Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Friday Night Lights: Eatin' good in the neighborhood

Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" episode two, just as soon as I decide between the Nachos Nuevos and the Boneless Buffalo Wings for my appetizer...

Well, damn. When a show has a pilot as terrific as "FNL," the show usually takes a small step back in the next few weeks as the creators try to figure out how to sustain that quality without just repeating themselves. But I found this episode even more gripping and well-done than the pilot. I've already resigned myself to the show's failure, based on the miniscule premiere ratings, but I'm going to enjoy this while I can. If nothing else, it'll make a fine 13-hour DVD that someone can get me for Father's Day.

Street's crippling injury ratcheted up everything: the pressure on Coach Taylor, the reliance on faith, Lyla's unflinching optimism that her life with Jason is going to be storybook all the way, Saracen's feeling of being an outsider, Riggins' self-destructive tendencies, the boosters' wives trying to turn Mrs. Taylor into a pod, etc.

Several moments stood out to me. One was the sports talk radio host dubbing Street's injury "just a tragic blow to the season" and then quickly seguing into a rip job on Saracen, as if he'd never heard that cliche about tragedy in sports putting your priorities in order. Another was Saracen's discomfort at getting a spirit girl of his very own ("You tell me what you like and I'll provide it") and especially the scene where Taylor takes Saracen out onto the field to discuss his father and try to psych him up. (What makes it especially great is that you can see on Kyle Chandler's face that Taylor knows this is like putting a ballgown on a pig, but he has no choice but to work that zipper.)

I also liked the glimpse of Smash's Planned Parenthood mom, and Landry (whose parents must be very, very disappointed in their son, given the name they hung on him) trying to find a way to exploit his best friend's newfound celebrity. Hell, I didn't even mind the blatant product integration stuff with Applebee's ("This is a fantastic meal. Fantastic meal."), since I completely believe that Applebee's would be a culinary destination in a town like this.

So what did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

Loved it all around. The show is gorgeous in every way, and it's a fine example of modern television still being worthwhile (when it wants to be). Who is Turner? Did you mean Taylor?

Anonymous said...

What I most appreciate about Friday Night Lights is that its portrayal of small town life is never presented as something of a novelty. A lesser show would want us to secretly laugh at the characters and their misplaced priorities (or maybe not-so-misplaced). Instead, the whole thing just has a brilliant aura of sadness. Though maybe that sentence right there would suggest why people aren't tuning in.

My favorite line of the night was when Lila was sitting next to Street's bed and said, "You are Jason Street and I'm Lila Garity and everything is going to work out just like we planned it." It's heartbreaking because you could see that she almost was able to believed it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alex, good catch. I went and fixed it.

K J Gillenwater said...

I was quite disappointed this episode didn't end with a football game. Building up to it and then not paying out was a big let-down. Do we really need an episode this early that acts like a two-parter?

I still have some problems with some of the characters feeling kind of empty. This is how I felt with the first half-hour of the pilot...all these random high school students who blip on and off the screen, and I really felt I only 'knew' the coach, street and the girlfriend, and Matt Saracen by the end of the hour. I still feel that way. The drunk is so closed-mouthed that I don't feel much for him at all. We saw a tiny bit of Smash's life, but hardly anything to make us care.

I can tell you right now, the only thing that saved the pilot for me was the last half-hour. The football game was intense and dramatic and kept my attention. But many viewers probably didn't stick with it that long.

Just my two cents...

Anonymous said...

Kristin -

I think that we're only starting to get to know the characters is one of the great things about this show. It feels somewhat documentary-like, but with really well chosen music to play underneath the dramatic scenes. It's as if we've been dropped right in the middle of this town and this casually unfolding story and we have to catch up, we have to figure out who these people are and how they relate to one another. To me, taking a year to watch that happen is going to be a pleasure. I didn't realize the ratings for the first episode were low and that's really disheartening.

I like that this episode was about football the idea and not about how well the folks behind the scenes could script a game, shoot it from different angles and cut it together in a convincing way. The show really exceeds at being about the small town life and about the way people go about their days, with the idea of Friday night football as the focus.

Anonymous said...

loved the pilot. found this boring as dirt.

Anonymous said...

i liked the pilot, hated this episode--so much that i deleted it from my TiFaux schedule. the pace just seemed so slow and plodding. and i've never been one to mind shaky camera work but this one seemed like it was shot by an addict with Parkinsons going cold turkey.

the Applebees plug didn't bother me the first time, but i thought it was too blatant to do it a second time.

memo to producers: i'm getting really tired of seemingly every show i watch playing a song and stringing a bunch of clips under it, especially in the last 5 minutes of an episode. try working a little harder to fill your 42 minutes with a little extra story and dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Loved the second episode. I had the complete opposite thought as one of the earlier poster re: character development. I think a story about a football team translates to a TV show so much better than a movie, due to the fact that they can actually devote some time to the more minor characters. I'll also note that a high school football season is 10-11 games. You can't have a game every show. Plus, entertainment-wise, I think having every episode end with the game would get pretty repetitive.

The scene with Coach & Saracen under the lights was absolutely fantastic. Great writing, great acting.

And Alan, I had the exact same thought about Applebee's. The fact that it's the restaurant of choice fits perfectly with the portrayal of the town. lol