTV the reason why FNL can't broadcast on NBC til summer 2010? I have to think NBC could use FNL to fill in its vast holes in its schedule, even if the ratings are terrible.

Alan Sepinwall said...

That's exactly why, Belinda. DirecTV pays a whole lot of the freight for each season, and in return, they get an exclusive window. NBC is just making that window a lot longer this year than last because they don't think the show's ratings are sustainable in-season. In theory, they could start airing the season within a few days after the DirecTV run finishes (which is what happened last year).

Anonymous said...

It almost seems inevitable that they are setting us up for Buddy and the boosters to turn on Wade and Joe and ask Eric to come back.

I certainly can see Buddy going back to Coach Taylor. Not only was he blown off by Wade, he was the only one who wasn't enjoying the guys goofing on Tami. I'm guessing Wade used Buddy to get the good players in town, and now that it's all done, couldn't care less about Buddy anymore.

Henry said...

It's funny. I scoffed when JD, drunk off his ass, screamed, "This is my Dillon!" as Matt and Julie and Landry were walking away. I remember thinking, "The guy actually wants to be king of THIS place?" Total caricature of a character, especially when it seems that he can't remember that his dad hit him in a rage last season. One hopes they will tone JD down a bit, though that seems unlikely.

And how long can the producers keep the new show-two-games format? I wouldn't be surprised if they just scrapped the games altogether (which happened in a large chunk of last season) or just concentrated on East Dillon High and like, we heard the score of the West Dillon games on the radio or television or something.

Rick said...

I completely buy JD's summer transformation. His abusive father got everything he wanted, so life has been good in the McCoy home for nine months. Without his dad on his back, JD has had time to slowly turn into his father- pretty common for abused single children. Also interesting that he's set his sights on Julie, someone who will hurt both his 'tormentors'. When things start going bad for Joe, that's when you'll see the character depth you're looking for. I'm guessing that next time, JD will really stand up to his dad.

bettyd said...

Alan said NBC is just making that window a lot longer this year than last because they don't think the show's ratings are sustainable in-season
I am a Jay Leno fan, but even I haven't watched mcuh of this 10PM show. Does NBC really think LESS people would watch this great show?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Based on last year's FNL ratings on NBC, yes.

Eldo Owens said...

It really killed me when Coach Taylor asked the cop if Vince "murdered anyone" or was involved in something like "fight animals". Hilarious!

Was that the Oakland Raiders cornerback playing the cop? Nnamdi Asamougha?

Great to have the show back.

Clear eyes ... full hearts ...

Sister T said...

Oh Show, how I've missed you. Most enjoyable hour of TV I've watched so far this fall.

And bless you show for playing one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

I buy JD's transformation, but as a Longhorn fan, it's a bitter pill to swallow to watch a Texas quarterback wearing #12 and bearing the last name McCoy be such a jerk. It might seem one note right now because we're only seeing him interact with Matt and Julie, not with his mom or dad.

I didn't notice that "Buddy" wasn't in the opening credits. I hope he's a regular cast member this season. I think his journey is interesting. His identity is wrapped up in being a Panther, and I don't think it would be that easy of a switch for him to turn into a Lions booster. I'd like to see the drama or comedy of that situation, so I hope he's a regular cast member.

Anonymous said...

"Was that the Oakland Raiders cornerback playing the cop? Nnamdi Asamougha?"
Yeah, it was. Not surprising, anytime I've ever seen him talking on ESPN, he's got loads of charisma. Just a shame he's on the Raiders.

HBO2003 said...

Jd McCoy vs. Matt Saracen. When Friday Night Lights started it was easy to compare the characters to FNL Movie and Varsity Blues. The typical stud Texas QB should be a pompus "I run this small town" type of guy. In Varsity Blues Paul Walkers character dated head cheerleader in FNL(TV) Jason Street dated head cheerleader. The thing about Matt Saracen, Lucas Black(FNL-movie) and James van der Beek's characters were they were the oppisite of a Texas QB - they were quiet, intelegent, thoughtful QBs rushed into the spotlight.

JD McCoy - A rich, extremely talented, and immature kid who has had success leading team to the state finals as a freshman should be an pompus *-hole. With his personal coach running his team now, who is gonna ever say no to him outside of his abusive dad?

Jay Bushman said...

I miss Smash's Mom.

Jordan said...

So glad to have this show back. The moment last season ended, I was looking forward to this season. So great.

Couple thoughts:

JD's ultra heel turn. Yeah, it did come across a bit harsh and not exactly natural given his character's turn last season. But if you really think about it, it isn't totally unthinkable. Remember, he still is a spoiled rich kid with a jack ass dad. That isn't something that just goes away. Also it's understandable for him to be resentful at what happened at state. But here is the biggest reason for me. He is the qb at Dillion. Not only that, he is THE MAN at that school plus a year older. A young kid getting that kind of fame is one thing. But with each passing year, he isn't so much some young kid, as he is the man about campus. That kind of thing is very easy to go to one's head. As we could see at the party, JD was very at ease and very much one of the big shots. Wasn't so much the case last year, back when his dad didn't let him drink, and he was timid and nervous at parties. Things have changed for qb1. As they do for a lot of kids as they age in high school.

Glad somebody pointed out the racial undertones. Was kinda suprised Alan didn't mention this. Not only does East Dillion have a lot of African-American and Latino students (Where were all these black Dillon kids in seasons past?), but it's made out to be a bit of a ghetto. Landry makes a joke about having to carry a gun on him. Also, when the players walk out, I'm fairly certain every single one was black. And as someone already pointed out, coach taylor had to make sure Wallace was cool with sticking around. I'm curious about this whole thing for one main reason. Does this storyline go anywhere? Because if not, and it was just a "coach taylor weeding out the bad seeds", that comes off kinda bad, seeing as all the bad seeds were the black kids who didn't want to listen. But if it does go on in a "coach taylor needs to mend the fences and teach organized sports to undisciplined kids", then not so much. If they have decided to tackle an issue such as this, bravo. But if they just had all the black kids walk out as a sign of what coach taylor won't put up with, I fear some people getting quite offended. (note: I realize that after the walk out scene, the team still had a few black players besides Wallace.)

How long until one or both of frustrated with their lives Riggins and Saracen join up with coach as assistants?

One final thing. I REALLY am happy with the change in show's stakes. As Alan pointed out in either the article or blog post, we've gone from rooting for the big rich hot shot football team that has it all, to a team of true underdogs. Kinda makes you look back at Dillon over the past few seasons a bit differently. In the brief game scenes in this ep where Dillon and East were juxtaposed, just how big and evil did Dillon come off? Big time. I can relate to this myself. As my high school's football team was really good, beat everyone, located in a wealthy part of town, recruited even, and won successive state titles. It was my school and I guess I was kinda, "go us". But deep down it didn't feel all that awesome. Not so knowing that we were the big bad bullies. Like being a Yankees fan and winning, but having to know that your team spends more on individual players than entire teams spend. (sorry Alan ;) There is a reason most sports movies are about underdogs overcoming the odds, and not about the big hot shot jock qb getting the girl. Bravo FNL writers. This is gonna be great.

MM said...

FNL - the show to rule them all.

I know that critics love Mad Men, Breaking Bad & Sons of Anarchy. I've watched them all and they are terrific shows. But the characters and behaviors are pathetic, gross, selfish, and/or outragrous (take your pick). I experiece that every day at work in corporate America so I prefer not to watch it on my tv. FNL is a breath of fresh air - average people who are truly trying to be decent (for the most part). And in the case of Coach & Tami, going way beyond decent and helping kids. When an episode ends, I want to cry because I just want to spend a bit more time with them all.

On the racial note, FNL did overtly tackle that in a Smash & Riggins storyline in S2. I like how it is being revisited here. And I too miss Mama Smash. They should bring her in as a East Dillon booster organizer.

Is anyone selling an East Dillon High sweatshirt - I need one.

Byron Hauck said...

For all our love of Coach Taylor, it was still a white QB and O-Line, just like it always is.

CJ at Creating a Comedian said...

Alan, did you compete in any organized sports when you were young? Coach Taylor's rant was pretty heated, but anybody who's ever played competitive ball (including baseball and basketball) gets exposed to the occasional outburst like this starting around 7th/8th grade. It was a great character moment, but I don't think it was quite the traumatic experience that you made it out to be -- especially written as it was for a clean-language broadcast network.

Laura said...

I am really hoping that Riggins will join Coach as an assistant coach. He did so well helping Seracen. I don't think it's going to happen, but I am hoping it will. I like his character and I don't want to see him floundering about.

Mank Goundious said...

Really Alan. Are you just going to totally shirt the racial storylines? It seems very convenient at this point. Is it on purpose?

DJ said...

Man, nothing like watching FNL first thing on a Friday morning. All in all pretty solid. I just started reading this blog, so maybe this was brought up already.

Last year we were introduced to JD McCoy, same last name as another Texas high school and now QB at Texas, coached by his prolific father. And now we have this extremely raw, talented athlete by the name of Vince (conveniently, Vince Young makes his first start this season on Sunday). Part of me is bothered by the real world parallels of Colt McCoy and Vince Young and I wonder if it's on purpose. But I definitely am looking forward to FNL Vince's backstory.

Regardless, how great was Nnamdi Asamougha as Officer Ken Shaw (I definitely had to pause the credits to make sure I could spot my NFL CBs)? Pretty solid for his bit part - much better than his Dick's Sporting Goods commercials let on.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Really Alan. Are you just going to totally shirt the racial storylines? It seems very convenient at this point. Is it on purpose?

Yes. It's entirely on purpose. I always like to avoid the big sociological themes of shows like this. It's not at all that I only have so much time to write each review and can therefore only focus on certain aspects. It's not that I might be planning to deal with that in another review. I'm just avoiding it. Entirely.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, did you compete in any organized sports when you were young? Coach Taylor's rant was pretty heated, but anybody who's ever played competitive ball (including baseball and basketball) gets exposed to the occasional outburst like this starting around 7th/8th grade.

But the point is, with the exception of a few Panther alums like Landry (who also take the thing more in stride than the ones who walk out), these are the kids who haven't played organized sports. If they had any kind of track record, they'd have been gerrymandered into West Dillon by Buddy and his goons. These kids are the rawest of the raw. Vince has only ever played football via Madden. The kids don't even know what a huddle is. So for a lot of them - at least, for the ones who walked out - this was the sort of thing they hadn't been exposed to before, and that they didn't want to be exposed to anymore.

zodin2008 said...

Like fellow commenter Kelly, I also didn't have Direct TV last year and now I do - thank goodness. What a welcome site to have "Friday Night lights" back in my life, in October no less. The premier was fantastic.

I liken the sea change that happened at the end of season 3, with Coach Taylor getting fired and being sent to East Dillon, as I did the end of "Battlestar Galactica" season 3, when they cleared the proverbial chessboard there and advanced the show one year with everyone living on the planet.

The really good shows with a confident writing staff, like BSG and FNL, are unafraid to do something like this and it's absolutelu what the show needed. We've seen Coach win it all, just miss winning it, and we needed something fresh and putting Coach Taylor with the rag tag Lions is a thing of beauty.

No one mentioned this in the comments but my wife mentioned this when we watched the premier, no Janine Turner? Are we to assume the McCoys marriage dissolved? Or was she just "out of town" this week, maybe on a shopping trip to Dallas.

I clapped and laughed during Connie Britton's brilliant scene where she picked "TAILS" (knew that was coming but didn't make it less enjoyable) and gave West Dillon the ball first. I think papa McCoy actually enjoyed the defiance shown by Tami. As I said to my wife, it probably doesn't hurt that Connie Britton is absolutely gorgeous. It will make it easier challenging McCoy and Aiken.

The only thing that was maybe a little stretch was Riggins coming back. I get that Taylor Kitsch is a sex symbol for the show and has a strong female following. Plus, since it looks like (down the road) Riggins is going to help Coach Taylor at East, then he'll have a sense of purpose.

johnnydu said...

I'm from the Philippines - we have no American football here obviously and there's no telecast of the games. I learned to love the sport for the excitement and the grit that these athletes go through. I don't live in America, I have no grasp of the social mechanics, but one thing is for sure - this show moves me - I do not have the attributes of an athelete, but I have the heart of one.

I just want to say that I absolutely love the season premiere. It was painful to see coach Taylor run out of passionate speeches to get his team fired up in season 3, but so refreshing to see him eloquently inspire a group of underdogs to take the field despite their inexperience.

It was a great football breakout for Landry, who I hope coach finally remembers as Landry, not Lance.

I don't think the stories written by the writers would have the same impact if the filmmaking would have been done differently - FNL simply stands out in the way the scenes are shot, and the combination of the words and the images can just about move anyone who looks deeper than just what's on the show's surface.

I hope FNL carries on building up East Dillon's story. From Panther Pride, Blue, White and Gold, I definitely would cheer for the Red and White of East Dillon. Nothing beats 'Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose.'

JC said...

Thanks for the review, Alan. The season seems to be off to a great start.

One question: Does anyone know the song playing at the start of the episode where Coach Taylor is inspecting his field? Many thanks.

Edgar Newt said...

I felt the turn by kid McCoy as being completely credible. I imagined him seeing Saracen with all of the glory over the offseason and it got to him. Couple that with his dad being "the man" when it comes to West Dillon football now, and the turn was to me instantly credible. In fact it was one of the things that rang most true to me in the episode.

Of course he would want to claim Saracen's girlfriend as his own -- or at least establish that he "could have her if he wanted to". She is, after all, Coach Taylor's daughter. Remembering back to the opening sequence of the Series Premiere several years ago (now the opening credits), with the players' signs in the front yards, etc. I absolutely bought into the idea that McCoy thinks he runs West Dillon High and all of Teenage Dillon society.

In short, the turn by little McCoy was perfect.

erin said...

I forgot just how much I missed this show until I saw it again! FNL, how I love you!

Wallace! Wallace has grown up! I'm really excited to see what they do with that storyline.

I actually like Riggins and Saracen bouncing around (but man, how painful to see Matt driving that pizza car). Riggins got that scholarship because of his athletics, simple as that. He probably could have skated through college like many athletes do (I saw it time and time again with many of my own Florida Gator athletes), but he didn't belong. So now he's home, the formerly great Riggins, and he doesn't belong there either. I want to know where he's going to end up, and I think it fits with this overall story. Same with Matt. Not everyone gets out alive, and what happens to them? The circumstances are different (and more normal) than either Street or Smash.

I'm with the posters who believe JD's transformation. He's a kid who excels at being QB, but doesn't quite fit in on his own, he feels rejected by Coach Taylor, and he doesn't know how to fight back against his sucky dad. No, I get it.

When Joe McCoy was laughing at the near riot in the cafeteria (?) when Tami was trying to speak, i wanted to punch him in the face. He's a jerk and always will be. The only unbelievable part of that story is that Janine Turner, seemingly as grounded as she is, would stick around with him.

The series when Taylor forfeits that game (with that beautiful song in the background) brought tears to my eyes.

@MM--I completely agree with you about appreciating the brilliance of other shows (I regularly watch Mad Men, for example) but not being moved by them in the way that I'm moved by FNL. It is a singular show, as far as I'm concerned, that correctly depicts the joys and struggles of regular people, without being condescending or patronizing. And that speaks to me in ways other shows do not. I'm so happy it's back for 2 more seasons!

P.S. And Kyle Chandler is, without a doubt, the sexiest man on television for me. Even with all that stomping around!

Sharon said...

NBC should air a continuous loop of the scene w. Tim Riggins (former underwear model Taylor Kitsch) falling out of the bed, staggering around looking for his pants, & walking around the house w. his jeans halfway on & drooping down. The ratings for one hour of that would surely exceed Leno's highest rated episode & maybe then NBC would wake up & give a quality show like FNL a timeslot during the regular season.

Anonymous said...

MM & Erin - your comments are spot on. Easy to appreciate Mad Men et al. but only FNL has the capacity to create dust in this living room. No way that Coach Mac is heading to East Dillon. Not with his history of racism. Another small detail that is subtle but true to the show. Other shows might have built on his character development and sent Mac over to the Lions, but it makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

Coach Crowley is no nobody. After Mac, he's the most recognizable of the Panther coaching staff. He brought the ribs to Coach's defense meeting, saw Walt Riggins steal the video camera, pointed out that Coach Taylor was among the best high school football coaches. I was happy to see him follow Eric to the east side.