December 16, 2010

Episode Review: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, "Perfect Record"

I've been looking for a new show to recap, and with most networks taking a break this week, I decided to tackle Friday Night Lights. I don't know how many FNL entries I'll get in since I'm also thinking about adding Nikita to the rotation once it returns from hiatus in January, but here goes.

Last week in my TV Report Card write-up, I mentioned how Friday Night Lights can change its tone fairly quickly, and how it can go from a show that can really nail small, intimate moments to one that throws a lot of big problems at the characters in a heart beat. In "Swerve", everything came to a head which made for a very tense episode. "Perfect Record" was able to combine the nuanced moments from "Kingdom" with the issues that were brought up in "Swerve" in an almost flawless way.

It's Rivalry Week in Dillion, TX and someone thought they would get in the Lions' head by publicizing the criminal records of most of the players online. It was working until Coach Taylor rallied his troops to punish the Panthers on Friday night, and the Lions went from a ragtag team on underdogs to the dirtiest team in the state of Texas. The game itself was riddled with penalties, cockiness, and poor sportsmanship from the Lions. Coach Crowley even reminded Coach Taylor, and the viewers, that this is not the kind of team they are.

What's interesting is we really do not know what kind of team the Lions are. Yes, they started out as lovable losers, but the lack of respect combined with the ego that comes with winning has put a huge chip on the shoulders of the players. They feel that they're just as good, if not better, than West Dillion or any school for that matter. You have hormonal kids with heightened emotions, and you're bound to see someone's true colors when you add competitive juices along with a desire to prove oneself to the mix. Maybe this is the team that Lions are, and we're just realizing it along with Coach Taylor. Since the attitude displayed by his team does not match up with Eric's philosophy, we're bound to get some tense moments between Coach and his players.

While Coach was dealing with his players, Tami was trying to figure out what to do with Julie and she decided to put the brat to work, but she didn't want her to fall too far behind at school. Instead of sending Julie back to school, she traveled to Burleson to pick up some assignments. Cue the very awkward, but amazingly acted, meeting between Tami and the TA.

While Julie's become one of the most annoy characters ever, Tami has continued to be one of the best. I was glad that she finally took a sterner approach with Julie, and did not let her mope around the house the entire time. The Taylors have always been good parents, but they've also given Julie a pretty long leash, so it was refreshing to watch them hold her accountable for her bad decisions while still being loving and supportive. Quick aside, the scene between Tami and Derek was proof of how good Connie Britton is and how her being snubbed by the Globes and SAG was a crime.

Back in Dillion, Ornette's taken it upon himself to get Vince recruited by colleges despite Eric's insistence that all contact with colleges go through him. Cue the tense, but amazingly acted, showdown between Vince's two fathers.

The Vince/Eric/Ornette storyline has to be my favorite of the season because it's the kind of personal drama that is rooted within the high school/college sports culture that is sometimes overlooked. You have two men who only want to do what's right for Vince, but their worldviews are so different that they cannot help but clash. Add to that the fact that we know that Ornette's actions, while good intentioned, will only lead to heartbreak for Vince, and you have some seriously intense stuff. Also, the Vince/Eric/Ornette drama showed us that you don't need to give the characters big "problems" in order to create effective tension. I was more riveted by watching Ornette stare Eric down than by seeing him beat up a gang banger.

In another mentor/mentee relationship, Billy officially became Luke's surrogate brother, and tutored him on life, football, and relationships. The eldest Riggins has made it his personal mission to get Luke a scholarship, so he toughened him up with a Rocky style work out routine. Along the way, Billy coached Luke about women by telling him to get Becky's attention he needed to ignore her, and somehow it worked.

The love guru stuff was kind of immature, but I really enjoyed watching the bond form between Billy and Luke. These two overshadowed people found one another, and have created a relationship that is more organic and moving than most romances you see on TV. Billy and Luke are looking at rising above their stations in life, and they've realized that they can only do it together. Plus, I'm loving the character development that they've given Billy. He started out as a selfish hick who only brought Tim down, and now he's this redemptive person on a mission to improve the lives of himself, his family, and Luke. I just hope the writer's don't screw things up by having him steal copper wire again.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • It was nice seeing Jason Street back, and I'm glad his allegiances stayed with the Panthers. It wouldn't have made sense if he was all decked out in red.
  • Does ignoring a woman and being rude really work? No wonder I'm single.
  • Billy and Luke talking about Mindy's job at the Landing Strip was one of the funniest scenes I've seen in a while.
  • Since it was East vs. West, I was expecting to see J.D. McCoy again, but he was noticeably absent this time around. I'm not going to dwell on it or expect that we be told what happened to him, but it was odd not seeing him on the field.
  • The recruitment storyline made me miss Smash, and I hope we get to see him again.
  • I'm still baffled that Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton have not won a ton of awards by now.
The reason why Friday Night Lights has been one of the best dramas on TV (with the exception of Season 2) is it has the ability to find honest, real life drama in a small Texas setting. Yes, sometimes the problems faced by the characters are exaggerated, but it's easy to relate to the people of Dillion and get wrapped up in their lives. "Perfect Record" was proof that you do not need love triangles, mob hits, or the zombie apocalypse to tell a gripping story.


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