Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Friday Night Lights: more real than reality

1.4, Who's Your Daddy?

Four episodes in. I love this show. So far, production values are holding up, as are the stylistic choices with the handheld cameras and extreme closeups. The story doesn't move, it dances and weaves in and out of so many characters' lives, you think for sure they're going to forget someone, but then you remember that 30 seconds, or that two minutes, and that was enough to establish something new, or more, or important, for that person.

The skill with which this thing is put together is awesome.

At the same time, I can easily see that what I love about this show could be really offputting to people who like their television slow and easy. This show does not spell out anything -- Life does not spell out much, have you noticed? We have to figure things out for ourselves, and find the meaning. Sometimes it's just a coincidence, sometimes we get our ribs kicked in. And sometimes, getting your ribs kicked in may be a happy accident that sets you on the path to what you really wanted. And what does it all mean? Sometimes it doesn't mean anything, and knowing your left from your right is all that's important.

This episode did hit everyone: Jason, giving up, until his obnoxious roommate pisses him off so that he'll have someone to fight, if not the will to fight for himself, by himself, just yet; Lyla doing the go away speech with the come back expression with Riggs, who seems sincerely f'ed up over her; Voodoo and Smash, butting heads; Saracen with the weight of world on his shoulders: his OIF-fighting dad's low expectations, his grandmother's dementia, his fast-food job's trash-toting, his gormless longing for the coach's daughter; and finally, Tami and the Coach, the most realistic married couple ever to appear on network television, bar none.

The central action of the episode revolves around the traditional team party held by the Coach the week before the rivalry game. Tami finds out about the party with two days notice, and Coach isn't nearly apologetic enough. Then he totally screws up the headcount, telling her "60-ish" when it turns out to be not just the team but their parents and everyone even peripherally associated with the team. Try 100, 120, Coach? Sprinkled in among this stressful situation we also had the Panther's locker room vandalized, and Saracen being importuned by the offensive line (I think) to retaliate by trashing their opponent's QB's sports car, only to return home to an empty house: Grandma went wandering. Last but not least, Julie has a dance recital the night after the party, and you know Coach will burn in Hell if he misses it.

The best scene, by far: Tami cleaning up a beer spill at the party, absolutely fuming; Coach crouches down to talk to her and ask her to get up and help him host -- and Tami just loses it on him. Oh, it was classic: When I stand up, I'll give you the big smile, but while I'm down here, I'm pissed... Coach did not deal with it all well.

Then he digs himself even deeper by giving a non-apology apology the next day at school, but Tami totally calls him on it! It was brilliant. Finally, he redeems himself after the dance recital with a full and complete mea culpa: "I was wrong." And then they make out, and every woman in the audience wishes she were Tami in that very brief moment.

Kyle Chandler looked like hell in a few scenes, but fantastic in others. He is transparent; you can read the stress on him. Tami, on the other hand, has a beautiful facade; she can turn it on and off, which makes a lot of sense considering she is a guidance counselor. These two are so well-matched, you immediately accept them as a couple. And I love that this show is not just about Coach Taylor, but about his wife and his daughter, too.

Early in the episode, Coach tells Saracen to go for the girl he's interested in, get her into the back seat of a car, whatever it takes to loosen himself up. Of course he has know idea that Saracen is interested in Julie, and the twists and turns that end with a scene with Saracen and Julie discussing Jackson Pollack while Tami and the Coach look on from across a noise-filled room are unexpected and funny. Coach manages to catch Saracen's eye; he gives the boy A Look while explaining to Tami, "I think I just told that boy to get our daughter in the back seat of a car," when you know that if any such thing happens, Saracen wouldn't live to see daylight.

Best thing? Saracen knows that, and the fact that he even knows who Jackson Pollack is has Julie intrigued way more than she would ever be willing to admit. For now.

Next week: the big game; will Voodoo get the start? He was late to practice and disrespectful to the Coach, but that isn't nearly enough information to work with. Buddy has this Mephistophilean air about him; the guy gives me the creeps. We'll get to see how it all goes on Monday when the next FNL airs during Studio 60's regular timeslot.


Ryan Breen said...

Great take on the show. I love it, and I totally agree with your analysis of the Tami + Coach relationship.

The attention to detail here is incredible. What did you think of the most recent episode?

Curtis Edmonds said...

The most recent episode didn't follow up the Voodoo-Smash feud (that I noticed). I was terribly bummed. There's a lot to that that the show should explore -- and now it looks like Voodoo will just vanish into the night. Sad.