Thursday, March 01, 2007

"That's a little trick I learned on Magnum, P.I.": Friday Night Lights

After the greatness of I Think We Should Have Sex, this episode felt a bit like a filler episode, conceived to advance a few plotlines slowly and stall a few others. It's not like it was a bad episode (I'm not sure an episode of this show COULD be bad at this point), but the story emphases weren't the ones I'm most interested in. Namely, we got a lot of Buddy Garrity and a lot of the Lyla/Jason relationship and a lot of Tyra trying to make up with her mom. It's not to say that I don't like these storylines (or Smash and his girlfriend -- the other major plot thread), but I don't think they can carry the balance of the episode.

Let's start with Buddy, who's the show's one rather cartoonish character. I'm completely aware that people who get this invested in high school sports (to the detriment of everything else in their lives), but something about the way this character is written or played feels too buffoonish in a universe of verisimilitude. It's not that Buddy never works -- he works quite well in scenes shared with his daughter, Lyla, in fact -- but the scenes where he pesters the coach about the team and hounds him with questions always verge uncomfortably on feeling like the show that we all feared this might be -- a high school football coach and his attempts to deal with his wacky, overbearing neighbors. Though it gave me the line for the post title, I thought Buddy making the notepad etching to discover that Coach Taylor was talking to the TMU guy was sort of ridiculous. Also, I get that he's not a pedophile or anything, but would Coach Taylor and Tami just leave Julie with Buddy that easily? Certainly he's not a good babysitter (as he proved).

The Lyla and Jason pairing is also growing a little tedious, what with their professions of love in every other episode. But I think that's supposed to be the point (nicely hit by Lyla tonight, who pointed out that Jason's doing all of the changing and she's doing very little). I've been the guy trying to assure the girl that just isn't that interesting anymore that his love isn't going anywhere, and Scott Porter played that scene with just the right hint of insincerity. I liked the idea of Lyla being upset at the party with Herc and the tattoo girl, but Minka Kelly didn't make the anger burn quite enough.

Tyra tried to help her mom cope with Buddy dumping her (leading, of course, to Buddy crashing with the Taylors), and the party scenes were all right, even if Tyra's mom falling through a glass table was a little ridiculous. Julie got in trouble yet again, and Tyra's scene with Tami was a highlight (and when Connie Britton isn't nominated for an Emmy, it will be saddening) in the way it twisted and turned and ran through with raw emotion.

Finally, Smash found out that his girlfriend had emotional problems and decided to go off of her medication. I'm not sure where all of this is going (and the scene where she recited poetry in the diner hit all different kinds of moving, showcasing the series' dedication to what may as well be called "cringe drama," highlighting the moments of life most of us would rather look away from), but it's an interesting development, and it makes her long absence more complicated than just a pregnancy or drug use.

I think what the episode missed most was having the Taylors at its center. I'd grown so used to seeing Kyle Chandler and Britton's faces intersect with every plot line that when they didn't, it was subconsciously off-putting. It was nice to see Coach Taylor get a chance at the collegiate level (and the show would do well to expand its other characters, certainly), but the cliffhanger felt a bit forced -- how do they realistically get him to turn down the job anyway?

Also, if I were a Dillon Panther fan, I would have died of anxiety by now.

Gah! Only four episodes left (in the season hopefully)!


David Sims said...

I can't say I'm with you on this one. Obv. not as strong as last week, but I really enjoyed myself. Buddy is a more cartoonish character, but he only stands out because of the ensemble that surrounds him. Honestly, I've never had a problem with the "Buddy bugs the coach" stuff because, well, someone has to talk about football on this show!

You totally missed what was my favorite plot thread this ep, though--Riggins and the kid! That was great! I mean, VM did the same thing a few weeks ago, but it was still great! Riggins is the character who's grown on me the most. Every show needs a brooder, I guess, and he's good at it.

As for Tyra, she's always been up there with my favorites so I always enjoy her stuff. It was a fun little nothing bit that turned into a great, great scene with her and Tami. Plus, I love how calm this show is about teenagers drinking. It's never once really been addressed as out of the ordinary.

Weak stuff came with Lyla, I agree with you on that, but she's almost always the weak link in the show. Smash's girlfriend, too, has always been another weak link, but I kinda dug the character of her dad. He seemed very genuine in the brief time that we saw him, not a scary stereotype at all.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

I forgot Riggins and the kid because I didn't like that kid and didn't think he was a very good actor. I'm also convinced this ends with Tim sleeping with the mom, and I'm not sure that's completely necessary.

David Sims said...

The mom's from Melrose Place, so yes, he's going to sleep with her. AND WHY NOT!