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Monday, January 26, 2009

The Televangelist: 'Friday Night Lights'

click to enlarge TEAM EFFORT:  "Hey y'all ... (a newly humble) Smash is back!"
  • TEAM EFFORT: "Hey y'all ... (a newly humble) Smash is back!"

Three of the most lauded aspects of "Friday Night Lights" were on display last Friday with a bunch of fuzzy filler in between. We'll start with Coach and Mrs. Coach's relationship  — one of the best, healthiest and most realistic on television — which has always been the glue that holds "FNL" together. There have been one-off times of trial before, but this week we saw some more subtle cracks that might turn into bigger foundational issues (although not too big since this is likely "FNL's" last season). The hot button? That darn tootin' Jumbotron. Tami sensibly wants to reallocate the Jumbotron funds to serve the school: for teachers, books, and things she didn't even realize were on the chopping block, like chalk and soap.  Buddy Garrity and the evil boosters have other ideas, and as Coach Taylor points out, "What Buddy and the boosters want, Buddy and the boosters will get."

Dillon has always been portrayed as a small, bottom-of-the-barrel, last-leg kind of town, but clearly there are some heretofore unmentioned ritzy suburbs around. Not only do the funds for the Jumbotron appear out of nowhere (and show us there must be some people with money besides Buddy), but also Lyla, in her attempts to civilize the sexy beast that is Tim "Yes I use Google" Riggins, joins her father and some wealthy coevals at a posh restaurant for lunch. Just how posh? They actually serve squab, and not in the way certain places in Texas might serve, say, squirrel.

After the jump, "A vote for Tyra is a vote for hotness!"

I'm willing to forgive these lapses in world building because the rest of "FNL" typically lives up to perfection, the pinnacle of which is one Matt Saracen. Not only does Zach Gilford play Saracen in the most raw and poignant of ways, but Saracen gets more than his share of the show's woe.  First his Grandma won't take her medication and risks a stroke (as her dementia worsens, of course). Then we're reminded his absentee father is in Iraq and unable (and unwilling) to provide any help, while Saracen's mysterious mother (who abandoned the family or something similarly heartbreaking) lends her support in the form of a signature that leaves her son an emancipated minor. Saracen is constantly burdened with the weight of the world. His plight really drove home this week's theme of making hard choices, which has been a big issue for Matt since season one, episode one when he had to try and fill in the shoes of Jason Street.

On a lighter note, Landry and Tyra continue to provide some fantastic comic relief. When Tyra, who can't be taken seriously by her peers given her sultry past, decides to embrace her looks and party-girl attitude to win the student body elections (which I for one thought was a brilliant tactic), Tami is outraged. I read this as Tami taking out some of her other frustrations on Tyra instead of actual disapproval for Tyra's behavior. Tami has always felt a kinship with Tyra, and might have suddenly recognized herself, given Jumbotron-related events, as just another pretty face not being taken seriously.

Next Week: Tim's brother gets into something shady, and Smash's mom takes on a second job. Honestly, the promos didn't do much for my excitement about next week's episode, but I have a feeling there's much more to the story than first meets the eye.

Musings and Miscellanea:

- I need to give a nod to Coach and his Save Smash campaign. Am I right in that we never actually saw Smash's injury last year? Didn't that occur during one of the non-aired episodes? Great heart-swelling line tonight: "The team needed me to be great, so I was great." Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

- I continue to be amused by Buddy Garrity, especially when he called Lyla out on her intimate relationship with Riggins. Also when he responds, full of innuendo, to Lyla's assertion that someone just needs to believe in Tim, "there are plenty of girls in Dillon who have believed in him."

- Most Heartbreaking Line of the Night goes to Matt Saracen for "I don't want to become her guardian ... she's my guardian! I'm 17!"

- Funniest Exchange of the Episode goes to Tyra's family and Landry for their work on Tyra's campaign slogans: "Vote Tyra and get action!" ("Hell yeah!")

- For those of you who can't get enough of that theme song by Explosions in the Sky (which has tragically never been released or performed live), you can listen to it here.

(Photo courtesy NBC.com)

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