Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Friday Night Lights": Is Under Armour the new Applebee's?

Spoilers for this week's episode of "Friday Night Lights" below. Don't click through if you don't want to know.

This week's episode, "In the Skin of a Lion" offered one of those rare, but important, moments when we realize that Eric Taylor is -- gasp! -- not perfect. Yes, it's true. The moral center of Dillon, Texas sometimes makes mistakes. And this week, he made a doozy, paying for his team's new uniforms with his personal money -- without asking wife Tami about the purchase. The fact that the Taylors don't actually have the money -- and that he initially lies to Tami about the amount and purpose of the check -- makes his transgression even worse. Oh, and what nerve he had, yelling at Tami when she dared to chastise this behavior!

Yet, while Coach's behavior was irresponsible, it was totally believable. Coach is a man with his back up against the wall. He's trying to win the respect of his team. He's trying to win the respect of his new community. And he's trying to get enough money to pay for amenities like uniforms.
Thus, occasionally, he does stupid things. The fact that he recognizes it -- and delivers a heartfelt apology to his wife -- is what makes him an admirable character despite his faults.
Besides, how can you stay mad at a guy who is coming apart at the seams? Eric's struggle to raise money for the team was both heart-wrenching and hysterical, particularly during that car-push fundraiser (is there an official name for this type of event? I don't know that much about raising money for high school football programs). That scene was just a hoot, from Stan growling like a lion into his megaphone, to Riggins giving community members money to hand to team members.
More somber was Coach's attempt to get Buddy to help him with seeking out boosters. Buddy, much to Eric's displeasure, is afraid to break ranks with the Panthers. Joe McCoy and his gang of victory-mad bullies suspect he's the one who told Eric that Luke Cafferty lived in East Dillon (because, well, Buddy WAS the one who told Eric about Luke). Thus, Buddy's trying to keep a low-profile. But that changes at Joe's party, and it seems that Buddy will soon be hopping over to the Lions.
Meanwhile, Eric's players are struggling just as much as he is. Luke is awkwardly trying to make a go of it on his new team, but he seems put out that Coach isn't acknowledging him for the hot shot he is. By the way, how old is Luke supposed to be? I only ask because he doesn't seem to be a freshman. Yet, if he's older than that, wouldn't we have seen this hot-shot running back in an earlier season? Man, I hate the way this show fudges the kid's ages. I never know what we're dealing with!
Anyway, if Luke is annoyed by Coach's lack of fawning, Vince is mad that Coach is paying him too much attention and bossing him around. Yet he's also worried that, with the arrival of a new white player, Coach will toss him aside. Sigh. Make up your mind, Vince! Do you want Coach to pay attention to you or leave you alone?!
Anyway, here are some more thoughts on "In the Skin of a Lion."
* This episode provides a nice showcase for one of the show's best supporting players, Brad Leland, who plays Buddy. Buddy's speech at Joe's party is cheesy and a bit grand-stand-y, but Leland always gives Buddy an air of humanity despite his larger-than-life personality. When he sincerely intones "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose," it's hard not to clap.
* And by the way, random Panther booster -- you do NOT call Ms. Tami Taylor a bitch! You just don't!
* Some nice moments this week for Riggins, too, as he helps Coach a little on the field, and continues to grudgingly get closer to his landlady's daughter. I like the push-pull between Tim and Becky. Tim knows he's prone to bad decisions, and knows that sleeping with the landlady's young daughter would qualify as a bad decision. But his heart goes out to Becky, whose dad seems to be absent and who's mom is always either at work or bedding former football stars. Thus, it's easy enough for her to manipulate him into giving her a ride to school or helping her pick out a pageant dress.
* Of course, Tim does see a way out of his situation -- Luke Cafferty, who immediately crushes on Becky. By the way, "I wish I was renting a room from her mom" is, like, the lamest line ever. Even Riggins seems to think so.
* Matt has started to bond (kind of ) with the douche-y Richard Sherman who, as it turns out, is insightful and talent. And yes, it's mean when he calls Julie a "ball and chain" dragging Matt down, but he's kind of right. She's not the only one, though. Matt has plenty of people stealing his time and energy, including Grandma and even, to some degree, Landry. Sherman's right to suggest that being successful means making hard choices.  Though I think you can be successful without turning into a smelly, drunk, shuffleboard-loving recluse.
* Oh, let's not forget that the Panthers also played their second game this week, and managed to finish. They also scored (once), which is a start -- even though Coach's two star players seem to hate each other.
* And, last but not least, Landry is learning to punt. Does anyone else think his new potential gal pal Jess would be a much better choice? I'm just sayin'

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