As Lost heads into its final weeks, we’re being bombarded with the writers answering six years worth of questions. However, no matter how many ghost children or metaphysical moral dilemmas they throw at us, they’re safe in one regard. There’s no way they will be the most illogical, least planned out show on television this season.
That title belongs to Friday Night Lights. Let me be clear… I’ve watched the show from the beginning, and have counted myself as a fan. I own the first season on DVD, and would still hold it up as one of the great seasons of network television ever. But, as time has gone on (they just began season four on NBC) I’ve realized that the wrong turns that I’ve tried to ignore have destroyed this once great show.
There are still the some significant bright spots. The casting and acting is superb, especially stars Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton (Go Big Green!). The cinematography and settings are great. The music is solid. The problem? The writing room is apparently staffed by retarded chimps with no memory or logic skills.
Unlike my colleague The Dilemma, I don’t look for answers to life’s dilemmas from television. I look to be entertained, and to be drawn into the lives and stories of the characters. I understand that there are some constraints of network television that are part of the landscape. That Friday Night Lights has found ways to keep characters in the show that wouldn’t be there in real life (mostly by having them skip college in unbelievable ways) is regrettable but predictable. However, the one thing I can’t stand in a television show is when the writer’s don’t pay any attention to the development of the characters, or to the internal logic of the show. Friday Night Lights probably plays more fast and loose with this than any promising show in network history.
For those of you that don’t know the show, it’s based around a high school football team in Texas. It’s a great setting, but the show has used the stereotype/truth that Texas is crazy for high school football to mean that they’re literally insane. The set-up to this season would have you believe:
1.) That Dillon High School has fired coach Eric Taylor. In his three years there, Coach Taylor has overcome the paralysis of his starting quarterback to win the state championship; been wooed back from a college assistant position and lost in the playoffs because his star running back blew out his knee; lost in the state championship game by two points after having to replace his starting quarterback halfway through for sucking.
2.) That after being fired from the school where his wife is the principal after this phenomenally successful run, because the school board sided with the rich father of the quarterback that sucked so much in the state championship that he had to be pulled, Coach Taylor doesn’t move onto one of the hundreds of great jobs available to him. Instead, his wife stays in her job, and he takes a position at East Dillon High School, which has just been reopened because the district decided to split into two high schools.
3.) That East Dillon vs. Dillon looks like a black high school vs. a white high school before Brown v. the Board of Education. Somehow the town and school district has opened a run-down ghetto school, and there hasn’t been a PTA riot.
4.) Nobody at East Dillon went to Dillon. When school districts add a new school, it’s normally made up of half the students of the old school. When the new season begins, there is one character that we know that has been transferred to East Dillon. He knows nobody. None of the teachers have been transferred. Coach Taylor knows only one of his players. Maybe the boosters could steal one or two stars, but the whole team? Come on! And the whole school is made up of minority students who look like they’re trying out for a remake of Dangerous Minds.
5.) The whole town continues to follow Dillon football, and is OK with East Dillon playing on a broken down field and having no equal facilities. Even though, presumably, half their children go to East Dillon.
Add to this the shallowness of the new characters and the triteness of the dialogue and storylines, and it has become apparent that all the effort fans went through to keep the show on the air was for naught. I’ve stuck with the show through retarded story lines before (proto-family man Coach Taylor leaves his pregnant wife and teenaged daughter for a job in Austin rather than staying or making them move; Landry kills a guy; Matt Saracen becomes a stud quarterback but doesn’t change his demeanor at all; Dillon High winning every game on a last second play; players that started in the same year suddenly becoming different ages). But always, there was a glimmer of hope. Not this time.
It’s a shame to see such talent wasted because of sloppy mistakes. The annoying thing is this death knell could have been easily avoided. If the writers wanted to set up a conflict between the new QB and the coach, have the QB transfer to East Dillon, taking some other studs with him. His rich father sets the team up. Coach Taylor is still in his job, but has to contend with a more talented, exciting team across town. Logical and compelling.
Bottom line: Rent Season One. Leave it at that. Patience doesn’t pay off with Friday Night Lights.