I've been watching Friday Night Lights all season long with mixed feelings. It has definitely stumbled in its sophomore season. The biggest one was right out of the gates with the murder plotline between Landry and Tyra. Almost right away critics called them on it with most supposing the direction was probably the result of the show trying to make a big jump out of the gates, looking for viewers and a stay of execution from NBC after barely making the cut and not getting cancelled last season.
Like some of the characters of the show, they seemed a bit over-eager to please. Given the focus of the show, perhaps a football analogy about how the green team playing in their first big championship comes out in the first half all nerves and trying too hard would be apt. But as countless movies have dictated, the team calms those nerves and comes out of the dressing room in the second half collected. All they had to do was remind themselves of what got them there. " You gotta dance (with who you came to the dance with)" as The Hold Steady might say.
Football may be the premise of the show, but it's never really been about that. It's about the characters. FNL isn't one of those typical shows that drags you into their lives by making you envious of how dramatic and blessed their existences are. Nope, it does it the old fashioned way, through character development. The beauty isn't just in the big moments; the victorious ones where a silent pumped fist is shared with the fictitious. It is in the defeats and the failings when you see them for who they are. And they're noble as hell. Not perfect mind you, but genuinely flawed characters who maintain dignity in the moments when life attempts to strip you of it.
One of the storyline's coming into the ep was Smash's suspension for the rest of the regular season. Over the past two season's we've seen how football is really the only thing Smash cares about. It's his passion. When the suspension comes down he is genuinely crushed. He's apologetic but still manages to carry that Smash swagger that as much a failing as it is off the field, is a necessity for him on the field. But then we find out his football scholarship has been taken from him and the bottom truly drops out. The episode closes out with Smash coming into the locker room just before the start of the game. His teammates, deflated and angry with their star player for letting them down, have been especially hard on him and he stands before them humbled. He reminds them of who they are and how they got to be here. And as they rush out of the tunnel to take on their competitors we see Smash in the now empty locker room bent over in tears. It is heartbreaking and powerful.
"Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose."With the writer's strike going on most shows have already run out of new episodes to air. Friday Night Lights managed to get 15 in the can before the strike began. They still have one more to air after last Friday's 14th episode, which will air this Friday. With the writer's strike rumoured to be coming to an end I'm hopeful they can get back to work and give us another 7 episodes and finish out the season proper. If not, Friday's show will be the season finale.
I'll leave you with a track from last week's episode. It plays over an important scene between Landry and Tyra. It's by a band named The Avett Brothers. I'm not familiar with their work at all at this point, although I intend to do some listening in the coming weeks and reporting back.
Disclaimer: Skip the next paragraph and just download the song and give it a listen. Ear it on your own terms without my effusive praise.
Then lets talk about If It's the Beaches. When a song hits you in the guts and soul you just gotta ride it. You're not sure how long it will last; whether it's true or not, but like I said, you ride it. It feels purer than all get out. It makes you deny any cynical "heard it all" bullshit that might try and fight up in your throat. It makes you want to call people just to tell them about this song,
"And by the way I love you, man."
First time I heard Paul Simon sing Graceland. The first time I heard The Constantines sing I'm Onto You. The first time I sung along to The Deadly Snakes I Want to Die. They all come from the guts and soul. This song is having that effect on me. Something is there. That quiet acoustic guitar, some strings, the answering machine talkover halfway through. Then there's the introduction of the piano in the last verse. It feels like a baptism.
The Avett Brothers - If It's the Beaches mp3 (sendspace file)