Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Night Lights, "It Ain't Easy Being J.D. McCoy": Streak for the Cash

Spoilers for "Friday Night Lights" season three, episode six coming up just as soon as I take down a load-bearing wall...

NOTE: This and all subsequent "FNL" season three reviews were written after viewing the DirecTV cut, which can be several minutes longer than the NBC version. So both my review and the early comments may refer to scenes that were not shown on NBC.

A few weeks back, I asked whether J.D. McCoy was bad or just drawn that way. I think we have our answer. And I officially feel really sorry for our new QB1.

After keeping J.D. in the background for the early part of the season as we watched our man Saracen slowly lose his grip on the starting job, episode six gives J.D. more screentime (and dialogue) than the previous five hours combined and shows us that while he may have the perfect arm, his life is far from perfect. He's a misfit on the team, socially awkward and such an obvious daddy's boy that he has trouble fitting in even with extensive (and hilarious) mentoring from Riggins. And his dad has done such a thorough job of sheltering him from any part of life that doesn't directly relate to playing quarterback that it's hard to see this kid coming out okay.

One of the most infamous pro football flops of all time was Todd Marinovich, the so-called "Robo QB" whose father tried, practically from birth, to prepare his son to be the perfect NFL quarterback. And when I say "practically from birth," I mean that his father put a football in his crib, started stretching out his hamstrings when he was one month old, etc. (Seriously, go back and read the original Sports Illustrated story on Marinovich; it's horrifying.) And what happened was, as Todd got older and got a little independence from his old man, he succumbed to every last temptation that was denied him growing up, and he imploded.

And unless Eric Taylor can step in and talk some sense to Joe McCoy, J.D. is going to implode, maybe even sooner than Marinovich did.

I'm glad the writers are going this route and not giving us Voodoo 2.0, and I liked how the episode gave us the flip side of J.D.'s story by showing us how Saracen's life has improved in some ways without the pressure of that starting job. Sure, it's going to make it much tougher for him to get a college scholarship (and I'm glad to hear Matt finally mention college), but he's more relaxed now, and he also has the time to finally rekindle things with Julie, finally taking their relationship to a place neither one was ready for two seasons ago.

People complained a lot about Julie last year, but I don't think the problem was ever with Aimee Teegarden, who, if anything, played Julie's bratty phase too well. Just watch how quietly she plays Julie's afterglow when she's in the Landrymobile and then when she's alone in her bedroom; so much said without a single line of dialogue being necessary. Ditto the expression on Tami's face when she sees Julie and Matt swapping goofy looks in church; if she hasn't quite completed the equation yet, she's clearly doing the math.

(Fienberg, by the way, is convinced that this is heading for a pregnancy scare storyline for Julie. I hope not; that's a very lame teen drama cliche.)

As for our third quarterback, how freakin' adorable was Jason Street singing both parts of "Hole in the Bucket" to his baby on the phone at the end of the episode? They have to give him a happy ending to match Smash's, don't they? Maybe the house flip works, and maybe it doesn't, but looking at Erin's face as she listened to her baby daddy sing to her baby made it clear that she has feelings for the guy that go way beyond shared parental responsibility, and that in turn means that they're going to find some way to be together, most likely far from Dillon.

I also quite liked the uncommented-upon parallel between Coach and Tim Riggins on the night of the dance, where both men wind up disappointing their special lady friends so they can do a favor for a past or present Dillon quarterback. I don't know if they had to cut a scene of Eric helping Street paint the house or if they thought Tami's line about Eric having paint in his hair would suffice; either way, it's good that our two departing characters have been getting some extra doses of Coach love on their way out the door.

Some other thoughts on "It Ain't Easy Being J.D. McCoy":

* Does anyone actually think that Cash is telling the truth about this baby? And if he's lying, how can the University of San Francisco let in a girl as gullible as Tyra? Or is it her fault coming from such a terrible nature/nurture situation with her mom and Mindy?

* For a kid in a middle-of-nowhere school where he's supposed to be a major outcast, Landry sure has had a lot of luck finding kindred female spirits, hasn't he? Even if you leave out Tyra, Devin the singing bass player looks to be an even better match for him than wee Jean (who has since acquired superspeed and is pretending to be in love with Matt Parkman). I also liked that Landry knows his band well enough to know that the drummer would come back, and that Matt acknowledges to Julie what the writing staff should have made clear a long time ago: Landry is strictly a Panther benchwarmer.

* How many episodes was Lyla absent before this one? And did anybody really miss her?

* I want Tim Riggins to play tour guide in my town, don't you? My favorite part of the travelogue was explaining to J.D. that if he ever goes into Smitty's Bar, "You know me as Toby, two-time Iraq war veteran."

* Was Billy always this stupid, or have they dumbed him down to make Tim look smarter this season? I vaguely recall him being somewhat level-headed and responsible (at least compared to Tim) in seasons past.

* I love how, by the time Matt and Julie are done cracking jokes about Grandma's argument with Coach, they come back to find Grandma admitting that she can't stay mad at Eric. The man is very, very charming.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

The Todd Marinovich comparison is right on. I think we've all said that a few times leading up to this.

As I said in my writeup, I'm glad we aren't getting J.D. being played as a tool. I think establishing him as a viable character gives me some sort of brief hope for another season.

I'm ecstatic about the Matt-Julie stuff from this episode. The glances, the awkward foot fidgeting in the grocery store. And you better believe Mrs. Taylor caught the look at church.

Funny you mention a pregnancy scare, because I was thinking that could be the road for Tyra rather than Julie.

Also, I quite liked the Street stuff, which I didn't think I'd be as warm to last week, but they did some good stuff with it this time around.

Two great moments in terms of humor in this one: the wedding dress scene and the auditions for the bass player. I hope Devin sticks around for a while. It keeps Landry in a world he's better suited to be in for this show.

Football stickler point: J.D. McCoy's dad says the team is three weeks away from the playoffs, but they've only played five games. That's a kind of short HS football season, no?

As to your question about Billy, I think it's clear the Riggins/Collette clan has become strictly comedic relief. I think it works.

Anyway, another really good episode. Not as good as "Hello, Goodbye," mind you, but this season just really continues to be very strong.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I meant to say, there's a very Summer and Seth from The O.C. quality to Matt and Julie in this episode ... or maybe I've just been watching too much of that on Soapnet lately. It just struck me as a similar cute-but-awkward courtship.

Anonymous said...

The paint-in-the-hair dialogue said a lot about Coach. It's subtle but he actually catches himself about to lie to his wife about having the paint in his hair and instead admits the paint is there and tells his wife not to worry about it. I also loved the beautiful filming of the dialogue-less afterglow scene and the smile-stealing at church that was noticed by Mrs T. But the heart-tugging highlight of the night for me was that of Street singing to his son over the phone. Watched that scene five times in succession. The first time caught me by surprise and undid me. The others were just pure joy. Other notes:
- the consistency of Riggins - the boy's name is one-two, not J.D.
- Joe's "anything else he's done that I should know about" was unexpected but a clear attack on Coach.
- Joe's straying eyes as he comments at church on how beautiful the baby is. The difference between the charm of Joe and the charm of Coach (e.g., with Grandma at the supermarket) is striking and very well-played.
- An absent Buddy Garritty is normally not a good sign for an FNL episode. Tonight it wasn't at all noticeable.

Matthew said...

Just checking - was this post supposed to have a "Freaks and Geeks", or was that an Autocomplete mistake?

Anonymous said...

They have to give him a happy ending to match Smash's, don't they?

I kind of hope not. I tend to be very frugal about happy endings. If one character gets one, I inevitably hope that the next one doesn't to maintain a sense of balance and reality.

R.A. Porter said...

I don't think Billy's being played as much for laughs as you and Chris do. In fact, what struck me most about Jason's sweet singing to his baby was the reaction shots. They were in the background and short, and it's no surprise Herc would be touched, but did you notice how they all stopped working? And how Billy's got a weird little look on his face at first but still can't stop listening?

To me, Billy has always been tragic. He gave up his dreams and his life to raise his idiot little brother because their parents don't care enough to. He's a terrible role model and guardian, but he still plugs away. Watching Jason singing like that, the three stooges finally figured out what this house means to Jason, Billy most of all.

The Marinovich storyline started coming into focus a week or two ago and I'm glad to see it. I think it'll be a really rich vein. My only problem was that I think the writers made Coach do something he'd never do in order to make it happen. Coach would never have made *Tim* responsible for bringing the fragile freshman under his wing. But if that hadn't happened, the writers couldn't have gotten JD drunk as easily.

My review, including my thoughts on how Tyra could get into USF on the Eddie Sutton plan, is here.

Anonymous said...

I think the Coach recognizes that while Tim is no role model, he is someone that could bring JD out of his shell, as well as bring him closer to the team, given he is the team captain. With the Tim taking care of Julie thing last year, I think the Coach has gained a certain amount of trust in him, in spite of his self destructive tendencies.

And yes, Tim is the unlikely ultimate tour guide/mentor. Think he could get a job as the Dillon welcoming wagon?

Aw, and I couldn't help but smile at the whole Matt and Julie thing. Sappy? Yes. But oh, so adorable. That little smile at herself in the mirror was a great scene, not to mention the cute smiles at the church - no words necessary.

Anyway, I'm loving the show this season.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Just checking - was this post supposed to have a "Freaks and Geeks", or was that an Autocomplete mistake?

Autocomplete. Thanks.

Merrylegs said...

I think the problems Billy was having with the house were emblematic of his problem's with authority. We know that Billy has gone for job to job to job. Didn't Riggins say something to the effect of "Billy can't keep a job more than 6 months" last season? Jason, on the other hand, is used to be a leader. Tim is used to following that leadership, which is why Tim was not complaining like Billy was. Herc doesn't like Jason's barking orders either, but probably for more practical reasons than Billy. Anyway, that is how I read it.

Anonymous said...

Is FNL available online somewhere or am I stuck waiting for NBC to air it in the spring?

Joan said...

I loved this bit of dialog:
Matt: I borrowed Landry's car.
Julie: And you drove it over here...?

Actually, what I love about this entire show is how much isn't said -- particularly between Matt and Julie, but also between many of the other characters, too. It's perfectly under-written, and one of the ways they can get away with having such a large cast and giving them all (mostly) ample attention.

I love watching Eric watch McCoy, you can practically see his gears turning, figuring out how he's going to tell that man to back off his son before the kid implodes.

I wouldn't mind a "happy" ending for Street. His life is never going to be easy, but my heart leapt, and I'm sure his did, too, when Erin slipped and said "We love you" before she backtracked to saying "We miss you." That scene was fantastic. Scott Porter is something else.

Unknown said...

You're stuck waiting for the spring. DirectTV paid a lot of money to make sure you can't watch it anywhere else, bud.

R.A. Porter said...

@jennifer and that money is what's giving us this great season. As much as I want everyone to see what I'm seeing now, if it means a 4th season and beyond, I'd rather this one stay *completely* offline.

I haven't looked to see if there are any torrents out there. I really hope there aren't. I want the DirecTV experiment to work.

Anonymous said...

until last week, timewarner consumers of Austin (the one place where ratings of FNL actually thrived last year) were going to be shut out of FNL in the Spring on NBC, too.
Forgot to mention that young Noah goo'd on cue when his Dad said goodbye to him on the phone (or was his goo dubbed in?). I'd like to see a flash-forward episode where Noah and Gracie get married. The, father of the bride's speech, alone, would be worth it.

Anonymous said...

I do like the "P Berg" locker in the screencap. Maybe next week there will be a "B Bissinger" there.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The other one, for J. Reiner, is for Jeffrey Reiner, one of the series' chief directors and producers.

Anonymous said...

FYI this whole season is online in the form of torrents.

Wilcox said...

I can't help but think about the comment Coach made to Saracen, back in episode two of season one, about how his own father was on him day in, day out, and still thought he should've made the NFL. I'm sure his experience paled in comparison to what he's seeing between J.D. and Joe McCoy, but it might be hitting close to home.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Football stickler point: J.D. McCoy's dad says the team is three weeks away from the playoffs, but they've only played five games. That's a kind of short HS football season, no?

I think we have to assume that they're skipping past some games due to the condensed nature of the season. Even with a game an episode, plus a bye week, 13 episodes isn't enough time to show a full high school football season plus playoffs, is it?

Anonymous said...

In Texas HS football there are 10 regular season games and six playoff games if the team makes the Championship game. In FNL they've shown 5 games this season and they are 3 weeks away from playoffs so they've skipped two regular season games. If all 3 remaining regular season games are shown, that leaves 3 episodes for the playoffs. So, either they're eliminated during the playoffs or if they make State again there will be some games dropped or combined into one episode.

Anonymous said...

oops, I meant to say, that leaves 4 (not 3) episodes for playoffs.

Sister T said...

It's very distracting to me as a Longhorn fan that they've given J.D. the last name McCoy AND #12. (Especially since I think of him as more of a Chris Simms to Matt Saracen's Major Applewhite....unless Matt is Jevan Snead)

I love this show. It makes me smile. And it makes me laugh out loud. Kyle Chandler's face in the final shot as he walked away from Street in the lumber yard reduced me to giggles. Chandler amazes me with how much he can wordlessly express with one look (and while wearing sunglasses).

Anonymous said...

Loved how the writers turned Matt's disappointment at being benched into a funny line about Landry.

From the moment I saw Coach's reaction to Jason's telling him about the house, I thought Coach would be lending a hand with the renovations. His pep talk hit just the right rhythm -- it started out with encouragement and praise, and then moved to a call to action. No need for an extra scene actually showing him helping out and slowing down the pace: the throwaway line was all that was needed, and made room for a scene showing the solid bond between Eric and Tammy.

Unknown said...

@Sisiter T...

I hear ya baby! Hook 'em HORNS! J.D. is surely not our Colt.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to assume that they're skipping past some games due to the condensed nature of the season. Even with a game an episode, plus a bye week, 13 episodes isn't enough time to show a full high school football season plus playoffs, is it?

Well, I can only speak for the first season (because the second was all screwed up) -- and granted, it was a longer season -- but they did somehow account for games, even if they did the way they did this week, where it occupies about 90 seconds of the episode. 13 episodes, in theory, would be plenty ... if they weren't going to win State.

Karl Ruben said...

Yeah, I have to come down against Billy being stupid. He's acting rash and insecure because of the perfect storm the writers have brewed in his life at the moment. He has rushed into a wedding situation that surely brings with it a lot of second (and third and fourth) thoughts. And he has sunk all of his money in a scheme that he's been talked into by a couple of teenagers and a joker he doesn't even know. He certainly has made a bunch of unwise choices, but I read his behaviour as more of a result of his bafflement and frustration at the mess he's landed himself in, than of stupidity.

And can the complaining about the DirecTV exclusivity stop, already? Living overseas, I've had to wait considerably longer than a handful of months for shows to come on over there, or for delayed DVD releases. FNL is more than worth this short wait.

Anonymous said...

I think of Marinovich every time JD comes onscreen. Good call, Alan! It's only gonna end in disaster for "1-2."

erin said...

I'm just adoring this season. And when you talk about how good an ep is by how much it made you cry, i just CRIED at the love glow of Julie and Matt. Those characters earned it over the past 3 seasons, and they both just expressed so much. It's nice they have finally balancd out some of Matt's unfairness and sadness with the Julie development. And she's much more palatable when she's happy with him!

And i always love Riggins (and I like his chemistry with Lyla)--he's the perfect guy to make you feel cooler just by being with him. I'm not sure what his future holds, but truly--that is a talent in and of itself.

And Street--I'm sorry there's not more for scott porter to do than just 4 weeks of work. He's amazing and he makes that character just sing.

Zac F. said...

I wonder how much longer Coach can hold off on keeping himself from blowing up at Joe McCoy? I too got the Marinovich angle from his actions. I could tell Coach was more mad at Joe for forcing J.D. to apologize after church than he was at J.D. for getting drunk.

Is it me or did I see a very faint blue dot on J.D. as he was running the Naked Mile? It totally reminded me of Sam Weir running naked through the halls on Freaks and Geeks.

The guys' reactions to Jason singing to his baby boy cracked me up, particularly Billy's.

The less said about the promos, the better. Do they have monkeys working over there at NBC or what? :(

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the NBC scenes-from-next-week people suck.

I've always taken it as a given that Landry is a bench-warmer.

One real-football question: Matt Saracen is a pretty good quarterback with a state title. Wouldn't a small college be happy to have him, even if he got dumped in favor of the phenom? and does anybody not think Matt's going to be brought back in when JD implodes on field due his father's meddling? I never played any organized sport, but you could just feel the wrong-ness when Joe McCoy barged into the locker room.

The supermarket scene was classic.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Joe McCoy should not have barged into the locker room. That is just so wrong and establishes his son as a daddy's boy. Not really the image you want when you're supposed to be a team leader. I would think Matt would still have a future as a QB at a college somewhere. I was wondering when the writers were going to mention him going to college.

Unknown said...

I think Saracen mentioned wanting going to college in the episode a few back when he was debating whether or not to become emancipated so he could take care of his grandmother. He said something about hoping to go to college next year. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

Anonymous said...

I'm just going to pretend that season 2 never happened, because this season is what the show is supposed to be all about.

Just about everything involving JD and his dad struck the right cord. Matt and Julie felt earned and just right. And Jason on the phone with the baby was perfect in every way from every perspective.

This episode had it all. Bravo, FNL!!!

Anonymous said...

Julie looking at her face in the mirror was one of those perfect things. How many people have done that when they've just done it for the first time. "Do I look different? Does it show on my face? I'm a different person now, can anyone tell?"
This episode in the second half became a corrective for the miseries of the first half. Street's pain at the beginning was unbearable; his relief at the end was delicious. Matt's grief at losing his place as qb1 was simply replaced by something better. JD's social awkwardness was erased by acceptance at the party. Landry, heartsick, miraculously discovered a way out of his mope.
I was starting to think the heaviness of the lives of these folks was too real and feeling bummed. This show sort of took the load off.

Unknown said...

Stuff I loved:

* "Hey, how come Tim and I have to do all the upstairs?" (pause) "I'm going to forget you said that..."
* Coach helping out Jason at the house.
* Everyone's expressions as Jason sang on the phone, particularly Tim's when he started doing the baby voice.
* Both Tim and Coach looked like they wanted to yell "Get the HELL away from him!" when Svengalidad came into the locker room.
* Tim calling him "one-two." Hmmmmmmm. Also the tour of the town. Also his comment about Mindy working at The Landing Strip for the rest of her life.
* "Naked Gun."
* JD finally getting some booze. I keep thinking that kid needs to go through a few hangovers in life, at the very least to learn why careful drinking is good.
* Mindy's fairy wings and "tasteful" crack showing on her BRIDE DRESS.

* Tyra STILL FALLING FOR THE LINE OF BULL. That just makes her look like a drooling moron and not at all sympathetic. I hate that she let him in! I have a hard time believing she's THAT stupid, though yeah, being brought up that way. I wished she'd handed Cash's money to the babymomma.

Unknown said...

Oh, and I forgot Billy's "I've done construction before" and then immediately stapling his hand. Yup, boy is DUMB this season. I guess boinking a stripper does that?

Unknown said...

Oh, and I forgot Billy's "I've done construction before" and then immediately stapling his hand. Yup, boy is DUMB this season. I guess boinking a stripper does that?

Beatuofa said...

A thought for the people that have expressed surprise/disappointment at some of the characters recurring issues/stupidities:

Re: Julie -- since when is there ONLY one burst of teenage rebellion and then it works itself all out? She was a brat and pushed limits some last year, she is being a bit less of a brat and pushing them a little less this year. It's progress. Her parents are learning how to relate to her, and she is learning that she doesn't need to be a total wild child to grow up. Seems pretty realistic to me.

Re: Tyra -- umm, don't we all know that girl who simply refuses to stop chasing the bad boys, even though she swears up and down that she's done with them and only wants a good guy who will treat her right? Considering the abominable example set by her mom and sister -- hell, it's not even just an example, they are specifically spelling out a policy of underachievement and gold digging -- it's no wonder that she can only keep it together in short bursts.

It may be frustrating and feel repetitive in a dramatic sense, but it's also very realistically handled. This show does enough with strategically forgetting people and histories (Waverly, Santiago, Street/Lyla's history) I'm certainly not going to complain when they go back to the well in more realistic fashion with the characters behaviors.

And a question for the DirectTV viewers -- I saw no evidence of Tami catching the looks between Matt and Julie at church, was that something that got cut out of the NBC version? All in all, a VERY satisfying episode for me!

Anonymous said...

can we just give Kyle Chandler an automatic Emmy every year? Can he be rented for important moments in our every day life? They guy is amazing.

I LOVED the paint-in-the-hair bit. It said everything you needed to know about Coach Taylor.

Each week I am blown away by the acting on this show. Aimee Teagaarden was phenomenal in this episode and the scenes with her and Matt were pitch-perfect.

Anonymous said...

Mindy's bridal dress fitting was hilarious...just a tasteful amount of butt crack!!!! ROTFLMAO!!!!

Anonymous said...

This show is so beautiful I can hardly stand it.

I loved the "tasteful butt crack" line, that was just hilarious. I mean, really.

The scene with Coach & Street at the Home Depot was perfect. Coach's having to ask several times--"The Riggins Brothers? Tim and Billy?" with the this-cannot-be-happening look on his face was priceless.

I didn't noticed Tami noticing the looks, either, I'll have to watch that scene again.

Matt & Julie was perfect, I loved seeing him relaxed.

Just: Love.

Anonymous said...

This episode had a nice callback to "I Think We Should Have Sex." In both this episode and that one, Matt and Julie smile at each other across the aisle during church after an important night together, but in the season 1 episode, Tami and Eric were definitely watching (and glaring at) Matt, whereas in this episode I don't think they noticed.

A bonus scene where Julie talks to Tyra is on, and I am so glad it was cut from the episode.

I loved the wordless morning-after scene with Matt and Julie. Both actors had the perfect looks on their faces, and the lighting was so beautiful. Aimee T. was great, going into her room, looking at herself, and holding her hands to her face. It's the first time I've really been impressed with her acting.

Anonymous said...

That's NOT ok. 1. Tami catching the smile between Matt and Julie in church was dropped from the NBC broadcast. 2. The length of the Jason's song was cut. 3. The exchange in church where Joe McCoy remarks about how beautiful Gracie is, was cut. Those last three scenes were exquisite in the Directv broadcast. Chopped up for NBC. Please, would some cable channel step up and take FNL from NBC? The cuts are NOT ok. Some might argue the cuts are not much but FNL addicts KNOW what a difference even the smallest moments make in this show.