Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday Night Lights: Stuck next to Midland with you

Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" coming up just as soon as I catch a pig...

Questions I still need answers to after watching "How Did I Get Here?":
  • Given the show's historical lack of any notable defensive players, not to mention Landry's ascendancy last week at tight end, why would the writers or Coach Taylor consider putting a completely inexperienced guy with bad hands like Santiago at a skill position like tight end?
  • Why didn't Street or Lyla or even Riggins himself tell Coach the reason for his "sojourn," which just might have been compelling enough to get Tim out of the doghouse and back on the team?
  • Why doesn't an apparently smart veteran lawman like Landry's dad realize that disappearing/burning one of the 20 cars in town that match the list the detectives are using will just point a shiny neon sign of guilt at his son?
The Santiago question is kind of football geek minutiae, but the other two are contrivances designed to keep stories moving when they otherwise might be over. I actually don't mind the Riggins storyline (more on that below), but somebody somewhere needed to bring up the Mexico trip, even if it was in the context of the three road trippers agreeing not to explain it to avoid embarrassing Street. (That, or Coach deciding that the reason doesn't matter, given Riggins' long list of infractions.)

As for the great car fire of '07... sigh. Glenn Morshower is so brilliant at depicting Chad Clarke's unconditional love for the son he's never understood, or maybe even liked -- my heart was in my throat as he tried to get Landry to confess -- that it makes me sad he was brought in for this silly, over-the-top subplot that doesn't remotely fit with the rest of the series. And this week, it turns out that the Clarke men share a tendency to make terrible decisions under pressure. If Woody had gone straight to the police... um, I mean, if Landry had just called the cops back at the time of the killing, he probably would've been fine. Even here, if Mr. Clarke had just said that they were going to get a lawyer and march into the station, I think some kind of plausible resolution to this story could have been reached that would have kept Landry out of jail and part of the high school world. Instead, he does something guaranteed to bring attention on himself and his son, and to drag this thing out even longer. Jason Katims promised this wouldn't turn into "CSI: Dillon," but that's exactly what it feels like.

That the rest of the episode -- back in the show's wheelhouse about the institutional grind of big-time high school football and the sense of hopelessness that comes from living in a place like Dillon -- was so strong only annoys/mystifies me even further. Clearly, Katims and the other writers understand what makes "FNL" great, and yet somehow they thought the Landry plot was a good idea and a tonal fit with everything else. I don't get it.

Oh, here's another question: has there been an episode yet this season where Tami didn't cry? This isn't a complaint, mind you -- Connie Britton is a fantastic crier, and if ever there was a time in a woman's life where she'd be justified in constant waterworks, it'd be shortly after the birth of a new baby -- but as I watched her deliver that hilarious/poignant speech about going through parenthood all over again and having another daughter who will hate her 16 years from now, I thought, "Boy, Tami's weeped a lot this season, hasn't she?" Not that Connie Britton ever has a bad episode, but this one felt like an especially strong showcase for her. The opening scene in particular was like one large palette of all the colors that make up Tami Taylor: the tough woman who can order Eric to fix the paycheck thing, the overwhelmed woman still dealing with the responsibilities of the new baby, the sexually vibrant woman proud of how her body still looks after all this mileage and another pregnancy, the woman who can still act all giddy and girly at the arrival of her sister, and the family woman who sometimes wonders what the hell she's doing in Dillon.

Tami's not the only one asking that last question. As the episode's title suggests, nearly every character with a significant storyline winds up questioning how they get into the mess they're in: Tami and her sister Shelly having a lot of grass is greener envy, Eric stuck with a reduced paycheck and the added pain in the ass of becoming the school's athletic director, Street realizing he doesn't belong in this world anymore, Riggins trying desperately to get back into that world while he still can, and Julie reaping what she sowed with The Swede. Even the Landry story, dumb and clumsy as it is, fits the "How Did I Get Here?" theme.

I don't know too much of the mechanics of Texas high school football economics, so I don't know the plausibility of Eric's new salary situation. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that a small school like Dillon doesn't have the budget to pay for a big football staff, and that the bulk of the salary for Eric and his assistants would come from the booster club; if true, this would make some sense. I'm glad that there are going to be some lasting consequences to Eric's, um, sojourn to TMU, though I'm undecided on whether I ever again want to see walking stereotype soccer coach Bobbi Roberts (the role that was allegedly written with Rosie O'Donnell in mind, God help us all).

The Street story is progressing the only way it can, even if that means he'll start having less and less connection to the rest of the cast (if he isn't written out of the show altogether, about which I know nothing). Sure, he coached up Saracen last year, and the spinal injury couldn't take away his greatest gift as a player -- the leadership that, as Coach put so powerfully, lets Jason "lift up everyone around you" -- but MacGregor, control freak tool that he was, wasn't wrong when he called Jason a glorified mascot. So long as he stays affiliated with the Dillon high school team, it doesn't matter how well he can communicate X's and O's to his players; he's always going to be the cautionary tale/ghost of the once-great franchise quarterback. (Hell of a way to spend your 19th birthday, watching game footage of the man you can't be anymore. Classy move, Mr. Street.) So what does Jason do now? Presumably he got his GED, and I got the sense he was an achiever as a student as well as an athlete; is there room on this series for "Jason Street: The College Years"? Do we go back to the quad rugby world, or is that no good now that the actor who plays Herc is busy helping the Bionic Woman save the world?

Whatever he does, the scenes where Jason asked Lyla for advice and said goodbye to Coach were both terrific. There's so much history between Jason and Lyla that they can each cut through each other's BS. Jason can warn Lyla not to proselytize, and she'll stop instantly, just as she can slice through his self-pity and explain that if he wants to change, he just has to do it. And Eric's exit conversation with Jason? I'm not sure I have the words for that one, or else I just used up the lump in the throat cliche back in the talk about Landry's dad. This is another relationship with a lot of history, some of which we've seen, but going all the way back to Jason's childhood. The child becomes a man, and Eric knows him well enough to understand why Jason needs to leave, but also that there may come a day where he wants those tapes back. Jason's one of the few characters on the show (along with Julie and Landry) who comes from an intact two-parent home, but Eric Taylor is more of a father to him than his actual dad, and that kind of bond has a power that doesn't need very much dialogue to convey.

Even if Riggins' banishment is a contrivance, I'm okay with it for now. Either Taylor Kitsch has grown on me or the character, epic in his self-loathing and self-destruction, has become actor proof (I think it's a bit of both). I like the idea of him taking his best friend's place as a tutor to the younger players on the team, even if he doesn't particularly want to be. Plus, Tim and Billy scenes are always gold, even if Tami the uber guidance counselor should have picked up on the whole "he's sleeping with my girlfriend" line as evidence of a deeper problem. (Back when she was teaching Glenn how to fill in for her, she talked to him about how important it was to stay tuned into problems at home.)

I can't say that I feel sorry for Julie in having to witness Matt finally taking advantage of his QB1 status and making out with a random cheerleader groupie, simply because her behavior was so horrible for most of the season to date, but it's a mark of Aimee Teegardeen's skill that I even thought about feeling bad for her for a moment. And while I'm glad that the writers have remembered that Julie and Tyra are somehow BFFs, Tyra the accomplice after the fact suggesting they watch "Thelma and Louise" was probably funnier than the writers intended.

A few other thoughts:
  • My brain hurts trying to figure out how old everybody's supposed to be. Does Lyla -- Street's girlfriend since the womb, practically -- even go to high school anymore, and if not, why isn't college talked about for her? And shouldn't Tami/Tim counseling session been a perfect excuse for her to mention that he's been held back before, which would explain why Street's best pal didn't graduate after last season? And while Santiago must be high school age, since he got out of a juvenile facility, it seems odd that returning to school wasn't mentioned during his previous appearance.
  • Smash still hasn't had much to do this year, and I still think the reconciliation between him and Saracen happened too easily, but I liked him finally taking his captain's responsibility seriously -- even if it was for selfish reasons -- by trying to get Riggins to dedicate himself to getting back on the team. Not enough Mama Smash for my liking, but I got a kick out of Smash's sisters taking Tim's side on the "don't flirt with my mother" issue.
  • If I didn't want to visit a network website and therefore side with the studios over the WGA right now, I'd want to hit to see if I can buy a Crucifictorius t-shirt like Landry was sporting.
  • Who knew there was such a big airport right there in Dillon?
What did everybody else think?


David J. Loehr said...

There you go.

As a writer myself, I'd say it's all right to go visit the website, just don't watch any of the episodes/webisodes anywhere.

Besides, checking out the store qualifies as research into the networks, the production companies and the rest of their "promotional" items.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree about the female soccer coach. That scene made me cringe and it probably set Title IX back about 20 years.

I also can't believe Landry's dad torched the car. Does he really think that's going to solve anything? He didn't even give Landry a chance to explain what happened that night! Makes no sense...

I've lost track of how old everyone is supposed to be, but I thought Lyla graduated last year. I thought Riggins was a senior last year too but maybe he failed which means if he failed again, he'd be a 6th year high school student? Is that even possible? Would he still be eligible to play HS football at age 20? How ridiculous.

I still like this show though. I just wish the murder subplot would go away.

Anonymous said...

I actually never minded the "Landry kills the rapist" storyline as much as you and the rest of the people until this episode. I've always been convinced there would be an episode soon down the line where Agent Pierce would just talk to baby Matt Damon and convince him to go to the police and confess everything. Even with the cover up, I think he might have plausibly gotten away with probation or community service or something similar (I mean plausible as a contrived TV storyline not real life). Not sure how this is all going to end now that they've burned their family station wagon. I'm starting to get that bad feeling in my stomach you mentioned you got during the first episode of this season.

And the age thing is really distracting me. This episode Jason said he was 19. So of course Tim and Lyla must be 19 also, right? And Smash is a year younger, and Matt is a year younger than that? I wondering how old Santiago is and if they are setting him up to be a full call member next year when they others graduate?

Kerry said...

I chalked Tami's ignoring the "he's sleeping with my ex-gilfriend!" thing to the tacit ignorance of anything that goes on in the Riggins household that the whole town seems to engage in. Remember last year how it was revealed that Billy's not Tim's legal guardian? And this year's comment from Buddy Garrity of how he's seen Tim play hungover and he's a great player? That's the devil town right there.

Anonymous said...

I've been as frustrated as the rest of the people here with the Landry death machine plotline, but after two solid episodes in a row, FNL has won back a lot of my goodwill.

Lots of things worked well last night - Jason's birthday, the introduction of Shelly, the schooling of Santiago by Tim, Julie's rediscovery of her friend Tyra.

I am especially heartened by the Santiago storyline. At first, I thought they were setting up a new love interest for Lyla. But now, I think they are setting up something that has the potential to be a whole lot more interesting.

Santiago could provide a window into a whole new sociological subsection of Dillon. Also, I have always found criminal redemption plots compelling - whether Cutty on the Wire or Weevil on Veronica Mars.

And I appreciate that Santiago doesn't come off like a walking cliche. A lesser show would have him dropping a "vato" or a "homie" at the end of every sentence.

One minor question about the Landry vigilante justice plot, can forensic scientists really use fiber evidence to narrow a sample down to the exact make and model of a car? I can't imagine that auto upholstery is that distinctive.

a said...

Chad burning the car made me puke. The worst, the worst thing about this plot thread is that all the actors involved are acting the hell out of it. It's almost palatable.

Eric's salary woes made me gag. I work at a class 2 school in a town of 5,000 and they have nine coaches on staff. In order to be a male teacher at the middle school or high school, you have to be a coach of some sort. My daughter's sixth grade social studies teacher basically talks on his cell and regales the class with the glories of last Friday night's game. I'm not sure about Texas, but in my state it would be stone illegal for the boosters to pay the salary. The coach is an employee of the school district. Eric could have suffered a salary cut simply because he left the district and then returned. When my family was looking at moving a few years ago, the economic consequences would have been staggering; both my wife and I would have lost ten years of salary scale mobility. That could have been accurate.

Many college coaches get huge "packages" from radio and TV shows that are basically funnels for booster funds, but HS is a different matter. I think.

Unknown said...

I don't have much to say about this episode. I thought it was excellent except for the car being set on fire. Up until this point I've been on board for the murder and the Landry/Tyra relationship, but I just don't see where they're going to go from here.

All of the scenes with Jason were beautiful. It's a shame if he gets written out (but I can see why he would), because I think Scott Porter is doing such a fantastic job. I've always seen Jason as an anchor for the entire show - he's the example of what happens when you do pin all your hopes on something, and then find it taken away.

More Smash Mama, please!

Evidently the Saracen/Carlotta plot turned out to be a Rally Girl/Saracen plot instead... so what's Carlotta for? I would love to see her orchestrate a reunion between Matt and Julie. They were one of my favourite things about last season.

a said...

I should also say that Dillon is based on Odessa, TX, which has a population of 93,000. Not Dallas, but not Dimebox or Paoli, either.

Anonymous said...

I too hope they keep the character Jason around. There is just something so pure and moving about his interactions with the coach, with Lyla, with Riggins.

Alan, I'm glad Taylor Kitsch is growing on you. I really love watching Riggins and hope they let his character evolve a bit.

I have to agree vehemently with this: "Why didn't Street or Lyla or even Riggins himself tell Coach the reason for his "sojourn..."
I paused the Tivo last night and screamed the very same thing to the heavens. It's absurd that he would be punished this way for basically saving his best friend's life. Come on, people! He was not just on some drinking binge. That part was ridiculous.

I don't even want to comment on the horrible murder subplot because I am in denial that it is even still continuing.

All in all, strong episode, I'm still loving the show despite what you so astutely pointed out.

Unknown said...

Didn't they state that Tim was seventeen last year? I vaguely remember something like that during his visit to the courtroom and subsequent sojourn (hee) to visit his father. It's possible that he actually is a year younger than Jason, or at least has a late birthday or something to that effect.

David J. Loehr said...

One minor question about the Landry vigilante justice plot, can forensic scientists really use fiber evidence to narrow a sample down to the exact make and model of a car? I can't imagine that auto upholstery is that distinctive.

I've done a lot of research into such things for my writing, and when we met, my future wife was studying to be a forensic anthropologist, so I sat in on some of her courses. Which is a long preface to saying that you're basically right.

It's possible to trace back to a make and model of car from a fleck of paint, thanks to the PDQ Database--which stands for Paint Data Query. (Thank you, Royal Canadian Mounted Police.) But contrary to a lot of tv and movies, because most clothing, upholstery, carpeting, etc, are mass-produced, it's only in very unusual circumstances that a fiber could identify a person let alone a car.

Now, if Ford used one kind of upholstery in one kind of model for a couple of years, you might be able to narrow it down that far. But again, that would be very unusual.

So it's not impossible, but it's not very plausible. On the other hand, from what it sounds like, that's the kind of situation that would raise red flags up and down the line, especially if the car were then found and compared to the fiber in question. Alone, the fiber is useless. With a burnt car to examine, the fiber is vital. It's the kind of stupid thing someone would do if they've seen and believed too much of what they see on CSI. Anyone with any experience in law enforcement ought to be smarter than that.

So it sure doesn't sound like they're avoiding the whole CSI:Dillon thing.

Anonymous said...

Alan, nice summary on the finer details for this episode. Funny, I had made the assumption Coach was probably told the reason for the 'sojourn' at some point, even if it wasn't shown and frankly, he just didn't care.

I think Taylor is beginning to show some nice layering as Riggins. He is much more enjoyable to watch this season.

Me, I liked the soccer coach interaction. Possible opportunities the added job responsibility provides for tension? I'd like to see some fighting interactions with the obviously overlooked, underapreciated other team coaches. I am sure they all have inferiority complexes in Texas.

I don't see the murder/cover up storyline ending soon. Just a device to showcase Landry and Pop. Nice acting, but I just don't buy straight-laced Pop now as a co-conspirator in the cover-up. But I will stay along for the ride and see how the tie this one up.

Is it me, or do they keep adding a new character each episode?

Rebecca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Please, please, please no more quad rugby! Jason Street is a great character but his arc is complete and it's time for him to leave the show. There's nothing more to do with him.

BTW, although the murder plot is annoying I actually find it much more believable than the star quarterback being paralyzed in the first game of a season, being hospitalized, getting out of the hospital and trying to adjust to life in the chair, trying out and almost making the national quad rugby team then becoming an assistant coach all in the course of the same high school season.

Rebecca said...

Now I feel bad for watching this "promotion" on the web. But seriously, I'm a college student, I don't remember the last time I watched something on TV and not online @ 4am.

I graduated from a very Dillon-esque high school(albeit one where the Garrity household is more the norm than the Riggins'). While the football coach is a teacher and doesn't receive any Booster funding (to my knowledge, not that anyone would care), parent groups did fund my cheerleading coach and her staff and the drumline coach.

High school girls, especially ones who look like Lyla, don't date guys their own age. That bugged me a lot last season but it bugs me even more that she's apparently back in high school this season.

I liked the episode. I just have to choose to ignore the amazingly stupid, out of character choices, made by the Clark men.

It didn't surprise me that they didn't talk about Santiago coming back to school. I think football and the tales of potential glory Buddy undoubtedly regaled him with are probably the only reasons he's back in the classroom. I think that can be a very realistic and interesting dynamic. I'm intrigued, I'd rather someone gave the team a couple of defensive linemen, but I'm intrigued.

*Whoa, I just took this down to fix some spelling, I didn't know it would do that dramatic, "removed by the author" thing.

Marengo Main Street said...

I'm pretty sure that Riggins would be boiled in oil before he'd tell anyone why he went to Mexico. Why Street didn't tell Coach during their heart-to-heart, I'm not sure about at all. That would have been the obvious and tidy place to do it.

Add me to the chorus that's mystified about Landry's dad and the car. Unless he has special cop powers that can remove the vehicle from the state database....and even that would be iffy, since all of Dillon has certainly seen Landry driving that hunk o' junk around.

Anonymous said...

OK, totally amateur legal stuff here (mostly from my Law & Order education). If the *only* evidence they have is in that car, and the car's suddenly burned, it's like killing a witness. It makes you look guilty as hell, but it also takes away the only thing tying you to the crime, so they can't do anything about it. Add that to the "cause he needed killin'" effect, and they'll probably close the case and give Landry the "we know you did it, kid." look.

just saying...

Anonymous said...

Pandyora, were you being sarcastic? Santiago's dialogue with Tim opened with "Everyone's gotta start somehwere homie" and "She's my friend, dawg" in response to him asking about Lyla, who I guarantee he will either fuck, or be revealed to be yet another Buddy's looong list of blunders. Why Eric isn't being more careful after what happened with Voodoo Tatum is beyond me.

That being said, I think Morshower is without a doubt the best addition to the show this year and I actually liked Alanna Ubach as the soccer coach, although I would've liked to have seen Rosie in the role, if for not other reason than it would be unique, and more importantly, ALAN, it would boost viewership which is something FNL needs to stay on the air.

Any thoughts on the rumors that it might be airing after "Heroes"?

Anonymous said...

An attentive viewing of season one gives you all the ages.

At the earliest mention Julie is 15, and a sophomore. Landry and Matt are also sophomores, presumably of the same age or close to it. Jules is mentioned as being 16 this year.

Riggins and Smash are both confirmed as juniors in season one -- in fact I recall being surprised that Riggins and Street were such close friends in spite of that (maybe US high schools are different to Irish ones in terms of segregation by age). We can presume from this week's dialogue with Tami that they might originally have been in the same class but Riggins was then held back -- not since the state victory, obviously, but sometime before. His age is revealed as 17 at one point by the MILF (and let's not forget that when Billy pulls him out of a bar fight he chastises the other party for hitting 'a kid'). Obviously both Riggins and Smash are seniors now, and they are probably both 18, or close to it.

Street was a senior last year, presumably has his GED, and has now just turned 19 (i.e. he turned 18 in the early season of his senior year -- remember his birthday in hospital with Lyra, oh ye attentive viwers? -- and is roughly a year older than Riggins).

Lyla's age is the only one that is somewhat mysterious, but I think we can assume it's the same as Street's. What she is doing with her life now, and why college isn't in the offing, is a genuine black spot, but I'm guessing with her parents splitting up and her religious conversion and saving her friend in Mexico she's been a little busy. And who knows, maybe they'll get back to it.

Sorry for the length and pedantry, I just really hate when people complain about things that are explained with attentive viewing. On this blog or another I saw someone say it was ridiculous for Landry to become a star player a year after he was being beat up by Reyes in the parking lot -- when in fact it wasn't Landry who got beat up.

And, as far as I'm concerned, this episode was the closest thing to perfect this season has been.

The Santiago-as-tight-end thing is no more improbable than the Saracen-steps-off-bench-as-sophomore-then-leads-team-to-state story last year, or any number of other footballing conceits. It would be wise not to forget this is a sports drama, and that certain 'implausible' genre conventions are exactly that.

There are quite a few reasons why Riggins wouldn't bother explaining himself to coach, and there is at least one that would prevent Street from confessing to coach too. It irked me, but only in so far as I was annoyed at the characters (moreso Jason than Tim), and not the writers.

And the burning car was the best thing to happen to the Landry plot. I'm not sure why everyone is so certain this is a flashing neon sign of guilt, and even if it is discovered and presented as such, it's far, far short of incriminating in legal terms. I reckon we will have to ride out maybe two or three more weeks of suspicion and a scenario like kevinr has mapped out above, and it's dusted except for the repercussions on Landry's personal relationships.

Don't be so quick to criticise a show that is steadily getting back on track just because previous weeks have let us all down.

jogree01 said...

great post! cleared up alot of the age questions I had. from what I remember last season Lyla was def a senior. I recall mrs. coach having a heart to heart with her in a guidance session questioning her motives of following jason to the same college, and pointing out that she had stellar grades and shouldnt be playing the role of nurse/girlfriend for the rest of her life.

Jim Monaghan said...

I'm having less problems with the story lines this season than many others apparently, but I'm also wondering if some of the questions being raised here aren't being answered in deleted scenes.

Santiago as tight end? - It works based upon the fact that he has pretty good speed, and the position is often more about blocking than catching the ball. Witness Riggins showing him how to keep his legs moving and dirve back the "defender" in the scene with the tackling dummy.

Connie & Eric - still an amazing portrayal of a marriage. Hard to believe that it's actually on a network TV show that we're seeing this kind of writing/acting with regard to their relationship.

Smash Mama - yes, more please! I love how she always refers to her son as Brian and never as Smash.

Anonymous said...

someone above said
they'll probably close the case and give Landry the "we know you did it, kid." look
I think that is what will happen. One more scene where the cops suspect him, and it goes away for lack of evidence, although everyone knows it is a problem. Worse case, it costs dad a job.

Anonymous said...

A gob-smackingly thoughtful review from Alan. The thing I liked the most about it was that it prompted some equally thoughtful responses, especially from attentive-anonymous. Many of the answers to Alan's questions have been addressed by commentators here but I wanted to add two cents.
1. Coach was testing Santiago for the tight end position given his size and obvious athletic skills. I'm not sure I saw where he was seriously considering him for the tight end position. He tried out some plays but that's a long way from serious consideration.
2. Riggins' humility prevents him from mentioning to Coach his sojourn motive was about saving his buddy's life. Nor would he want to embarass Street. Lyla doesn't seem to have a serious motive for having a conversation with Coach and probably also realizes that Street doesn't want the humiliation of people they all respect knowing that Street had seriously considered doing something as dumb as the experimental surgery. Street would have been too embarassed to tell anyone. I thought the non-disclosure was completely believable.
3. I suspect the fire wasn't about extracting the insurance proceeds... The apparently smart veteran lawman wasn't being a smart veteran lawman, he was being a father. Do we really know the lengths we would all go to protect our own flesh and blood? And, heck, if we didn't have that apparently ridiculous storyline, do you think we would ever have seen the ridiculously brilliant acting from Glen Morshower and Jesse Plemons?
4. I don't know too much about post-natal psychology but I'm buying into every emotion that Connie Brittain so effortlessly portrays on a weekly basis. I just don't know the right words to express how good she is.
I really didn't agree with the implications from attentive-anonymous that the questions raised by Alan were criticisms. I viewed them more as discussion points that overflowed from a down-deep thinkfest about the best show currently on network tv.
I am visiting friends in Austin this weekend and the city is like a little FNL Utopia. People have heard of the show and love it, for obvious homegrown reasons. It's more like two or three (than six) degrees of separation as just about everyone here that I know knows someone who knows some cousin of someone who either works on the show or who knows an extra who has worked on the show. The word is that Season 2 continues to get even better.

Anonymous said...

Everybody's pretty much covered it all. The only complaint I had is that it is ridiculous that Dillon wouldn't have an AD. There supposed to be a powerhouse football program and to not have an AD isn't realistic. The age thing bugs me and I want to get to know the defensive guys and who is the defensive coach.

I Am Not Hysterical said...

per the concern about Eric's salary, HS football coaches at 5A and 4A schools in TX are well-compensated by the district, not boosters, and could support a family on a single salary, especially in a town like Dillon (modeled on Odessa). And since Dillon played their championship game at Texas Stadium, that means they're 5A, so Eric's making, or was making, pretty good money. Anyway, the Austin American Statesman series on HS football coaching salaries can be found at

Anonymous said...

Alan - I just discovered your blog. It's great!!!

I basically agree with your bloggings on this season -- why else would I think it's great '-) -- and I've been delighted to welcome back the true FNL the last two episodes.

And as much as I hated the murder storyline, I was happy to see the car torched. Presumably Officer Clark will report the car stolen, and that will be that. As someone else wrote, there will be suspicion aplenty, but only weak circumstantial evidence connecting Landry to the crime.

At least until the watch is found. Egads, I hope they just leave the watch alone.

Anyway, enough about the stupidest storyline. The rest were excellent.

I loved the scene with Coach and Jason where Jason quit coaching. Reminded me of the scene in season 1 where Jason told coach that Saracen could be a great QB. Those two actors do an amazing job showing how deep their affection is with an economy of words.

Welcome back, FNL.

Unknown said...

First, a thank you for Alan for the great article. Agree or disagree, I appreciate very much that Alan has kept the home fires burning for this show through thick or thin.

A few points:

Scott Porter's movie career is taking off (he just was cast in the new Speed Racer movie from the Wachowski brothers) and as someone above said, there's not much left to do with this character. As much as the actor's performance has grown on me, it is time for him to go.

I think that the reason Lyla/Tim/Street didn't tell about their trip can be chalked up to the stubbornness/stupidity/honor in these three, especially Riggo, who would clearly cut off his nose to spite his face at any opportunity. Riggins' pride versus Coach's will should be a fun battle to watch. (Though after watching Coach dress down the TMU star player, we know how it's going to end.)

Alan, I agree with you on the Santiago tight end question. My theory is that the show brings in (or aims to) a large non-football crowd, and I think by keeping all the players on offense, they are at least trying to keep confusion to a minimum for non-football types. (It may also be another way for Landry to get further kicked while he is down...he loses his position on the team to Santiago, on top of everything else.)

Anonymous said...

The Head Coach of Odessa Permian High school, of which Dillon is presumably based (per the book, anyway), makes $90,539/year.

Coaches do not have their income supplemented by booster clubs. They do make additional income through off-season speaking engagements and summer camps.

The head coach of Texas State University, where the TMU scenes were filmed, makes just $150k/year. A position coach at a small I-AA school like that makes just $60-90k/year. By contrast, the offensive coordinator at UT makes $350k/year plus bonuses and perqs (car allowance, country club, speaking, camps).

So it was likely a lateral salary move from Dillon to TMU. He went for the experience. That's the most unrealistic element of FNL this year-- no way he leaves college (in the middle of the year no less!) to go back to high school.

It's moving up the ladder for what he does; just like TV anchors move to bigger markets. In real life, he'd now be a high school coach forever(and maybe that's what he wants).

And if so, his wife needs to stop crying about Dillon. She had a chance to move to one of the world's great cities and passed.

Anonymous said...

I loved almost everything about this episode. However, count me in as someone who was disappointed with the car fire.

Obsessiveness to follow...

The powerful confession scene between Landry and his dad almost reconciled me to the whole plot, 'cause damn, that was breath-taking. Especially because I believed, for a few glorious moments, that this would bring everything out into the open and Landry's trial would be dealt with in the same timescale that allowed Jason to become paralyzed, try out for quad rugby, sue then settle his lawsuit, get a GED and finally become a coach. (What I'm trying to say is that Jason's rehab/rugby/lawsuit/coach job did not happen in a realistic timeframe, but the emotion and *motivation* of it rang true all the way -- and that made it fine with me. However, IMO, this does *not* hold true for the murderer/football hero storyline.)

And then officer Clarke had to go and prove that he had eaten his crazy-flakes that morning. Gah! Destroying evidence is a crime in itself.

And I'm afraid that this action has guaranteed that the plot will therefore take even longer to go away.

On the semi-less-dark side, they seem to be setting Landry up for a redemption (hopefully not martyrish) arc, since he'll have to confess not only to manslaughter/murder to save Tyra but to obstruction as well to save his dad. Which means perjury, too. It would make it a bit more interesting (and a lot more appalling in a "Devil Town" way) if he received special treatment at the trial because of his football status.

For the record, I have no objection to Landry's character changing because of some Very Bad Choices. In fact, one of the reasons I loved Buffy, Angel and Firefly was the fact that the characters changed in huge ways. Events changed them. Caring about others changed them. And doing really horrible things changed them. And not just the coming-of-age thing, but also the living-with-guilt stuff.

However, I still hate this storyline for the following reasons:

1. Landry went from being one of the most believeable characters on the show (and on TV for that matter) to one of the least. And that's all the fault of the story and not Jesse Plemons, because this kid can ACT.

2. Landry's semi-delusional pursuit of Tyra used to be sweet and fun. I would have loved to watch Tyra to gradually start to see Landry's worth and then fight her own demons & social standing to be with him.

3. We no longer get to see very much of the Matt & Landry friendship, which was one of the highlights of last season. I mean shouldn't this big huge event be causing strain on their friendship? Landry told Matt about Tyra's assault for goodness' sake. Why won't they even show a little bit about how this is affecting their relationship?

4. Landry's rise in the football team said "clunk!!!!" to me. Matt Saracen rising to the challenge of QB1 last season was great because the emotion and motivation never struck a false note -- his misguided "Daddy love me" thing (Landry's words BTW, and one of the reasons I love Landry), his love of football, his ingrained character trait of trying to live up to other people's expectations, etc. However, the emotion and motivation of Landry trying out for football was never really explained onscreen, IMO. I never felt he loved football. And he actually seemed to dislike football culture. (Although that could have been sour grapes, I suppose.)

Still, I would have given them more leeway if we got to see the look on Matt's face when Landry first told him he would be trying out for the team. They could have hashed out his motivations in a way that would have grounded this offshoot of Landry's plot in some sort of reality. The fact that this was never shown may be a sign that they were unable to sell it. And "hanging a lantern" on this implausible action in the first episode this season (when Matt asked him why and the camera almost immediately flashed to Tyra) doesn't count in my book. I may have given them the benefit of the doubt if Landry had shown any aptitude or interest in the team on his own last season. But that's not how I remember it.


I still love the show and have enormous respect for the actors, writers, & producers on it. I just hope their collective Very Bad Choices causes a change for the better instead of the worse.