Friday, November 30, 2007

FNL: All apologies

Vacation weekend looms, so brief spoilers for the "Seeing Other People episode of "Friday Night Lights" coming up just as soon as I do some laundry...

In the interest of discussing as much of the episode -- which had its ups and its downs but largely seemed like a transitional show setting up next week's (hopeful) conclusion to the rapist storyline -- as possible in as little space/time as I have available, let's go straight to the bullet points:
  • Riggins' time rooming with the meth-cooking underwear model was handled in just about the right way, I thought. Clearly, there was something wrong with the guy well before he made the suspicious cold medicine request, but Tim actually seemed to be enjoying his time there (a little) for a day or so. I liked him doing individual apologies to all the players on the team (calling red-headed Bradley "Firecrotch" was a nice touch), and wish that the scene had carried on as if he was going to do one for every player, even as Coach was putting the guys through their calisthenics and barking at Riggins about all his future probationary work.
  • Beyond Riggins' return to the team, the football stuff seemed odd. Even in a strange season where the new coach was forced out after a handful of games, shouldn't the natives be a lot more restless when the team has two losses (or is it three?) already, and one a humiliating, Knicks vs. Celtics-style blow-out? Shouldn't Coach be in bunker mode trying to fix the defense, with him as the one letting the marriage slip away again? Instead, the only comment anyone made about the loss was Glenn; even Saracen didn't stay mad at Smash for very long after Smash seemed to not care about losing.
  • I thought the handling of the Julie/Noah story was much more interesting this week, particularly if it turns out that Tami was overreacting to that just as much as Eric was to her and Glenn. I continue to find Julie an intolerable brat this year, but she's a realistic brat, and in the scene where she confronted her mom about Noah, Aimee Teegarden reached down deep to a place I'm not sure even she knew existed. That wasn't just her cranking up the volume; that was pure, unadulterated, unforced rage.
  • On the other hand, Matt and Carlotta continues to bore me, and it was strange how the Smash storyline ended halfway through the episode and largely turned into an excuse for Smash to play love doctor for Matt. I don't mind a lighter story now and then, but after playing Smash's college choice much more seriously in the last episode (and even in the Mama Smash scene here), the stakes suddenly seemed much lower tonight. On the other hand, Zach Gilford's delivery of "Was it Cabo in your pants?" made the entire thing worth it.
  • If it hadn't been for Lyla hitching a ride in the Landry Love Wagon back in "State," I guess this would have been the first Lyla/Landry scene ever. I'm waiting to see how this ends up (if, in fact, it ends up) next week, but the one thing I can never complain about with this story arc is Jesse Plemmons' performance. The kid brings it every week, whether the material deserves it or not.
  • Just because it merits saying every week: Connie Britton is amazing. Highlights this time included her response to Eric accusing her of not spending time on the family, her tearing into Noah, the look of guilt and shame on her face as the argument with Shelley got away from her, and her joy at hearing Eric say he liked her.
What did everybody else think?


Kerry said...

I didn't read it as Riggins liked hanging out with the guy. I thought it was that he knew he had to curry favor with the guy to keep staying there and if he wanted to go deer hunting then Riggins would go deer hunting. I did think that it was hilarious that Ferret Guy had a binoculars flask. And I was glad it was a meth lab in the trailer and not Ferret Guy's Sex Shack complete with chains and torture.

Alan Sepinwall said...

You may be right, Kerry. My point, though, is that living with Ferret Guy wasn't nearly the Afterschool Special ordeal that it could have been (especially this season of FNL), and I appreciated that.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Landry finally confessed. Let's hope that brings an end to the whole mess. I can't imagine he'll be convicted so I'm thinking that it'll be self-defense and that will be the end of that. I did think it was odd that the conversation with Lyla is what prompted him to confess though since they barely know each other. I don't think Mrs. Coach was overreacting at all to the situation between Julie and Noah. Isn't that what most moms would do? I think that Julie's reaction was very typical of any teenage girl in that situation. I agree that Coach's non-reaction to the lousy season is strange, especially when they were state champs last season. I was also glad to see Riggins leave Ferret Guy's place immediately after discovering his meth lab. I think he pretty much forced his way back on the team out of fear that if he didn't--he'd end up like some of the losers he's been forced to hang around with since he ran away from home.

I think the show is improving and I'm enjoying it a lot more now than I was a month or so ago.

Is this show affected by the writer's strike? I don't know how many shows they had 'in the can' before that happened.

Anonymous said...

Besides a few minor hiccups like the Saracen love triangle, I liked this episode. Thought it played just right with the mix of humor. Yes, some silly melodrama bits, but who cares, really. It hit the notes just right for the most part.

Connie is great, she makes it all real with a glance. I'm loving Taylor "I'll make it up to ya in the showers" Riggins this season. When he's good he conveys a lot without saying much. And Smash was needing a little take down, so how great was that?

Noah and Julie, student/teacher hook ups definitely a real possibility, but all kids become enamored of a teacher at some point but I loved how this played out, with blow ups, mother/daughter dynamics (maybe Mrs. Coach was jealous she only had Glen to flirt with) but I see more mother daughter competition in the future.

The show is full of characters who live to compete. They are competitive characters in every relationship dynamic, they can't help themselves even when it threatens to crack the structure of their lives. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Aimee Teegarden was wonderful in that scene in the guidance office. I was really blown away. She's been strong all along, but that was definitely a different side of her.

Connie Britton - is there anything the woman can't do?

And Zach Gilford - I'm not loving the Carlotta storyline, but he inhabits the role of Saracen so well that it's a pleasure to watch him in any scene.

As you can see, this show has become mainly about the acting for me.

Don Porges said...

I took away that Tami was, in part, projecting a little bit of guilt about her friendship with Glenn (who is no threat to anyone) onto the situation with with Julie. (And Noah's a complete ass for not acknowledging the degree to which she was right, at least about appearances -- doesn't he read the papers? He shouldn't be spending time "behind closed doors" with a student.)

Anonymous said...

I think the only thing Tami did wrong was that she should have closed the door when she was talking to Noah. Otherwise, I think she was totally justified. I don't know what Noah's intentions are, but he should not be acting that way with a student.

fregan said...

Alan, please do mention every week that Connie Britton is the most consistently astonishing actor on tv now and maybe ever. I can't remember ever seeing this kind of week after week, brain-capturing, every-level performance on any show. Maybe if enough people scream loud enough she'll accrue enough attention to get a measly supporting actress nom next year.
I heard they have 15 episodes finished. More than any other show.

Anonymous said...

I think Riggins found Ferret Guy an amusing character to hang around with, but when he found the meth lab, not so amusing any more. Rig probably feels he's destined to wind up as much the same type of loser, but there's no need to rush into it when he's still got any chance whatsoever to be a high school football star.

While I hate to suggest anything to prolong the manslaughter (not murder, he didn't intend to kill the guy) arc, I thought Landry getting into Bible study with Lila would've been an interesting arc.

Smash hovering over Matt's breakup was odd, and Matt's whole plotline makes me wish he and Landry were still best friends. Apparently, they don't even speak any more, as neither ever consults the other for any kind of advice or support.

As much as the Britton love is deserved, I'd like to point out that Chandler is still great too-- he's just had far fewer "big" moments to play. It does seem they're missing a juicy arc for him, as the team must've lost at least 3 games so far, and looked far from championship-caliber the rest of the time.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else annoyed that after the amazingness that was 'I Think We Should Have Sex' Matt ends up losing his virginity to Carlota?

adios mio

Anonymous said...

Why don't the opening credits match the names with the vision of the actor/actress? I've never understood why the beautiful combination of Explosions in the Sky's wonderful theme song and the FNL vision can't also identify directly who the actors and actresses are. The fans of the show know them all, of course, but newbies and Emmy voters might not.

I particularly enjoyed in this episode the setups immediately preceding moments of tension:

1. Julie marching down the corridor to confront her mother.
2. The look on Tammi's face when Coach declares that Tammi needs to pay more attention to her family.
3. Smash getting busy with Trout knocking on the door.
4. Riggins refusing to get off Coach T's field.
5. Landry walking into the police station to confess.

olucy said...

The highlight of this ep was watching Smash sprint for his life, no doubt propelled by the Cabo in his pants. Also hearing Seracen throw that line back in his face. I admit, though, that the darkness of this season caused me to hold my breath for a second, wondering if that chase was going to end in a new disaster. After all, it's all fun until somebody loses an eye.

Tami, Tami, Tami. I do not share others' love for you this ep. A pre-hormonal Tami would have confronted the teacher in a more controlled manner and maybe given him a chance to change his behavior before ripping him a new one. I completely understand a mother's desire to protect her child. But she was so completely out of line in threatening him with physical violence. WTH was that? And although the two of them weren't whispering, they were speaking in moderate to low tones, so there's no way that everyone in the hallway should have heard that conversation. She did NOT "ream him in front of the entire school." Talk about my eyes rolling to the back of my head.

Lastly, I'm happy to see that Landy confessed--even if we had to wait the entire ep for that payoff--but I was hoping he was confessing after talking things over with his dad about what was the right thing to do. Disappointed to see that it was after a conversation with Lyla -- I'm afraid he's now really going to drag his dad into this before giving him a head's up that he's going to confess. I guess the car hasn't been found yet, but isn't it only a matter of time? And why hasn't Landry's mother or friends noticed that he suddenly doesn't have a car? I still fear that the father's complicity in the cover-up is going to drag out this ugliness.

Anonymous said...

I too thought that Smash would run himself into a torn ACL. It would have been nice to see him have to explain to his mom how it happened.

About the fact that Tami "did NOT ream him in front of the entire school," I thought that was the point. Maybe only one person heard the exchange clearly (one student was positioned right outside the door), but by the time the gossip mill reached Julie, the word was that her mom basically announced it over the PA.

I'm really not liking the Matt/Carlotta developments. There isn't much chemistry between them, and while he is a horny teen and probably doesn't really need chemistry to go along with it, it seems like she'd need a real good reason to risk her job, and they just don't click well enough to earn that for me. However, Alan pointed out awhile back that Matt's grandma has been doing much better since Carlotta arrived, so they can redeem this in my view if Carlotta does get fired, grandma goes south, and Matt then has to deal with the consequences of his selfish actions.

Finally, I hate the Landry plotline in general, but I just love watching that kid act, so I've been able to tolerate it thus far.

Anonymous said...

I hated this episode. Because it is FNL, there was great acting and we had some great moments, such as Riggins' apologies to the team and Matt picking up Smash, but it really feels as though the show's consistency was killed and dumped in the river. And then the car that carried it was set afire.

Matt and Car-low-ta are unwatchable--we had four here leaving the room to get snacks we didn't even want when they appeared. And how bizarre is it that we have two storylines of kids wanting to have sex with adults, and two homeless football player storylines? Do the writers go into separate rooms and write, then never speak to one another so the redundancy can be noticed?

It does NOT make sense that the Tami character would have threatened to have her husband beat up Noah. There's crossing the line (and I think threatening to have him fired did that) and there's acting like a completely different kind of parent. I don't think it's true that anger can make anyone do anything. That just isn't Tami's style. I found it really disappointing that the writers managed to make her as unlikable as most of the other characters are becoming.

I need to hide my Season 1 DVDs from myself until this train wreck ends. The comparison is not good. Thanks for the phrase "Afterschool Special ordeal," Alan. That's what so much of the season feels like--a mishmash of Afterschool Special storylines (some of them the same), with a little soap opera thrown in. An eating disorder storyline, or perhaps two concurrent ones, can't be far away.

Anonymous said...

Could we have at least gotten a slow clap when Riggins gave his speech?

Anonymous said...

Finally got around to watching FNL-- I can't believe this is the show I loved so much. I hate it most likely because I loved what is was or what I saw it as before. I wish it had cancelled.

Anonymous said...

What I wish Saracen had done was use his lust for Carlotta and sleep with the cheerleader instead. Carlotta could have been the fantasy. That would have played out better.

He has sex with some girl he really doesn't care that much about, and then he is stuck with her. How does he get out of that relationship without looking like a dog?

Oh, well. I can live with the Carlotta stuff, just because Matt needed to get that out of his system. I didn't want the guy to be sexually frustrated forever. I just pray they don't do something stupid like make Carlotta pregnant. That would piss me off.

Anonymous said...

they're gonna go somewhere interesting with the matt/carlotta thing, right? they couldn't have had it go on for this long and then not do something cool with it.

Shank said...

Why is everyone so sure that Carlotta is Matt's first? I think its important that "I think we should have sex" was last season and last season was 9 months ago. I think Matt and Julie probably had sex in those 9 months. At the least there is some question there.
On another note, where will Riggins live now.

olucy said...

shank, in the real world that might be true. But in the world of TV storytelling, these are two major characters and I don't think the "first time" for either would fall into the category of Time Skimmed Over. It's a major life event for either character and will get its due on screen.

Anonymous said...

I think that this was the first episode of FNL ever where there were large segments that dragged. Even though I have misgivings about some of the storylines this season, I haven't been finding the show dull. That was not true this last episode. While it wasn't all bad -- any scene with Connie Britton and/or Kyle Chandler is always interesting -- the episode fell well below the season average, much less the standard that the show set for itself last year.

Chris Littmann said...

It's official, the "bitching-to-football" ratio has a reached a point that finally bothered me. I'm generally one to heap blind praise on this show, but why does everyone always have to be screaming at someone. I was giddy just to see the PRACTICE (we talkin' about PRACTICE!?) field during a scene this week. Still enjoyed pieces of the show (Cabo in your pants, Riggins and the ferret guy), but watching sad Landry made me remember how much I enjoyed happy Landry hanging out with Matt.

Anonymous said...

I second most of piepiepie's comments, even down to the I-had-to-leave-the-room-because-the-Magic-Latina-scenes-were-so-abysmal. The show has become third rate melodrama. When Riggins walked into the Airstream and saw the meth lab equipment I said, "Let me guess, ferret dude is going to walk in at precisely that moment." There's a fine line between narrative economy and generic trash. The show used to walk that line really well. Now it's jumped into the deep end of bad melodrama.

It got so bad I began to root for violence in every scene: Riggins kills Ferret Guy! Saracen sexually assaults Carlotta! Tami stabs Noah! Then the show could just change its name from Friday Night Lights to Sunday Morning in the State Pen. It's all just so devastatingly disappointing after the wonders of Season 1.

Steve said...

I agree with Mary Ann. I have seen every episode of this show, and this one just seemed off -- maybe the least compelling one yet. It had many moments that just dragged.

I hope that as a transitional episode, there will be payoff down the road.

Why hasn't Landry been shown with the football team lately? Did he quit? And what about the guy from juvie, he was MIA this week too. This system of paying actors by episode in which they appear, rather than by scene or per line or face time, has really hurt the continuity and storytelling. Veronica Mars had a similar problem after its first season, and the compensation system has really hurt the quality of FNL this season.

Anonymous said...

I finished a Season 1 marathon on Friday. The comparison really isn't pretty.

Remember when the show had football as the central theme (hence, the title) and not "murder" and "intrigue"?

Remember Jason Street?

Remember when Tyra was strong and bullish and conflicted and going to make it?

Remember when Landry had faith and confidence and was real?

That said, the Riggins on the field scene this week was too short. Coach Taylor once made Smash sit during a major game and fold laundry for taking steroids.

Riggins goes to Mexico! Hey! That firecrotch line was a hoot! You're back on the team, now!

I swear the writers have completely buckled to the network and dumbed down the program way, way, way too much.

Like OMG mattt so tottallyyy brok up wit that cheerleadderrrr! The show has taken a monumental turn for the worse, right up there with Grey's.

That's the shame of it. It was so freaking good last year. Even the bad was good.

Anonymous said...

The laziest part of this week's episode? Has to be the football game. I couldn't believe that the team got destroyed and all we got was a minute long coach speech. Remember in the first season when the whole town cared about the team? I know there was a network edict to de-emphasize football this year, but then they shouldn't have had a blowout. That WOULD have consequences. You think Smash wouldn't care about being shut out right before his recruiting trip? Wouldn't Coach Taylor be close to run out of town for making a state champ a laughingstock?

Don't get me wrong - the non-football scenes are the strongest part of the show. But the football needs to be handled well too. If done right it can help create tension that doesn't have to resort to more age inappropriate romances or murders.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed elements of this episode but agree that it felt like a bridging episode of which large parts were hit or miss.

I wanted to echo a point todmod made about the absence of football. I'm not sure if this was on order from the network, but the decision by the writers to keep football in the deep background has really hurt the show. The entire theme of the first season about a community obsessed by football has been lost, and whereas the football games used to link character arcs together, now the games are just distracting sideshows from the off the field melodrama.

One random question - following this second loss, are the Panthers now out of the playoffs? Last season there was talk after the first loss that the entire season was in jeopardy. My understanding is that most high school playoff teams are typically either undefeated or one-loss teams. What is the sense about how Texas playoff football eligibility works?

Anonymous said...

If anyone wants to see captivating and engaging episodes of new drama on network tv, is there anything currently that matches FNL Season 2? On another of Alan’s threads, 77 commentators have listed their 2007 favorite tv moments and the only network dramas I could see were Heroes, Lost, and Friday Night Lights (I’m classifying Pushing Daisies, Ugly Betty, and Desperate Housewives as comedies). Admittedly, most of the love for FNL in the other thread was Spring's end of Season 1 but, quite frankly, the love for Lost and Heroes was for Spring 2007, too. Is there any new drama on network tv that currently matches the quality of FNL? It's intriguing what a shift in comparative benchmarks can do. And I also find it intriguing that on the one hand NBC has allegedly dumbed down the show and made it so melodramatic and yet the episodes continue to be slow and subtle. If NBC execs truly were calling the shots on plotlines, do you think they would have 1. approved the past two episodes that some commentators have labeled as "fillers" or "slow" and 2. resorted to the switch and bait tactic of revealing Landry's confession in last week's promos when it was just tagged onto the end of this week's episode? Nope, these past two episodes (dare I say like some of the episodes in last year's unforgettable season 1) are developing characters, not the melodramatic plotlines that NBC execs allegedly want.

Anonymous said...


I am one of the commenters who thought season 1 of FNL provided some of the greatest dramatic moments in recent TV memory. However in my opinion season 2 is awful and seems to be written by an entirely different set of writers. In fact, I can't think of a show I've watched that's dropped in quality over a season as much as FNL.

I think this episode it hit me how much having football as a backdrop and plot driving force was critical to this show. I'm not a big football fan, but the sport is inherently dramatic and can tell a fascinating story in a town like season 1 Dillon. And season 1 would not have a loss of 37-0 be a mere afterthought- it would be a critical point of the show.

FNL really is missing the mark across the board for me now and I might be getting close to giving up on it. Which is painful to even think, as I was the biggest cheerleader of the show to my friends last year. All just my opinion, of course and I don't begrudge anyone that still thinks it is must-see TV.

Anonymous said...

Agree w/ everyone above on the extreme drop in quality this year, despite the quality of acting remaining relatively solid-to-superb across the board. In my view, this was the worst (meaning uninteresting and inconsistent w/ characters' personaliies/characters) episode to date, just edging out the previous episode. The only scene this week that came close to the consistent season 1 brilliance was the Riggins return/apology to the team scene. The relative ambivalence to the loss was in no way consistent with the show up to this point, and apparently, the town of Dillon has abandoned its passion for high school football. Connie Britton's character, while justly somewhat more emotional post-pregnancy/post-Kyle Chandler separation period, was still uncharacteristically reckless w/ the undressing of possible-perv English teacher w/ doors open within earshot of the student populace. Smash's recruiting trip storyline had some promise but was immediately abandoned, while the unrealistic, soap-operaish/ melodramatic storylines (Saracen-Carlotta; Landry manslaughter) continued to bog down the whole operation. I had been hopeful early in the season that some of the initial S2 kinks could be worked out and a return to close to season 1 form could be achieved; right now, i'm just hoping for one or two storylines to keep the series afloat, and hopefully get a few more brilliant episodes before the series meets its inevitable demise.

Anonymous said...

Story ines in everything are getting worse though. As is the actually way TV series are made. There so much money in it and they can't even get things right! Acting isn't a problem just the way things are done in my opinion!