I know I was watching an episode of Friday Night Lights tonight, or at least part of one, because of the series of beautifully acted, funny, heartfelt scenes between Eric and Tami Taylor that ran throughout the hour.
The rest of it, I’m not sure. Was that a discarded, gender-reversed Marissa-and-DJ-the-gardener plot from The O.C.? Something from showrunner Jason Katims’ old Boston Public notes, maybe?
I’ve been trying really hard to compartmentalize Friday Night Lights this season, to focus on the stuff I liked (and there’s always been a good deal to like, even as other elements went out into left field) and forget about that which bugged me. That’s probably not the wisest course of action for a critic, but if I’m being honest, I jumped over the fanboy-critic line a good while ago.
Putting everything into its little box, though, is tough when the show makes even its most consistent characters act out. The Tami Taylor we’ve known for a season and a half is maybe a little too protective of her daughter, sure, and wants more for Julie than even the nice little life she has. But that Tami does not threaten a fellow faculty member with firing and bodily harm in front of anyone who happens to be walking by.
At the very least, she’s smarter than that and would pull Noah into her office — or at least close the freakin’ classroom door — before going after him. I also think the Tami we know would be a little more subtly persuasive than, "I’ll have you fired, and my husband will kick your ass." That’s not the Tami we got in those scenes, though, and I’m at a loss to explain where this one came from.
I’ve been less befuddled by the Saracen-Carlotta story — I don’t particularly like it, but his willingness to express his feelings for her is at least of a piece with Matt growing more confident with expressing himself on the field and elsewhere. Still, it seems like the Saracen the show spent 25-plus episodes creating wouldn’t go for a jerk move like inducing New Girl Lauren to break up with him by playing the "open relationship" card. And even if he did take Smash’s bad advice and go through with it, doesn’t it seem like he’d feel guilty for more than a minute or two?
And, finally, have we ever seen any evidence of a friendship between Landry and Lyla? Had Landry been talking to Matt, or Tami, or heck, his own minister whom we’ve never seen before, I maybe could have bought that as a catalyst for Landry to walk into the police station (although, thank heaven for small favors, at least the rapist’s brother didn’t tell Landry about how the guy had a wife and two kids). I imagine Lyla appreciates the ride Landry gave her to State last year, but I’m not for a second buying that as a strong enough bond for him to come thisclose to telling her what happened, or her convincing him what’s right.
What kills me, too, is that the quality of the acting has only improved this season. Connie Britton (that’s her up top) and Kyle Chandler have been great from day one, but the kids, Jesse Plemons (Landry) and Aimee Teegarden (Julie) in particular, have really stepped it up. I just wish their efforts were in service of stories that didn’t feel like they were coming from other shows.
When anyone asks me what my favorite shows are — it’s an occupational hazard — Friday Night Lights is always right at the top of the list. I wonder, though, if someone coming fresh to the show will look at all the weird stuff going on now and think I’m high.
I would tell those hypothetical folks, if I could, to concentrate on the scenes between Eric and Tami, because they’re just about always brilliant. So it was tonight; Chandler and Britton pretty well saved the episode for me (and the argument between Tami and her sister was pretty good too). Eric’s petty jealousy about Tami’s doofy colleague Glenn, Tami’s understandably angry reaction to his harsh criticism, and their eventual making up ("I like you." "You do?" "Yeah, I like you.") — all of it was fantastic, and I don’t mind telling you that I must have had some dust in my eye during that last scene.
The football-related stuff this week was pretty good too. It wasn’t hard to see where the seduction-of-Smash thread was going, especially not after he met the Division I football equivalent of Chekhov’s gun on his recruiting visit. Still, the payoff of seeing Smash dash away in his boxers, and Matt laughing at him the entire ride home, was worth it.
Similarly, Riggins’ final plea to get back on the team worked pretty well, as he simply refused to leave the field and apologized to his teammates for letting them down. Yes, he called the red-headed lineman "Firecrotch" and made about three other pretty crude jokes, but you could also tell he meant it. I don’t necessarily think that seeing his roommate’s meth lab has scared him totally straight, but it at least reminded him that he doesn’t have it all that bad. And it all felt in step with the character.
If only the rest of the show could be that consistent.
Your thoughts on this week’s Friday Night Lights? Is the inconsistency bugging you, or does the great still overwhelm the bad?