Shutting Down the Night Lights

Got a ton of links from the week I missed, but we had three major TV episode events in the week I missed, some of which are from shows that have been PopRox staples for the last four years. So let’s run ’em down, and tomorrow I’ll be back with catch-up links:

nice to see you, tommy. it always is

nice to see you, tommy. it always is

RESCUE ME: At this point, having Tommy Gavin and the whole Rescue Me crew back is like having your original security blanket around when you’re 40. It doesn’t look anything like it did when you were 5, pieces of it are missing, and you’re not even sure why you needed it so much when you were a kid. But woe be the person that dares say, “Why don’t you just throw that thing away?” You’ll launch into a profanity-driven tirade about the assets of the blanket, even if they’re not true anymore. They may have been true years ago, but they’re completely false now. That’s Rescue Me. It’s tattered, it’s torn, it’s barely functioning, and it’s not nearly as good as it used to be. But damn, it’s nice to have it back. It’s pointless to bore anyone with the details of the opening episode or the upcoming season. If you don’t know about it by now, you don’t care. But just having Tommy Gavin back in my life shooting up bars, jumping on moving cars, debating over a drink for the 50 trillionth time — that’s good enough for me. For now, all is forgiven after I called last season’s finale one of the most insulting things I’d ever seen. SEASON PREMIERE GRADE: B

let's cook.

let's cook.

BREAKING BAD: About a month ago, my wife and I made a goal. Set out to watch the entire first three seasons of Breaking Bad so that by the time season four premiered July 17, we could watch it live. We had a staycation on the docket, a couple recovery days in the hospital and virtually no other TV to watch during that month, so we thought we could pull off the 33 hours worth of one of the most maddeningly addictive and interesting shows I’ve ever watched. We came close, really close — we finally finished season 3 at about 10:45 p.m. Sunday, 45 minutes too late to watch the season four premiere. But suffice it to say we’re caught up, and now we have to sit around and wait like suckers for weekly viewing. Breaking Bad is new to the PopRox roster, but it’s officially a card-carrying member from now on. I’m convinced there’s never been a character like Walter White on TV because you can’t possibly get in his head. Just when you think you have him figured out, he does the exact opposite of what you think he might do and grins while he’s doing it. Does he enjoy being Jesse’s father figure, or is it a burden? Does he cook meth to provide for his family, or because it’s his chance to assert his intellectual dominance over the industry? Would he get out if he could, or does he enjoy it too much? I love the questions Breaking Bad poses, because the answers are always open-ended. And we usually get a couple of them every week. Too bad we didn’t get many that weren’t cut and dried in this year’s opener. All we get to interpret is why Gus decided to slit Victor’s throat. Two-fold answer: It was Victor’s job to protect Gale, and Gus needed to prove the point to Walt and Jesse that he doesn’t give two shats who he kills in the name of his business. His right-hand man is up for grabs at all times. It’s kinda like Keyser Soze killing his family in Usual Suspects (a movie Giancarlo Esposito had a secondary role in). But at least now I can say I’m on the Breaking Bad world. SEASON PREMIERE GRADE: B-

texas for ... wait, was street supposed to be in that final scene? did his part get cut? arrrrrrrrgggggggggggg!!!!!!!!!!

texas forev ... wait, was street supposed to be in that final scene? did his part get cut? arrrrrrrrgggggggggggg!!!!!!!!!!

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: (I realize I’m one of about 10 people in the Poconos that actually watched Friday Night Lights, but too bad. Here are about 1,000 words on its finale, feel free to skip it if you’d like.) I’m a complete shill for anything Friday Night Lights ever did. I supported it at all times, 100 percent. Even the Landry-Tyra murder plotline in season 2, I didn’t think it was nearly as bad as everyone else did. It’s one of the five best shows of my lifetime, and the series finale after five seasons was the perfect example for how to end a series. I even put off watching it for a couple days because I knew when it was over, there would be no more Friday Night Lights. (Or would there? Not even going there yet, not until I see the dailies from the Arrested Development movie.) The finale gave us closure, it gave us laughs, it have us tears, it gave us art. It’s what other series finales should aspire to. You had the nod to the show’s history (“We’ll work on that one”). You had the happy endings for everyone involved (yeah, they won the state championship on a 63-yard hail mary). Everyone that was fighting made up (Coach and Tami, Tim and Billy). Every piece of closure we wanted/needed was present and accounted for. We even found out during the course of the year that people who didn’t show up for the final season (Smash, Lyla) were doing just dandy, thanks. For the ways fans kept this show on the air for five years, there wasn’t any way this show could dare do anything other than give those fans exactly this finale. But now that the final season is over, let’s call it Festivus and I’ll begin with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you Friday Nights Lights writers this final year! (End of Frank Costanza impersonation.) We loved Friday Night Lights because it’s been so realistic. It’s looked exactly like big-time high school football since it came on the air five years ago. That’s why it pained me to watch a couple story lines this year:

1. There is no way, no way on earth, Luke would not have gotten a major D-1 football scholarship offer in real life. My crappy high school football team that went 1-9 saw no less than eight seniors get college scholarships to continue playing college football in some capacity. They weren’t exactly huge college names, but there were some state schools, Centennial teams and MAC schools all thrown in there. A couple 1-AA teams too. Many of those guys couldn’t touch their toes unless they asked their science teacher where their toes were. Even then it would have been spotty. So to say the star running back on a state championship team in the greatest high school football state in the country couldn’t get anything more than a crappy Arkansas D-3 school to offer him a scholarship is just insane and insulting. In real life, Luke Cafferty wouldn’t be hopping on a bus to go into the Army — he’d be at spring practice for Texas A&M with Smash competing for a starting job.

the best tv couple ever. and yeah, he'd have a job waiting for him in philly too

best. tv. couple. ever. and yeah, he'd have a job waiting for him in philly too

2. Texas is the best state for high school football in the country. No one is debating that. But for the show to make it like it’s the only place where Coach Taylor can get a job is just plan ludicrous. Maybe Pennsylvania football isn’t as good as Texas high school football, but it’s awfully close. And if word got out that a high school coach who has just won three out of the last five Texas state championships was moving to town — and it would — then every high school and most colleges in the Philly area would be banging down Taylor’s door. D-3 Widener in Chester — which is, I believe, is the stadium where the final scene was shot, the same stadium as Invincible — has a pretty proud football tradition but they haven’t had a winning record since 2007. If a college like that found out someone like Coach Taylor would be living in town and looking for a job, you better believe there would be an instant opening. Even if it wasn’t head coach, people would be salivating to get him on their assistant coach roster with an eye on making him the head coach someday. To try and sell us otherwise is just crazy.

3. We’ve got some school districts in the Poconos and across NEPA that have made some pretty bone-headed decisions at remarkably inopportune times. But nothing — NOTHING — could compare to announcing the dissolution of an athletic team a couple of days before it’s about to play for a state championship. It’s 110 percent impossible that would ever happen. East Stroudsburg South has had some pretty good football teams in the last couple years. Imagine if a couple days before they opened district playoffs that the district’s school board announced, “Next year, we’re dropping the two teams and combining the North and South teams into one.” There would be rioting in the streets. And this would be before a district game. Can you even picture what it would be like if it was before a state championship game? Insanity. And worse, impossibility.

4. The notion that someone like Tinker wouldn’t make the “super team” is just bogus. Or, for that matter, the notion that anyone on East Dillon wouldn’t make the super team is nuts. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t East Dillon beat the Dillon Panthers something like 38-7 a couple weeks into their season? Doesn’t that make East Dillon the better team with the better players? A state champion 300-pound senior lineman would be able to make that team and just about any team in Texas, including any stupid super team. 

5. Whoa, media! Chill out! I get angry when I see these types of media stereotypes being perpetrated. I don’t care how big high school football is in Texas — no TV sports reporter would ask a high school kid a couple days before a state championship game whether he’ll even be playing on the team next year. That stuff is completely off limits. Has anyone involved with this show ever watched a TV sports newscast? They’re five minutes and include marvelous soundbites along the lines of, “We think we have a great chance to win.” End of soundbite. Maybe, maybe, maybe, someone might have balls big enough to ask someone like Coach Taylor about the super team rumors, but there is just no way they’d be asking the players about their futures. As impossible as it is, it’s more frustrating that because of scenes like that, I feel the repercussions from it professionally.

OK, I’m done. Those are somewhat minor details in what was like the show’s second-best season (behind season 3). They only made me angry because the show has been so real and so attentive to detail, you get the feeling they just stopped doing research before this year started. They abandoned the realistic approach to high school football and embraced the “we are not a football show” mentality. None of those mistakes, however, takes away from its legacy. The show is one of the three best dramas I’ve ever watched, with Homicide and Mad Men. Friday Night Lights was an institution in my household, and something that I’ll miss profusely. I’ll always get goosebumps every time I hear …

SEASON FINALE GRADE: A. SEASON GRADE: B+. SHOW GRADE: A+. 

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