Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Friday Night Lights "On The Outside Looking In" Review

I decided to rent the FNL DVDs rather than watching each episode on a weekly basis for the next three months. Don't read the reviews if you intend on watching the season on NBC until you've seen the episode that I reviewed. Spoilers will exist throughout the review. If you've watched the DVDs or the DirectTV run, then feel free to read each review and share it with your friends. Anywho, onto the actual series:

"Expectations" set up various arcs for different characters. The East Dillon Lions upset the #8 ranked team in Texas. Tami began her new job as the guidance counselor at East Dillon. Becky moved in with Billy and Mindy. Julie moved on from Dillon and into college. "On The Outside Looking In" continues from where "Expectations" left off. Arc building continues. The seeds for the season five story continue to be planted.

The expectations for the East Dillon Lions have gotten greater since their upset victory. The team's no longer content with simply winning. The coaches aren't either. The team feels like they earned a Top 20 ranking for beating a Top 10 team. Eric tries to manage his team's expectations. He becomes perturbed when the players pay more attention to rankings than actual practice. Eric's not immune to curiosity though. Upon discovery that the team won't be ranked combined with news that Luke's hit will be under review for possible suspension, Eric goes to Buddy to see what's what. The team and its coaches feel like the Lions have been given a raw deal and a lack of respect. Buddy more or less confirms the team's suspicions because the athletic association views East Dillon as outsiders. The association has more incentive to protect other teams. Eric doesn't take the news well. He argues on behalf of his player in front of the board but to no avail. The board wants to send a message to the rest of the conference. Before their next game, Eric writers "STATE" on the white board--the one word that rallies the Lions into a frenzy. Game on.

Throughout the series, I've had various issues with FNL's portrayal of football. I like the story the show will be telling throughout the season (or the potential of the story). I wonder, shouldn't the team have waited a few weeks until they've won a few more games? I'm not sure how the high school Texas rankings work but a 2-8 team that upset West Dillon and the #8 team doesn't seem like they should be ranked in the second week of the season. Regardless, I like the story because it's a return of sorts to season one when the Panthers were underdogs after they lost Jason Street. The football team's story became much more than a measure of wins and losses. Coach Taylor was under fire. The team had to come together as family. Matt Saracen transformed himself, personally, through football. The Lions should be as feel-good as those season one Panthers. Last season, they were a rag-tag group of misfits thrown together by coach with no identity and no pedigree of winning. Now, they know how to win, they believe in one another and they believe in coach.

Coach isn't the only Taylor on the outside looking in. Tami continues to struggle in her attempt to initiate change in East Dillon High. Each idea she presents to the faculty is ignored. Their cynicism has zapped their enthusiasm to initiate change as educators. The faculty's a collection of passive teachers collecting paychecks. Tami experiences one iota of positivity though. She seemingly broke through to malcontent Epic who finally showed up for their scheduled meeting. Tami convinced Epic that she'll care about her and guide her even if her foster parents do not. The encouragement's enough for Epic. The relationship's reminiscent of Tami and Tyra during the early seasons of the show. Also, Tami gets one volunteer for her after school "Homework Help" program. Baby-steps.

Tami's story hasn't exactly been a bunch of fun. It feels too recycled. She's been down this road before in the series. I'm not sure what the show wants to accomplish through Tami. It'd be interesting if the story becomes a commentary on the public school system as a whole throughout the country, and the difficulty in changing the existing infrastructure of the public school system. If Tami singularly changed the system, it'd feel good but it'd lack the realism that FNL's nailed in their previous four seasons.

Meanwhile, Julie's transition to college has been rough. She hasn't made friends and she can't even find a study group. Julie meets the head TA for one of her classes, Dustin, and the two hit it off over a football game. The previews made it clear where the storyline's going. Beyond his introduction, Julie's story is thin. I wonder if the fictional B.U. even has freshman orientation. Freshmen, whether they truly like one another, form packs during orientation (especially the freshmen who live on the same dorm floor). Julie's an outsider, which continues that theme among the Taylor family. There isn't much else to say about good ol Julie Taylor. Aimee Teegarden looks fantastic.

Vince receives several letters of intent from various prestigious Davison I football schools. He also meets a local booster who offers to take care of whatever he needs. It should be interesting to watch Vince's ascension into local celebrity. Luke, meanwhile, grows closer with Becky after she drives him home. Becky and Mindy clash at the Riggins house. Mindy's frustrated that Becky stayed out so late without informing she or Billy. Becky's not used to any one caring or noticing. There isn't much to write about the East Dillon kids though. It's only episode two though.

The second episode of the season entertained me. I think the season's still getting its footing. I've read in various places that the season really takes off with episode five. Until then, I'm content with seeing the East Dillon kids in simple yet fun high school plots. The Tami story isn't interesting enough yet because I have no idea what path they'll take with it. But I have faith in the rest of the season.

Kerry Ehrin wrote the episode. Michael Waxman directed it. Ehrin's been with the show since it began. I even read the first draft of his "Who's Your Daddy" script.

THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.