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Friday Night Lights: Post-Game Speech April 26, 2007

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When “Friday Night Lights” debuted Oct. 6, 2006, I expected to like it. After all, I’m a huge fan of both the 2004 movie and the book that inspired the show. What I didn’t expect, however, was to fall absolutely in love with it.

The pilot knocked me out of my seat. The acting, writing and directing (handled by Executive Producer Peter Berg, the man responsible for the film) were uniformly amazing. From frame one, I was hooked on the story of the Dillon Panthers, and I can recall having chills during the pilot’s conclusion.

And then something impossible happened: It got even better.

It’s true. With every new episode, “FNL” continued to grow as a series. It never rested and always found a way to surprise us. Just like real life.

That’s an apt term to use here: “real life.” “Friday Night Lights” is as close to actuality as anything in entertainment. The dynamic between Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife, Tami (Connie Britton), is reason enough to tune in. They are by leaps and bounds the most realistic and, quite frankly, adorably honest married couple the screen has to offer.

And then there are the kids. In a combination of an endlessly able ensemble of young actors and note-perfect writing, the teen characters are an unending pool of depth and range. They’re entirely real. They do things kids do and their motives are completely understandable for 17-year-olds. They do not speak with “Dawson’s Creek”-fake intellectual vocabularies, which is completely refreshing. They’re just kids and we believe them.

While the acclaim for the show has been universal, the viewership has not. Unfortunately, the numerous accolades have not translated into solid ratings.

Now, with season one at a close, the future seems a little bit hazy for our Dillon Panthers. Personally, I feel comfortable in our chances of renewal. It’s certainly not a touchdown by any means, but we’re not at fourth and long, either. I’d say our chances are 70/30, leaning towards the likelihood of a Season 2. In addition to a fiercely loyal fan base, “FNL” has another surprising cheerleader on its side: NBC.

The peacock network is continuing to become a benchmark for quality in broadcasting, and suitably, execs apparently love “Friday Night Lights,” which makes me want to go to New York and do back flips around 30 Rockefeller Plaza. NBC knows that with patience, shows of high quality can become ratings successes. Take their approach with “The Office,” for example.

If only they could get the uninitiated to believe that it’s not a football show. It really isn’t. It’s a show about families.

And it’s a show I can’t imagine not seeing next year.

Truth be told, I don’t know if it’s possible for “FNL” to top its freshman season. But I certainly think it deserves a chance to try.

Thanks for keeping up with the column this season.

— Stalked by Charlie Cox

Friday Night Lights, April 11 April 12, 2007

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What happened last week? Coach Taylor committed to TMU during a visit to Austin, much to Tami and Julie’s surprise. Landry enlisted the aide of Tami to convince Tyra to file a report about her assault. Smash and Waverly recovered from a tumultuous few weeks, and he showed he truly cared about her by blowing off her proposed “hiatus.”

Jason Street began coaching at Dillon and went on a date with Susie. The two were caught making out by Lyla, who promptly ended her engagement to Jason. The Panther players, family and friends participated in a “Panther Roast,” which provided a number of hilarious and some poignant speeches. At the end of the episode, Tami Taylor informs her husband that while she loves him with all her heart, she’s not moving to Austin.

“State” — Season 1, Episode 22

While Dillon shakes with excitement at a town pep rally, Tami Taylor is across town at an overcrowded Planned Parenthood meeting, where Smash Williams’ mother informs her that she’s “very pregnant.”

Tyra asks Landry for a ride to the game. He’s understandably ecstatic — at least until he finds out he’ll have her mother and sister to tow as well. Landry and company pick up Grandma Saracen, who’s waiting for a ride at a bus stop. Later, on their way to Dallas, they pass by Lyla Garrity, broken down on the highway. Despite Tyra’s reservations — she greets her with “Hey, cheating cheerleading bitch! Need a ride? — she jumps in Landry’s already overpacked station wagon.

When the Panthers arrive at Texas Stadium, they tour the locker room and field in awe. “Do things get better than this,” Coach Taylor asks the team. “No, I don’t think they do.”

As smoothly as they were going, things grind to a halt when the team overhears a reporter ask Coach Taylor about his new job at TMU. This causes the players to be understandably subdued at the pre-game meal, where Coach Taylor comes clean about his plans and his high regards for the dreams of his players.

Back at the hotel, the still very evil Voodoo approaches Smash with an idea: To come play with him at West Cambria next year. He says the two would be unstoppable and colleges would line up to sign them. “I’m a Panther,” Smash informs him, declining the proposition.

Later that night when Coach Taylor returns to his room, Tami breaks the news that they’re expecting. Understandably, he’s in shock and eventually thrilled.

The title game gets off to a rocky start, with the news of Coach Taylor’s departure distracting the team, especially Matt Saracen. At halftime, the score is 26-0 in West Cambria’s favor. Coach Taylor, taking into account all the surrounding drama, gives a truly inspirational and moving speech, which lights a spark in the Panthers.

They come out in the second half like a new team. Smash Williams even separates his shoulder but refuses to come out of the game. With six seconds left, Dillon has cut the score to 26-21, and they have possession of the ball. Each assistant coach — including Street — has an idea for the final play, but Coach Taylor goes with Saracen’s plan.

The Panthers run a hook and ladder with Riggins and Smash, who fights down the field for the touchdown and the State Championship. The Panther players and fans celebrate, with Coach Taylor sharing special moments with Street, Saracen and then his wife.

After the game, Lyla throws away her cheerleading outfit. Tyra questions her on this. “Tough year,” Lyla reasons, and then offers her former enemy a ride home and, really, a friendship.

Coach Taylor, sporting a “State Champs” hat, returns to his room and informs Tami that he’s staying and coaching in Dillon. She insists he can’t, as she won’t stand in the way of his college coaching dreams. They’ll make it work, she insists. Their relationship is strong enough.

Back in Dillon, a parade offers an emotional coda. It’s simultaneously ambiguous and satisfying as we see some of our favorite characters for the last time this season.

At episode’s close, Coach Taylor returns to his office the next day to find Coach Jason Street speaking to the team about football being a year-round commitment. Coach walks into the locker room, and the players give their coach a standing ovation.

For the highlight reel:
* Everything that wasn’t a commercial. Seriously.

But to name a few:
* Tami’s reaction to her news and how Mrs. Williams’ says, “Looks like God changed his mind.”

* “It’s nice to see you. How are you doing today?” Coach Taylor being sarcastic to his missing wife.

* Landry’s tortuous trip with the ladies, which includes discussion about Tampons and a sing-a-long to “Lady Marmalade.”

* A surprisingly feisty Grandma Saracen, dropping unexpected gems like, “Did you bring the booze?” and “I had my last hot flash in 1990.”

* Landry referring to the nosebleed tickets — “good seats” — and Tyra’s “ah, you know I’ve got connections.

* All Tami and Eric Taylor scenes. Especially when he finds out that he’s going to be a dad again.

* Coach Taylor’s amazing halftime speech.

* Post-game scenes between Coach Taylor, Street, and Saracen.

Episode MVP: I’m going to switch things up this week. I give this award to every single person creatively involved in this series. Congratulations on a remarkable first season that redefined just what television drama can be.

What’d you think? : I’m not too proud to admit that for most of this episode I was reduced to a sad, blubbering mess. On several occasions, I’ve made the case that this is not a “football show.” Worry not, as it still isn’t. But I must say, as someone who’s won a football state championship — actually four, for those keeping track at home — this episode perfectly captured the raw emotion that accompanies a High School Football State Championship. And although by nature I dislike cliffhangers, I actually love the fact that we don’t know if Coach Taylor is staying in Dillon or not.

This episode was — big surprise — flawless.

Grade: A+

Worth Mentioning: “State” will repeat on BRAVO at various times during this weekend. Be on the lookout for my season wrap-up, too!

Thanks for watching!

— Stalked by Charlie Cox

Friday Night Lights, April 4 April 5, 2007

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What happened last week?: Unable to use their home field, Coach Taylor created one out of an empty cow pasture. Jason Street settled his parents’ lawsuit against Coach Taylor and the school, while also helping coach Matt Saracen. He and Lyla had a brutal — but much-needed — screaming match.

Riggins’ fling with Bo’s mom continued, to his brother’s chagrin. Smash confronted Waverly about his concerns. Landry pursued Tyra and became her math tutor. And romantic sparks were definitely in the air.

In the final act, Coach Taylor’s new field turned into a true “Mud Bowl,” with the Panthers slipping and sliding to victory and a spot in the State Championship. Across town, Tyra was assaulted — and nearly raped — while waiting on Landry.

The episode ended with Coach Taylor asking Jason Street a question: “Have you ever thought about coaching?”

Last Night’s Episode Name: “Best Laid Plans” — Season 1, Episode 21

What went on?: Despite reservations expressed by his wife, Coach Taylor commits to TMU during his visit to Austin. This leaves Tami stunned and Julie devastated.

Tami comes up with a surprising resolution to her husband’s brash move. She decides that she and Julie are going to stay in Dillon until Julie graduates and the Coach can work in Austin and commute back to Dillon whenever he can. He doesn’t go for the idea.

After last week’s attack, Tyra misses a couple of days of school. Landry shows up at her doorstep, urging her to get help. She declines and wants the whole thing to just go away.He doesn’t believe that’s the right thing to do, so he confides in his best friend, Saracen, and Tami Taylor, whose heart is broken.

Tami and Landry get Tyra out of her house and go with her to the police station to file a report. Afterward, Tyra is humiliated and furious with Landry for betraying her trust.

Smash and Waverly are once again lubby-dubby. She offers him a two-week hiatus in which he can do whatever he wants while she gets her health back on track.

Jason begins as an assistant coach at Dillon and is primarily in charge of Saracen. He also runs into Susie, who has a painfully thin reason to be in Dillon. The two go on a “secret” date, and end up making out in front of Jason’s house — just as his fiancée, Lyla, pulls up behind them.

The tough times for Ms. Garrity don’t end there. Her parents inform her they’re getting a divorce.

Riggins’ fling comes to an end, and he’s surprisingly torn up about it. He goes to ex-girlfriend Tyra seeking comfort and friendship. The two decide to go to the “Panther Roast” together.

Speaking of the “Panther Roast,” it dominates the final act. Those involved with the team step forward and offer speeches and pokes at other Panthers. Some are funny, others painfully not. And in the case of Tami Taylor’s, poignant and beautiful.

After the roast, Landry is honest with Tyra after she apologizes to him. He hates that she came to the event with Riggins. Smash bypasses the “hiatus” and takes a piece of cake over to Waverly’s house. Jason and Lyla realize their relationship is long gone.

How did it end?: Coach Taylor hugs his wife, telling her how much they’ll love Austin. Tami says she loves him — and that she’s not moving from Dillon.

For the highlight reel:

* Jason getting back into Panther football without missing a note. The scene between him, Saracen and Coach Taylor was hysterical. Especially Coach’s line about “Not finding a damn laurel.”

* Coach’s deadpan after Julie leaves the room: “I know what happens next. The door slams.” And slam it did.

* “Friends aren’t people you screw your pain away with,” Tyra says to Riggins.

* Smash on Riggins at the roast: “He loves to hear two things: 1. Panthers are going to state! 2. The results are in, and you’re not the father.”

* “Nothing like athletes doing comedy.”

* Smash getting mad about Buddy Garrity stealing a crummy joke.

* Riggins’ attempt at roasting: “How about Saracen sleeping with Coach’s daughter?”

* Its icy/awkward reception.

* Tami’s roast and the reactions to it.

* Landry dismissing Tyra and Riggins. Especially regarding Riggins’ “cute, tortured ‘Texas-Forever’ crap” and his future “not so biologically-gifted children.”

* Jason and Lyla ending things for good.

Episode MVP: It’s a tough call, but I’m going with Tami Taylor. Between dealing with her husband’s news and helping out Tyra, she had a lot going on this week. And she handled it all with grace. Give Connie Britton an Emmy!

Announcement: This week, “Friday Night Lights” was named as one of the prestigious Peabody Awards honorees. Here’s how they described ‘FNL” in their press release:

“No dramatic series, broadcast or cable, is more grounded in contemporary American reality than this clear-eyed serial about the hopes, dreams, livelihoods and egos intertwined with the fate of high-school football in a Texas town.”

Not bad, eh?

What did you think?: Loved it. Simple enough?

Grade: A

Worth Mentioning: “Best Laid Plans” will repeat on BRAVO at various times during this weekend.

Next Week: The Panthers gear up for the State Championship, while Tami Taylor learns she’s pregnant in the Season — but hopefully not series — finale of “Friday Night Lights.”

— Stalked by Charlie Cox

Friday Night Lights, March 28 March 29, 2007

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What happened last week?

Jason, cut from the Quad-Rugby team, caught a ride back to Dillon from Susie the tattoo artist, whom he kissed, putting his engagement to Lyla in questionable territory. Tyra, with Tami Taylor as her coach, began looking at academics in a more promising manner.

Smash learned his girlfriend, Waverly, suffers from bipolar disorder and began avoiding her. Riggins furthered his relationship with his single-mother neighbor and her son, Bo.

Coach Taylor struggled with the decision about whether or not to take the job offer at TMU, while daughter Julie loudly voiced her negative opinion. Riggins, Saracen, Smash and Jason went to the Dillon field with some beer, and the paralyzed QB offered guidance to his successor and renewed his friendship with Riggins.

Last Night’s Episode Name: “Mud Bowl,” — Season 1, Episode 20

What went on?

A train derailment cancels class (but not practice), making it impossible for Dillon to host its semi-final game Friday night. Coach Taylor, tired of all the distractions surrounding his team and its upcoming game — T-shirts, Matt Saracen receiving an anonymous envelope of cash, and anything that comes out of Buddy Garrity’s mouth — declines the opposing team’s offer to rent a “neutral” stadium for the game. Instead, he wants to bring back joy to football, and takes a cue from “Field of Dreams,” creating a football field out of an open cow pasture.

Tami initially thinks he’s crazy, but is quickly won over by the plan. Elsewhere, Landry continues his romantic pursuit of Tyra and secures a position as her math tutor. Slightly impressed by Matt Saracen’s sidekick, Tyra suggests a meeting by using the word “date,” much to Landry’s pleasure.

Also in Dillon, Lyla and Waverly form an unlikely friendship — with rifles no less. Smash tries to mend things with his bipolar-suffering girlfriend, but is also up front in his belief that she needs help. Jason, busy in this episode with mentoring Saracen and settling his parents’ lawsuit against Coach Taylor, has an explosive fight with Lyla, who’s grown tired of his anger and self-pitying ways.

Tim Riggins continues to play Papa to pint-sized Bo and lover to Bo’s mom. In the fourth act, Tyra, waiting on a delayed Landry, is assaulted and nearly raped by a stranger. Landry shows up and comforts the shaken and very scared girl, showing that there are likely true feelings between the two.

Most of the finale’s focus, however, is on Dillon’s game, which turns into a true “Mud Bowl,” given the monsoon-like conditions’ effects on the farmland. It’s not pretty but the Panthers pull out an emotional win, with Matt Saracen leading the way thanks to the help of Jason.

With a ticket to state in their hands, the Panthers celebrate and learn they’ll be playing against Voodoo, the Hurricane Katrina refugee QB that was a Dillon Panther for only a week or so early in the season.

How did it end?

Coach Taylor asks Jason Street a question: “Have you ever thought about coaching?”

Writer’s note: HOORAH!

For the highlight reel

* The early training scene with Saracen and Street, complete with their conversation about Oprah.

* Buddy’s logo and Coach Taylor’s reaction to it.

* Coach Taylor’s sarcastic suggestion that Buddy start a “Buddy Garrity Bowl,” and Buddy actually liking that idea.

* Landry and Tyra. A very cool and entirely unexpected coupling.

* Favorite moment: Tyra: “You know, you should make a math club. That way you could just sit around doing math all day.”
Landry: “I did, but nobody showed up.”

* “Where are the people going to pee?” — Tami questioning her husband’s slightly improbable but wholly inspiring plan.

* “The cows agree with me. The cows are more supportive than you are.” — Coach Taylor to his wife regarding her concerns.

* “Ah, I think it’s going to be a huge night. Probably going to square a lot of numbers, maybe even figure out a quadratic equation.” — Matt Saracen, poking fun at Landry and his perception of his upcoming “date.”

* Lyla’s fight with Jason. Ms. Garrity continued to grow a backbone, and her screaming arguably motivated Jason to end the lawsuit and venture back to the Panther sideline.

Episode MVP

Coach Taylor. Despite the stress of his lawsuit, the semi-finals and the offer at TMU, he managed to return high school football to its basic form and remind everyone what the game is truly about.

What’d you think?

Another week, another great episode. I particularly liked the message that commercialization isn’t what is important to high school football. The game scene perfectly captured how it feels to make it to the state championship. Trust me. The final act was so powerful, I had chills — and maybe a tear or two.

But big, tough, manly tears, mind you.

This is as good as TV gets. Period.

Grade: A+

Worth Mentioning: “Mud Bowl” will repeat on BRAVO at various times during the weekend.

Next Week: As the Panthers gear up for state, Coach Taylor accepts the coaching position at TMU.

— Stalked by Charlie Cox

Friday Night Lights, March 21 March 22, 2007

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What happened last week?

While the Panthers clawed their way into the semi-finals, the Taylor family played unwilling host to Buddy Garrity. Smash witnessed his girlfriend, Waverly, display some erratic behavior. Tim Riggins struck up a friendship with his neighbor, fourth-grader Bo, and his Mom. Tami made a pledge to help Tyra plan for her future. A distraught Lyla ventured to see fiancé Jason in Austin. At the end of the episode, Coach Taylor was offered a position at Texas Methodist University.

Last Night’s Episode Name

“Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” — Season 1, Episode 19

What went on?

Jason’s dreams of Olympic Quad-Rugby are dashed when he doesn’t make the final cut. Distraught, he catches a ride back to Dillon with Susie, whom he kisses.

As if she wasn’t having a rough enough time being in the middle of her parents’ ongoing adultery drama, Lyla is crushed when she finds out about Jason’s traveling partner, prompting her to ask Jason if he really wants to be engaged. His answer is no.

Elsewhere, Tami continues pushing Tyra academically, seeing college on the horizon. Tyra finally believes in herself, but her mother sees it as improbable. Smash reacts to the news of Waverly’s bipolar disorder just as any other teenage would: by avoiding her.

Riggins continues to be a surrogate father for Bo, picking him up from school and teaching him how to fight. He also makes a move on Bo’s attractive and single mom.

Meanwhile, Julie is devastated by the news a possible move, as her boyfriend, Matt Saracen, stresses about the upcoming playoff game. Late in the episode, Smash, Riggins and Saracen encounter Jason while buying beer, and beg him to hang out. He’s reluctant, but the former QB goes with the crew to the Dillon field, where he instills some confidence in his successor Saracen, and renews his friendship with Riggins.

How did it end?

Tyra’s Mom came around and promised to help her daughter in any way possible. Riggins hooks up with Bo’s Mom. Lyla gets back at Papa Garrity by doing a number on his car lot with her vehicle. And finally, Coach Taylor informs TMU that he and his family need more time to weigh the offer.

For the highlight reel:

— The scene with Julie and her father in the car before the father-daughter dance. Heartbreaking.

— Riggins teaching Bo to fight. Bo to his Mom: “Tim Riggins is teaching me how to kick some serious ass!”

— Coach Taylor building up Austin (where TMU is located) to Julie. He claims it’s “artsy” and full of “top-notch ‘ballet-ers.’”

— Landry calling Saracen Coach Taylor’s “little engine that could” and his “Seabiscuit.”

— “I’m going to pull out my camera. I’m going to take a picture, and ya’ll are going to look happy, ‘cause I’m going to cherish it forever, and ya’ll are going to stop being a pain in my ass for once!”—Tami to the feuding Julie and her father before the dance.

— Coach Taylor bragging about his “Dillon Days” award-winning chili.

— Tami reminding him it was a booby prize.

— “Appreciate your business, Sergeant Riggins,” a laughing store clerk said, regarding Riggins’ obviously fake ID.

— “That’s so ‘Brokeback.’”— Riggins, on a passed out Saracen and Smash.

— Jason and Riggins reuniting.

— Jason and Lyla dividing.

And just about everything else.

What’d you think?

Loved it. The Taylor family dynamic continues to be one of reasons why I own a television. One of the best episodes yet, and oddly the perfect argument against the uninformed, who still think this is a just “football” show. It’s not. It’s the best show on television, which just so happens to be set against the backdrop of high school football.

Prediction: I think Jason Street will make a fine addition to the Panthers’ coaching staff.

Grade: A+

Next Week: An unforeseen emergency puts the Panthers’ home-field advantage for the semi-final game into question.

— Stalked by Charlie Cox

Friday Night Lights, Feb. 28 March 1, 2007

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What happened last week? Lovebirds Julie Taylor and Matt Saracen attempted — and thankfully failed — to make love last week after a series of unfortunate (or fortunate, really) events. Buddy Garrity’s affair with his secretary came to a head when his former employee, who also happens to be Tyra’s Mom, confronted him outside his church. Tim Riggins fell down a potentially destructive path after finding out his low-life father stole a $3,000 camera from the Panthers. Also, Jason met an engaging tatoo artist while at Quad-Rugby Camp in Austin.

Last Night’s Episode Name: “Extended Families” — Season 1, Episode 18

What went on? The episode opens with the Panthers churning out another victory and securing a spot in the semi-finals. Thrown out of his house, Buddy Garrity imposes on the Taylor family, much to their dismay. Smash Williams sees a very different, inhibition-free side of his normally conservative girlfriend, who appears to be neglecting medication. Tim Riggins strikes a friendship with his precocious, eight-ish-aged new neighbor, Bo, who idolizes the fullback. Stuck with the duty of babysitting buddy, Julie sneaks out to party at Tyra’s, whose mother falls and warrants a trip to the hospital. Coach Taylor and Tami go to dinner with a group from Texas-Methodist University to talk about “the future.” Mrs. Taylor is forced to leave early, however, when Jules calls her from the hospital. Outside Dillon, Lyla treks to Jason’s camp to seek comfort, though her boyfriend is none too happy to see her.

Where’s Matt Saracen? Surprisingly scarce, aside from a couple scenes with Julie.

How does Lyla’s visit go? Not well. She’s taken aback at Jason’s too-close friendship with the tattoo artist — and his persistence in Quad-Rugby. She ultimately tosses a few back and tells Jason’s loudmouth friend, Herc, what she thinks. Though Jason maintains their love is bigger than anything, Lyla’s non-verbal doubt makes me continue to think this couple is heading to Splitsville.

How did it end? Coach Taylor informs his wife that TMU has made an official offer.

For the highlight reel:

“Honey … there’s something on our front porch. … It’s moving. … It’s Buddy Garrity.” — Tami Taylor, who subsequently says, “Make him go away.”

Tami’s reaction to Buddy after saying, “You know how women are about these things,” referring to his affair.

“I’m sorry, I don’t eat dead pig.”— Julie Taylor to Buddy’s offer of a pork chop.

“Tim Riggins said I could hand out with him. Only rule is that I keep my voice to a level three because he’s dealing with something called a hangover.” –Bo to his mom.

Episode MVP: Lyla Garrity. She shows strength in early scenes involving her parents domestic spat and grows a backbone at Jason’s camp.

What’d you think? A nice if not terribly memorable episode. While I liked the advancing plot, I must say, my favorite plotline belonged to Tim Riggins, as we got to see yet another side to this interesting character. I have a feeling that when “FNL” is released on DVD this summer, “Extended Families” is not an episode I’ll venture to that often. While this isn’t a standout edition of the show, it’s still head and shoulder above most everything on the tube.

Grade: B

Next Week: The end of February Sweeps brings us a few weeks of reruns.

— Stalked by Charlie Cox

Friday Night Lights, Feb. 21 February 22, 2007

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What happened last week: Despite racial tensions, the once-split up Dillon Panthers reunited for their second-round playoff game against the Delsom Valley Cardinals, who proved to be the definition of unsportsmanship. Early in the fourth quarter and after several of the Cardinals had delivered late hits — as well as racial slurs — to Smash, the game erupted into an all-out fistfight. In accordance with Texas rules, the game was called in favor of Dillon, which had the lead prior to the warfare. Also, Jason Street left Dillon —and Lyla — to attend a Quad Rugby Camp in Austin, while Matt and Julie recovered from their skirmish and became “official.”

Last night’s episode name: “I Think We Should Have Sex,” Season 1, Episode 17

What went on: The titular suggestion is spoken by Julie Taylor, who decides it’s time for her and a shocked Matt Saracen to take the next step in their relationship. Things go smoothly for the teenage lovebirds until Tami Taylor witnesses Matt buying condoms and promptly frets. Matt secures a teammates’ lake house for the event to transpire, while Tyra questions Julie about whether or not she’s ready. Elsewhere in Dillon, Buddy Garrity confides in Coach Taylor that he’s been adulterous, having an affair with Tyra’s mom, who’s also his secretary. Tim Riggins deals with his dad returning and has harsh words for Coach Taylor when the team’s $3,000 camera turns up missing and Papa Riggins stands accused. Outside the city limits, Jason Street attends Quad Rugby Camp in Austin and meets a female tattoo artist.

Did Riggins’ dad take the camera? He did. Tim finds it in the garage, after which he kicks his dad out and spirals downward in a destructive night at a bar.

Did Julie and Matt … well, you know…? No. Through a series of unfortunate — and highly comedic — events, they decide they’re aren’t ready.

How did it end? With Tyra’s mom confronting her former employer outside church, and Riggins returning the stolen camera.

For the highlight reel:

* “She’ll be sent to a nunnery in Rome and I’ll rip his head open.” — Coach Taylor

* The lake house coming complete with mounted animals and the subsequent line,“The deer is staring at me. I feel like he’s judging me.”

* Everything with Tami Taylor.

* “The first time I drove my grandma’s car, I crashed into a tree.” — Matt, after Riggins compares sex to driving.

* “I was planning on wearing socks.”

* “Ever watch the Nature Channel?” Tyra, joking after Julie asks about her first time.

* The final “I love you” scene with Julie and Matt.

Episode MVP: Tami Taylor, for continuing to break my heart and make me laugh —sometimes within the same scene.

What’d you think? One of the best episodes yet. The series continues to tackle difficult subject matter with a deft touch. Though this episode often is quite hilarious, it also shows us the seriousness of teenage sexuality and what consequences can occur without precautions. Riggins’ storyline was heartbreaking as well, while Jason’s plot makes one think his engagement to Lyla is merely an affirmation of his abilities as a paralysis victim.

Grade: A+

Other good news: Last week saw a ratings jump, making a second season look likely and “FNL’s” “thread” grow even stronger.

Next week: The Taylors have a house guest — a thrown-out Buddy Garrity.

— Stalked by Charlie Cox

Friday Night Lights, Feb. 14 February 15, 2007

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What happened last week? Last week’s show began with Assistant Coach McGill making a racist comment to a reporter following the Panthers’ first-round playoff win. Despite the best efforts of the Taylor couple, McGill’s words (and ensuing unapologetic actions) created a chasm between the Caucasians and African-Americans of not only the team but the school as well. Meanwhile, Matt Saracen and Tim Riggins coached opposing powder-puff football teams, with Julie and Lyla quarterbacking, respectively. Matt and Julie appeared to be on the mend, although their relationship was the least of her worries, as she was busted skipping school with Tyra. Elsewhere, Jason returned to Dillon High School, and after difficulties concerning his spinal injury became a distraction, he subsequently elected to forgo his senior year in favor of obtaining his GED and a spot on a National All-Star Quad-Rugby team. At the close, Smash Williams held a meeting to unite the African-American players, who later walked out of practice, refusing to play under the racist McGill.

Last night’s episode’s name: “Black Eyes, Broken Hearts” — Season 1, Episode 16

Black Eyes, Bro — huh? The title is a play on the team’s motto: “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.”

OK. What’s it about? The Dillon Panthers remain split in the aftermath of Coach McGill’s racist comments. Smash Williams maintains a united front amongst the African-American players, leading them in refusing to play under an assistant coach who — intended or not — compared his African-American players to “junkyard dogs.” With a tough game looming Friday night against the Dellson Valley Cardinals, Coach Taylor faces a difficult decision regarding McGill’s future with the Dillon Panthers.

Difficult decision? No way! He should can him without a second thought. Things aren’t so simple, my friend. They never are.

To whom does Coach Taylor confide in about this issue? Three people: His wife, the guidance counselor, and his friend, all of whom are the same person, which leads to one of the night’s funniest and most heartfelt scenes.

How is it resolved? Coach McGill offers his resignation, which Coach Taylor doesn’t accept.

That’s not much of a resolution. The African-American players don’t come back with McGill on staff, right? Actually, they do. Smash Williams’ mother convinces the standout tailback that the best way to get back at racist fools would be to rejoin the team and “be the star that you are.”

So the team is reunited. I bet they put a thumping on the Cardinals. No and yes, but the “thumping” isn’t what you’d expect. Initially, the African-Americans do come back but on the bus ride to the away game, you could cut the tension with a knife

What kind of “thumping” do you mean? The Cardinals play dirty. So dirty, in fact, that I jumped out of my seat in disgust on several occasions. They perform facemasks, pass interference, and a number of late hits, none of which are called by the biased (or completely blind — I’m not really sure) referees. Early in the fourth quarter and after Smash scores, a Cardinal taunts him with racial slurs. This pushes, not Smash, but Tim Riggins over the edge, causing him to deck the player, which ignites an all-out fight on the field. Once the teams are separated, it’s decided unsafe to conclude the game, and due to Texas football rules, playing three full quarters constitutes enough to decide a game. The Panthers are awarded the win and thus continue on their road to the state championship.

Whew! Sounds intense. Was that it? Nope. On the sleepy ride home, the Panther bus is pulled over by two Dellson County cops who want to take Smash Williams into custody and charge him with assault.

WHAT?! I know! They claim “witnesses” saw him hit another player, thereby instigating the riot. Their case falls apart, however, when — wait for it — COACH MCGILL steps up and calls the officers out on their lack of a warrant. Smash isn’t taken away and Coach McGill is redeemed.

Last week you called him “truly villainous” and now he’s redeemed? Like I’ve said before, things aren’t always as simple as they seem. As a viewer, I’ve forgiven him, and by episode’s end, so has Smash. He earned it.

Anything else going on? Yep.

OK, let’s start with Riggins. Is beating up the racist Cardinal all he does? Nope. Not by a long shot. With many of the starters gone at the beginning of the week, Coach Taylor charges team Captain Riggins with bringing the JV players up to speed in case they’re needed Friday night. It’s pretty funny stuff.

What else is going on in the Taylor household? It seems our little Jules Taylor is growing up, what with her getting arrested for hanging out with Tyra at her sister’s strip club.

ARRESTED? I knew that Tyra was a bad influence! Yeah, but she’s so fun. The friendship between the two causes much friction between the Taylor daughter and her elders this week.

Oh my. Wow. How are she and Matt Saracen? I thought they made up last week but I was wrong. Matt spends this week trying to repair the damage. His efforts — which also lead him to jail alongside her — prove worthy, and by the end, they’re not only back together, they’re official.

Woohoo! Moving on to Jason and Lyla. What’s up? Nothing really. Jason has two scenes. In one, he all but drops out of Dillon High, informing Tami Taylor he’s leaving for two weeks for Quad-Rugby camp, much to her hidden disappointment. Lyla’s only appearance in the episode comes in Jason’s second scene, seeing him off to Austin. Though their screen time is minimal this week, her look as Jason rides away says a lot about where their relationship is going. I believe there’s a storm brewing on the horizon.

What goes on the highlight reel?

Among the many:

* The aforementioned scene between Coach Taylor and his wife. It’s poignant and concludes with one of the night’s best lines: “The three of you scare me.”

* “Nothing says ‘I’m sorry’ like a mix CD,” says Landry, Matt’s friend, regarding Matt’s first attempt at a gift for Julie.

* “Jules was watching Tyra’s sister, Mindy, make an honest living for herself,” says Tami Taylor about Julie’s stint at the strip club.

* “You don’t need to worry about me. In a fight, I mostly just stand in the back and yell stuff,” says Matt Saracen to Julie, after she tells him she is worried about him during the riot.

* The fight. I’m all for sportsmanship, trust me, but those Cardinals had it coming.

* Coach McGill’s redemption.

* The fact that this week’s payoff is every bit as good as last week’s setup.

Episode MVP? Smash William’s mother. She’s consistently becoming one of my favorite characters, and her insight into a tough situation this week made me love her even more.

Episode Grade: A

Next Week: The episode is titled “I Think We Should Have Sex,” and if the promos prove correct, it appears little Julie Taylor is taking yet another step toward adulthood.

–Stalked by Charlie Cox

Friday Night Lights, Feb. 7 February 8, 2007

Posted by showstalkers in Friday Night Lights.
1 comment so far

Greetings! I’ve decided to take a conversational Q&A approach to this column, dedicated to NBC’s “Friday Night Lights.” It’s unconventional, so please voice your likes, dislikes or your unending adoration for me in the comments section below. Feedback is always welcome — as long as it’s positive.
Totally joking.
For this very first entry, I’ve decided to detail some of the basics of the show in addition to reviewing last night’s episode. If you’re a fan of the series, you can skip on down to the bottom half of the page. If you’re not yet a fan — though I promise you soon will be — start from the top.

Here goes:

OK, Friday Night Lights — what’s it about? “Friday Night Lights,” or FNL for short, follows the Dillon Panthers, a fictional high school football team in Texas, a state where the sport reigns above all. Front and center to all of the action is Head Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), who faces an unthinkable amount of pressure on a daily basis, his guidance counselor wife, Tami (Connie Britton), and their sophomore daughter, Julie (Aimee Teegarden). Also comprising the core of the series are Jason Street (Scott Porter), the once-starting Panther quarterback who now is confined to a wheelchair after suffering a severe spinal injury in the pilot episode; his girlfriend, cheerleading captain Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly); his former best friend and Panther fullback, Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch); and Jason’s replacement at QB and Julie Taylor’s current beau, the always-nervous Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford). Tailback and recent steroid abuser Brian “Smash” Williams (Gaius Charles) and Riggins’ on-again, off-again flame, Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) are crucial to the plot as well.

Tim Riggins is Jason Street’s former best friend? Explain. In an early storyline, Lyla and Riggins had a devastating affair while Street was stuck in the hospital.

Ouch. Wait a minute — I remember the movie “Friday Night Lights.” Is it like that? Like that, yes. Based on it, no. The film and the book of the same name were based on the true story of the 1988 Permian Panthers in Odessa, Texas. The director of the movie — in my humble opinion, is the greatest football flick ever made — Peter Berg, developed the show for television, co-wrote and directed the pilot episode, and executive produces the series, which, like the movie version, utilizes a large amount of hand-held camera action. Unlike the best-seller and its cinematic counterpart, the television series is fictional and set in present-day, yet it still shares the spirit of the previous FNL incarnations.

It’s called “Friday Night Lights.” So why does it air on Wednesdays? That doesn’t make sense. Arghh. Please don’t bother going there.

Well, you may like football and football movies, but I don’t. Why should I bother tuning in? “Friday Night Lights” is as much about football as “Million Dollar Baby” was a boxing movie. The focus certainly isn’t on the gridiron; it’s on the families, heartaches and dreams of these characters who happen to be caught up in the world of high school football.

Whatever. We still don’t trust you. We know you love your football. OK, if you don’t believe me, then take it from TV Guide, both of Entertainment Weekly’s TV critics, or the American Film Institute, all of which were among the many that named “Friday Night Lights” as on of their Top 10 Television Series of 2006.

You make a good point. We’ll hop on board next season. No! Time is of the essence! Despite being a critical darling, FNL has yet to obtain the wide audience it deserves. It received a full-season order — meaning it’ll run through May — but the chances of a second season currently are about 50/50. So get to watching, people!

Alrighty, then. Would you just tell us about last night’s episode, already? Gosh! I’d be more than happy to. Ask away, my friend. Ask away.

What happened in the episode before last night’s? A ton. As the Panthers began their playoff run, the now de-steroided Smash Williams fought to get back into the good graces of Coach Taylor, who had to appear in court responding to the lawsuit filed against him by the family of Jason Street. Speaking of Street, he and Lyla made their new engagement public, and began to realize marrying at such a young age might not be the best plan. Riggins was in search of his long-MIA father, who showed up to watch his son play at episode’s end. Julie Taylor and Matt Saracen seem to be on the rocks, as she caught him lying about partying with older “Rally Girls.”

Last night’s episode name? “Blinders” — Season 1, Episode 15.

What’s it about? The celebration following the Panthers’ win in the first round of playoffs is cut short when an assistant coach makes a racial comment in a post-game interview, dividing not just the team but the school as well.

He was misquoted. Surely Coach McGill didn’t mean anything, right? Initially we’re led to believe so, but McGill reveals his true feelings by episode’s end.

Coach McGill is a racist? Sadly so. I predict his time in Dillon, Texas, is expiring quickly.

What’s going on with the Taylor family? Turmoil, and lots of it, especially for Tami Taylor, to whom our hearts go out to this week. Being the guidance counselor, she goes to great lengths to ease the racial tension, but is unable to stop the escalating fighting. Coach Taylor has his hands full, too, dealing with an unapologetic Coach McGill, whom Taylor forces into making a public apology — which comes off as horribly insincere.

Sounds like they’ve got their hands full. Oh, and did I mention their former book-loving, dance-team member daughter, Julie, is caught — gasp! — skipping gym class with Tyra this week? The now-seemingly inseparable twosome is forced to play powder-puff football as punishment.

Things still rocky between Julie and Matt Saracen? They get even rockier when Matt, who’s coaching, picks Julie third for his team.

Third? Ouch. Yeah, but they get better when Matt moves Julie to QB, and she subsequently wins the big game for them. It’s safe to say that all is forgiven on the Julie and Matt front.

What’s new with Street and Lyla? They surprisingly share only one scene this week, and it appears that their engagement was simply a flash in the pan. Jason makes his return to Dillon High School in this episode, and the adjustment couldn’t be any harder. His hand usage is still very limited, which makes frog dissection in biology class impossible.

He’ll adjust just fine though, right? Not hardly. In fact, in his one scene with Lyla at the end of the episode, he reveals he’s probably just going to get his GED while playing Quad-Rugby. He’s even leaving Dillon for Austin to attend a two-week camp, during which he’ll try out for a national squad that could take him all the way to China.

So with all that’s going on, is this episode Lyla-light? You could say that. The catfight between her and Tyra escalates a bit this week.

Why are they fighting again? Lyla slept with Riggins, who dated Tyra. And, oh yeah, it appears Lyla’s very married Dad is putting the moves on Tyra’s mom, an employee at his car lot.

What’s new with Riggins? Nothing, really. His newly-arrived father is seen only in a flash at the game. Riggins coaches the other powder-puff team. He gets quite a reaction when he chooses Ms. Lyla to play on his team.

You haven’t mentioned Smash Williams. Is he MIA? Nope. He’s really the opposite, in fact. His story is central to the episode.

What’s going on with him? A lot, really. Despite being mentioned in Coach McGill’s racial slur, he initially doesn’t make a big deal out of it. Things change, however, when his mother’s housing loan is denied for what appears to be racial motivations, and a truly villainous Coach McGill berates him. Smash listens to his girlfriend’s urging and takes charge, arranging a meeting for the African-American players on the team.

How does it end? With the African-American players walking out of the beginning of practice, leaving a barking Coach McGill, a conflicted Coach Taylor, and a team still divided.

Well, review it already! What’s great?
* Connie Britton as Tami Taylor remains one of the series’ greatest assets, and she gets to do some heartbreaking stuff this week. Her breakdown out of frustration and her husband’s “You’re my wife, and I’m damn proud of you” speech are both beautifully played.
* “That wasn’t a request,” Coach Taylor asserting that Coach Mack issue a public apology.
* Coach Taylor going from angry with his daughter for skipping school to excited child at the drop of a hat when he discovers his daughter is quarterbacking her Powder Puff Team. From “Don’t be flippant with me!” to “Matt Saracen put you at Quarterback?” in seconds.
* Coach Taylor getting a flag at the powder-pufff game. Seriously.
* Smash Williams. His episode arc takes him from passive to proactive leader who stands up against injustices.
* The fact that “Friday Night Lights” continues to be unafraid of dealing with heavy topics such as racism.

And so much, much more…

What’s not so good? Only that we have to wait a whole week for another episode.

Episode MVP? It’s a tough call, but I’m going with the vivacious vixen herself, Tyra. She provides laughs as she terrorizes the girls on the other powder-puff team, as well as her own. She also has my favorite line of the episode: “You throw like a d—n girl!” She screams at her team’s obviously female QB during practice.

Grade: A

Next Week: Coach Taylor struggles to hold his team AND his family together, as Julie Taylor’s newfound friendship with Tyra turns destructive.

— Stalked by Charlie Cox