Saturday, August 11, 2012

There were a lot of characters on "Friday Night Lights" I wished I would never see again

     Clockwise from top: Kat McPhee on "Smash," star of "Off
     the Map" and "The Mob Doctor," typecasted murderer, girl
     who asked the question to Miss Teen South Carolina,
     has volleyball under special skills on her resume, Canadian
     box office draw, Rob Has A Podcast fantasy football
     competitor, new Charlie's Angel number...let's say two.

Better late than never, I spent the last twelve days making my way through all five seasons of "Friday Night Lights", which I really enjoyed. Except for some key parts that I didn't. And since I'm about six years too late on getting in on this party, I really don't have anyone to bounce these thoughts off of. So I turn to you, faithful blog.

So many of the show's problems have already been written to death about - the Tyra/Landry murder plot, Santiago, everything else about season two, its complete inability to handle a story about crime with any grace - so I'll spare you. But the Tyra/Landry murder story did leave me thinking about an aspect of storytelling that to me felt so obviously wrong that I can't believe the writers went down that path.

In the third episode of season one, Tyra breaks up with Tim Riggins and as a result pretty much loses any small connection she had to the Panthers. Landry was not on the football team in the first season and so he also had no real connection to the team outside of his oft-forgotten friendship with Matt Saracen. So despite liking Landry as comic relief and not having much of a huge problem with Tyra, both of them are really expendable to the show when viewed in that context. Both of them could have left the show (Tyra, certainly) and nothing would have changed.

So I have to wonder why anyone thought it was a good idea to put two of those type of expendable characters alone in a storyline together. Why should we care? If anyone wants to tell me that that story didn't come about as a result of necessity, with Tyra and Landry being totally brick-walled into an isolated story that needed to be turned up a few degrees to create maaaaaajor high skool dramz, I'm not even sure I could tolerate nodding politely in response. Season two was largely criticized for disconnected plots and basically becoming "Thirty-Two Short Films About Dillon, Texas" and even at the end of the first season, the Tyra/Landry love connection was one of the biggest offenders. Though they were eventually able to course correct, integrating its characters into each others worlds seemed to be totally ignored even though the show was based so heavily on a sense of community in how much everyone in this small town loved their high school football team.

Though I can now look back on the show with some fondness for Tyra (I eventually grew to like her and Landry and I always liked her relationship with Mrs. Coach), she was sort of a virus that plagued a lot of aspects of the series. We had to suffer through that annoying story where she dated Cash the cowboy (again, "Friday Night Lights" + crime = bad) but even worse, her insisted presence on the show meant that for reasons I can't begin to fathom, Billy Riggins and Mindy Colette somehow became regular characters on this show. Billy Riggins might be my least favourite character in the history of fiction. I never for one second cared about anything he did on the show, and outside of his days spent as assistant coach for the Lions where I only wanted to punch him, I wanted his character to be found dead in pretty much every other episode. Even in small stories with Tim, I found him unbearable, so it was totally maddening to me that the married life between him and Tyra's sister was given a weekly showcase in later seasons (may I direct you back to the question I asked earlier about useless and expendable characters: why should we care?). Even hearing Taylor Kitsch say "Billy" in a Texas accent annoyed the hell out of me eventually, much in the same way that hearing Becky say "Hey, Tim Riggins" in that identically awful way each time drove me up the wall.

God, this show. Some parts so good. Others so bad. I had heard a ton of praise for "FNL" for a really long time and finally I was compelled to watch it. It's certainly exceptional in some areas and I do think overall it's a very good show. But reading weekly episode reviews, it's interesting (but interesting in a way that totally makes sense) to see that critics who disliked a lot of individual episodes can look back on the series as a whole a lot more fondly than I might have.