Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Dammit, didn't realize it had been this long between updates. I was hoping to hit a nice clip of roughly three "pieces" every two weeks since I figured that's about how often I take down a videogame or a movie of some note or knock down some TV. Also throw in the occasional article like the previous waste of bandwidth I put up and... well, yeah. Issue was, I spent the last two weeks catching up on weekly comics due to my car situation and the piece I did out of that is going up on the AICN and... yeah, again. So this time, it's going to be something I wrapped up last week (and because the Captain America movie will be another AICN thing), and that was the final season of Friday Night Lights, a show that I've really, really liked for three years now and still have yet to establish if it was a guilty pleasure or not. Well, at least until I had watched the show, sadly, go away on us.

FNL, to me, has been one of the best exercises in character investment I have seen in all of my television binging. Does it get way too melodramatic in and of itself? Yes, of course. Did some of the character and dramatic arcs wander into "tried and true" territory for something in its "genre" I guess is actually apt? Yeppers, and it was expected. And it didn't matter, because the reason I loved that show was enhanced by that stuff, either because the writing held up or because the actors sold all the terrible/absurd shit that was happening to their characters. Just because the plot may not have always been terribly original or exciting on paper does not mean it did not turn into riveting stuff when put in front of a camera. Hell, look at Mad Men. Like FNL, you could boil it down to "genre soap opera" if you wanted to, but at the end of the day I usually have no investment in Mad Men's characters and what they are doing because it's just people misbehaving. FNL's character threads, while often typical, hit home for that reason, because I can see them happening and I want to see how those characters deal with them and how they grow for them.

And, yeah, I understand here that I probably have to defend that last part because, yes, I basically just said I don't care about Mad Men, which is actually kind of true. I care about Mad Men because it's amazingly shot, amazingly acted, and I love the period piece. But let's be honest with ourselves, if anyone deserves that soap opera label I mentioned a second ago it's that show, because the vast majority of plot threads come down to "who's schtuping who" and "who got knocked up" and "who's getting fired?!" and so on. You may argue that FNL isn't much better but I'll still take plots like someone losing a scholarship because of a knee injury or Coach's big decision to go into the college arena or any of all the piles of shit heaped upon Matt Seracen over the first four seasons than someone going to fat camp and office romances.

But again, its those characters and how well the show handled them all. Some obviously stood out more than others - I  personally think Matt Seracen might be one of the best characters to show up in TV Land - but all of them had their time to shine. Especially the bunch that kicked off the show as they got the most play time of course. Tim Riggins and his drunken shenanigans, Jason Street and his tragedy, Smash and his arrogance, etc. And of course there's Coach and his life, as Kyle Chandler was a force on the show for its five years. If there was ever a man that could convince me to pad up and crush the man in front of me, it was Eric Taylor. And, I have to admit, as far as "household drama" arcs go, the Taylor family had some really quality dynamic. But these characters lived and breathed, and outside of the Wire are probably the best ensemble of them I have seen in a television show.

The only real shame, methinks, is that it obviously felt like this season was simultaneously crammed together to finish some plots while at the same time doing threads and character introductions with the hope they might get that sixth season. I just watched this last weekend and I can't even remember the name of the kid who came from the basketball team to play WR, it was so obvious they meant to develop something with him and never bothered. Like they learned the show wasn't coming back as they were writing the third episode he ever existed in. Same thing with the Epic character and her relationship with Tami as she tried to save her. Maybe that was there to promote Tami as what she was and what earned her the promotion at the end of the series, but it seemed like wasted space other than to build to that end, which came on REALLY quick. Seemed obvious they wanted another season to build her to that.

But I loved that show, I really did. Sure, it was absurd and in many ways made me kind of hate a sport I love because Lord help me I can only assume how accurate a lot of the atmosphere around it really is in Tehas. And yeah, some of those characters existed as dramatic lightning rods, but the vast majority of them drew me in. It was one of the best pure character dramas I have ever seen and I doubt there will be a show that handles sports dramatization - despite sports really just being the catalyst here - for years to come. It's the easy way to end this but it really is pretty powerful in light of the show, but "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose!"

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