While the general rule around here is to avoid namedropping, there are exceptions to every rule. Friday Night Lights is one of the few shows on network television that I make a point to watch, and it just started its third season a couple weeks ago. If you have DirectTV, you (could) have caught the entire season, but for the vast majority of us, we’re still catching up on the latest exploits of the folks of Dillon, Texas.
Based on the (also good) movie with Billy Bob Thornton, FNL the TV show also tells the story of a small town in Texas, and how the exploits of the local team penetrate every other aspect of the town. The critics have loved the show from the beginning, but as I heard Peter Berg says recently, “The network could care less about the critics. All the care about are the numbers (ratings).” OK then. At the end of each season so far, those of us who’ve loved the show have waited anxiously, and for whatever reason, NBC has been kind enough to give us another season.
Back to my namedropping comment from earlier. In the interest of full disclosure, the episode I’m reviewing here, “Leave No One Behind,” was written by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, who happens to be a good friend of mine. But before you accuse me of favoritism, go ahead and Google this particular episode. I’m far from the only one who thinks it was the best episode of last season; a few people consider it one of the best TV hours of 2008. Proof of my point, this episode is nominated for an NAACP Image Award next month, making Aaron a mulitple Image Award nominee, a distinction he now shares with R. Kelly (and something I tease him about whenever I get the chance.) OK, on to the episode…
There are three major plotlines that develop in this episode. The major one revolves around the ‘good kid’ in the town, Matt Saracen (played by Zach Gilford). He’s been handling more responsibility than any teenager should be dealt (caring for his Grandma, starting QB of the school team), but in this episode, it all finally falls apart. And he snaps. Hard. He falls in with the town ‘bad boy’ Tim Riggins (played by Taylor Kitsch), and just goes off his rocker. Drinking, swearing, just an overall I don’t give a s— attitude. When Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) finally tries to straighten him out, it turns into one of the most emotional scenes of the series so far. “Why does everyone leave me? What’s wrong with me?” I think we’ve all been there at some point.
Two of the subplots: first, the relationship between Tyra (the hot girl with serious self-esteem issues) and Landry (the uber-geek) takes an interesting turn when a female geek shows up and starts her own relationship with Landry. It forces Tyra to admit she might actually have feelings for him, leading to a confrontation on a date where Tyra tells Landry she wants to give it a shot (that’s some Towers level cock-blocking right there – inside joke). Landry initially does the right thing and tells Tyra she had her chance, before deciding to break up with the girl who accepts him for he is so he can chase his dream woman. Poor child, he’ll learn…
The final subplot follow the team’s star halfback, Smash Williams (the cocky brother of course). Already suspended for being in a fight on the other side of town (he’s dating a white girl, and this ain’t LA, this is small town Texas), Smash can’t keep his mouth shut and ends up losing his scholarship to his dream school. The episode ends with Smash encouraging his team to ‘win one for the Gipper’ so to speak, cause this team might be the last team he plays for. In its own way, it mirrors the other subplot’s theme of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.’
I’m doing the best I can to give you an idea of the show, but really, go to NBC.com, get on Netflix, whatever works for you and check out the show. It really is one of the best written, best cast shows on television.