Friday Night WTF?Complications Ensue
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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I'm going to try to make this more than a rant, and draw some useful craft advice out at the end, but right now I'm thinking, "What the hell?"

The season premiere of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS hung up for me on two bits of story logic that I found unconvincing.

The big one -- unavoidable with last year's finale -- is that Coach Taylor and his family wouldn't have moved to Austin when he got the job. His wife is on maternity leave, so her excuse that she has to stay in Dillon for "the kids" makes no sense. Julie Taylor is bored with Matt Saracen because, well, he's a hick. She dreams of something more. Hey, kid, how about Austin?

The reason they can't move to Austin is they're half the series. Obviously Coach Taylor will have to come back to coach Panther football because he's the star of a show about Panther football.

Now I knew going into Season Two that the writers would have to send Coach Taylor back to Dillon pretty fast. So I'll suffer through some unconvincing plot logic to get him back. Though I'll wonder if the writers were assuming they were going to be canceled, and wrote themselves into a corner.

But now we've got a story line where some creep is stalking Tyra -- tailgating her car, etc. And she doesn't go to the police. Okay, maybe she's had a few run-ins with the cops. Maybe she's not anxious to call them. (Woulda been nice to know why she wasn't calling them, but I can imagine.)

Then Stalker Boy tries to rape her -- again -- and Nerd Boy Landry comes to her rescue. The guy walks off making threats, and Nerd Boy lays him out with a pipe. He's dead.

Do he and Tyra:

a. Call the police, and tell them, "He was trying to rape my girlfriend, so I hit him with a pipe. Looks like I mighta killed him." The police run the creep's record, realize Landry's done society a favor, pin a medal on his chest and tell Tyra she really ought to do something nice for him when they go home together; or

b. Panic, and dump the body in a shallow stream, while crying out of guilt/fear/shame.

If you guessed (b), you need to get out of the writing room and spend some actual time in Texas.

Here's where I start to worry that the show has jumped the shark. Are we going to have to suffer through episodes where Tyra and Landry suffer pangs of guilt, Landry starts drinking, Tyra falls apart, the police start investigating, etc. etc.? 'Cause it's too big a story to just dump like the body.

Okay, so craft. The moral of the story is that not all logic is story logic. You can't expect the audience to follow you down a path just because you think you can get an fresh story out of it; at least not outside of daytime soaps. I may like the characters ever so much, but if your story just doesn't make any damn sense in the world as I am familiar with it, you're gonna lose me.

Now when I say "the world as I am familiar with it," really we're talking about the world of the show. What's troubling me is that the world of FNL in Season One was beautifully realistic and small. The stories were about the kinds of disasters that regularly do happen in small town Texas. Someone is crippled in a sports accident. Someone cheats. Someone punches someone out. I remember where a bunch of Jason's friends smash up Riggins's car because Riggins slept with Lila. What was lovely about that is the calibration. They don't beat up Riggins, because he's the team's star fullback. Everyone would hate them if they injured the team's star fullback. So they just beat up his car. With him in it.

In real life, creeps do sometimes stalk pretty girls. But the pretty girl's boyfriend rarely kills them. And I don't believe there's a whole lot of body-hiding going on in small Texas towns. And so on. The idea that you hit someone twice and they're dead is straight out of TV -- it would probably take a lot more blows to kill the guy, and he'd be shouting, and there would be blood.

And in real life, when a small town high school coach gets a promotion to quarterback coach at a Big Ten school, he grabs his family and takes the job, and his guidance counselor wife easily gets a guidance counselor job at the Big Ten School. Case closed.

Now you could fill in these plotholes, or at least address them. For example, if Tyra and Landry had pulled out the guy's wallet to see who he was, and it turned out he's the Sheriff's son... then I can believe that they wouldn't want to call the cops.

And if Coach Taylor got in an argument with the wrong person at TMU and got fired and had to come back to Dillon; or if he hit a player; or if a rival at work found out about Smash's drug use and blackmailed him... I can believe he's back coaching Panther football.

But give me something. Throw me a bone here, people.

Bridget, you know my eddress...

UPDATE: Polly points out in Strong Female Lead that Tyra, who was willing to bean her mother's abusive boyfriend with a fireplace poker last season, utterly fails to protect herself from Stalker Boy in any way.

Any particular reason why? 'Cause otherwise Landry wouldn't need to protect poor helpless Tyra...



Couldn't agree more Alex. The best show on network tv is in danger of succumbing to melodrama.

By Blogger Callaghan, at 10:53 PM  

I rewatched all of season 1 on DVD before seeing the season 2 opener. Alex, you absolutely hit the nail on the head about the show having painted itself into a corner with the Coach in Texas and Tammi staying in Dillon. Those scenes in the final two eps of season 1 don't ring true, the drama of separating the best couple on the show simply wasn't earned. Now FNL has to spend too long unpicking that mess and getting back to what it does best.

As implausible as the Landry and Tyra manslaughter melodrama is [something almost exactly the same was just done on Scottish soap River city], there was something even more unlikely in the new season opener: Landry joining the football team!

Now that was a WTF moment.

Still, I love these characters too much to give up for quite a while yet. But am not looking forward to long weeks of angst, sturm and drang about the dead stalker. Ho hum.

By Blogger DAVID BISHOP, at 7:53 AM  

Totally agree. It's incredibly transparent that the writers are going to have to do some very unconvincing hand-waving to get Coach back to Dillon.

And the manslaughter is ringing every "jump the shark" bell in my head.

I loved season 1 and I'm still holding out hope, but very apprehensive about the new direction.

By Blogger IA, at 1:35 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 4:21 PM  

Here's how I would have fixed the how-to-get-Coach-Taylor-back problem:

He gets his dream shot at the big university. Then the head coach who hired him gets fired (or goes to the pros), and the new head coach wants to bring in his own people. (This happens ALL THE TIME in college sports. Have the FNL writers never seen the movie Rudy?). That would send Taylor back to Dillon after tasting but losing his dream job. Lotsa dramatic possibilities.

But almost any scenario would be better than having to wonder why his wife and daughter "missed him all summer." Presumably, neither of them had to be at the high school during the summer, so why weren't they with him in Austin?

For me, that was jumping the shark. The manslaughter story was a double back-flip over the shark.

I LOVED this show last season, but now I don't think I can bear to watch.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 4:32 PM  

P.S. It didn't bother me that Landry made the team, but last season I loved that the smart, non-jock was named after legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry. It was a shorthand way of communicating his parents' hopes and dreams for him. You could tell that no matter how good he was in math or how good a college he went to, his parents would always be disappointed.

Oh well.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 4:46 PM  

I've been a huge fan of the show and I was willing to wait for the coach to come back, but the Tyra-Landry story line really is jarring. It just doesn't seem to fit with the series premise. Your analysis is right on Alex.

I just hope this isn't a sign that the whole season is going to be a write off because without FNL we're not going to have much to watch this winter.

By Blogger Jill Golick, at 7:31 PM  

I had seen the promos for the whole Tyra/Landry setup and was intrigued. I like drama. But as I watched it unfold, I prayed, "Please, please please don't let them kill him and if they do, just have the sense to call the police." Sigh...I am able
to take the implausibility of Coach leaving and going to Austin (mostly because I grew up in a Texas football town and it feels realistic). But this just felt wrong. Not at all what I'd expect from a show so great. Hopefully they can get it back on track. I'm still watching but I feel slighly disappointed by this opener.

By Blogger Hollie Nell, at 10:53 PM  

where did "jump the shark" come from?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:10 PM  

How about the logic holes in "Journeyman"?

He meets long lost love in never-never land, and he doesn't ask how the time travel thing works, can he control it in any way, can she visit him in the future . . .

And most of all, there clearly seems to be some kind of Intelligence or Other Meaning or something behind these episodes where he time travels and IS MEANT TO HELP SOMEONE, but he never thinks about it or asks old lover girl about it . . .

It's like when the cruel ex-bionic woman shot and killed the bionic woman's boyfriend, and then ten seconds later the bionic woman completely forgot about this fact.

But, hey, let's try and remember: it's not HBO, it's television.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:14 PM  

Personally, I'm fine with the "bad logic" of Journeyman so far. It's only the third episode. The show still has time to settle into a rhythm.

After all, the character seems to be more focused on being a hero than coming to grips with the whole thing. If you had the opportunity to saves 100s of people or find out about your metaphysical issue, which would you do?

This character would want to save the world than himself. That's kind of revealing about the character, if you ask me.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 8:44 AM  

If the character's not interested in his own problems, why should I be?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:00 AM  

Well, that's a very good question for you to ask yourself to see if you like the show or not.

I just think that making a decision based on that question after the third episode of a series is a little rash. From what I've seen on the 'net, people seem to have created a lot of expectations for this show. . .and personally, I have no idea how people have come up with these expectations for a show that's just started.

What right do we, as viewers, have to try dictating the direction of a show at this point? What do we know about the characters, the universe, the mechanics of the time travel, etc. etc.? Alex has mentioned suspicion that there's some kind of organization out there having the main character and Livia traveling through time? Is that necessarily true?

Maybe Journeyman isn't your style of a time travel show. I'm holding judgment a little longer to see if it's my style, if I can appreciate the characters, if I can appreciate the mechanics, etc. etc. I found the third episode a little less enjoyable than the previous two episodes, but, personally, I can't point out anything about it that I don't like. . .except maybe that, like you, the main character doesn't think like me and try to find the "logical" path.

But hey, the main character isn't me. I almost like the fact that the character isn't doing what I would do or the show isn't necessarily going in the direction that I would have it go. It's challenging me in a good way, seeing if I can enjoy someone else's vision, and I'm still gathering information to see if I do.

All these characters might be acting perfectly rational, based on their own rationales and according to the information they, themselves, have. I just might not have that information.

So, let's watch the next ep of Journeyman and see what else we can learn.

But, hey. . .you never know. The show could go to far in a certain direction that I don't like, either. I just don't know if it will or won't yet.

Nonetheless, you have the right to decidee whether you like the style or not of the show now if you like. It's up to you.

BTW, what does Journeyman have to do with FNL. At least FNL has a whole season behind it that created a basis of expectation, compared to Journeyman, which has only had 3 episodes.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 11:35 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Legor, at 12:08 PM  

And besides. . .where's he supposed to go to find out more about his condition? Livia really seems like the only source. . .and she usually doesn't stick around to provide more information other than about the current mission or to direct him on the "right" way (is she like Beatrice from Dante's The Divine Comedy, just more elusive?). Otherwise, where is he to go?

How would you go about trying to find out who's transporting you through time, if they're not all that interested in making themselves available? First place I might go is Wikipedia or the library, but I don't think that would make very interesting TV.

But I guess there's always a physicist, a priest or some character that would magically figure out what's going on (but if they could figure out. . .would they be ones responsible). That could be lame, though, a magical answer for everything.

So. . .really? How's someone that's unstuck in time supposed to figure out the issue? He's already gotten an MRI. . ..

By Blogger The_Lex, at 12:28 PM  

Regarding FNL, looks like we'll have to wait till episode four to see where things go:

Wikipedia: List of Friday Night Lights episodes

But judging by the plot summaries I wouldn't expect it to get back on track.

By Blogger Legor, at 12:33 PM  

Ha! Good instincts, Neal, and interesting development with the Langley guy.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 12:06 AM  

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