Tuned In

FNL Watch: A Teacher, a Molder of Men

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nup_132342_0091First things first: I was going to add an explanation here mentioning that other deadlines would be keeping this and other posts delayed/shorter, but let’s just make a deal and agree that, if you’re expecting a post by me and it isn’t here, I’m aware of it and have a lame excuse. Deal? (Also, as always, feel free to use the Morning After posts as open threads, which they’re meant to be.) Now then, quick thoughts on the latest Friday Night Lights:

Beautiful. All-around gorgeous. I only wish I had held off a week to make my point about the Gary Cooper-ocity of Eric Taylor, because it is even more suitable here. Smash’s farewell, and the way Taylor stood up for a player who is no longer his charge, speaking up not just for Smash’s physical ability but for his heart and guts—Coach is no relation to Smash, but Smash’s college tryout was one of the best, most moving father-son scenes I have seen on TV. (For which I also credit Gaius Charles: the connection in his eyes as her gets one last word of encouragement from Taylor is searing and real.) 

Taylor is “a teacher… a molder of men,” as Tami says, and yet it’s not—her words again—”corny” in part because Coach Taylor is a real person, and because his relationship with Tami makes him more so. His conversation with his wife in the bar was such a believable, recognizable one for a married couple: basically, he’s torn about his decision and wants to hear her vocalize his thoughts so he can argue against him. It’s risky territory, because taken in one direction it could amount to his trying to take out his frustrations on Tami, but because she’s so strong, and their marriage is so functional (which is not to say perfect), they manage. 

“Manage” is a key word here, come to think of it, because isn’t that what FNL is about, when it comes down to it? It’s a football show, so glorious victories and heartbreaking defeats are always going to be part of it. But the real core of the show is people with too many problems, just managing—the every day small victories of getting by, or of dealing with setbacks. This is true whether it’s Tami fighting the Jumbotron for teacher funding, or Matt Saracen holding the pieces of his home life together with his grandmother and mom for one more day. (Speaking of which: Kim Dickens just adds to the embarrassment of riches on this show.)

Likewise, Smash’s audition, and his well-earned send-off. He’s not coming into college ball as a superstar. He’s not necessarily going to have a glorious pro career, or any career at all. But he’s going to college. He’s managed. On FNL, this is the kind of victory that counts.