Somehow, 4 seasons in, Friday Night Lights still has the power to reach into my soul and tear it in half. Okay, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I just finished watching the first episode of the new season, and I was basically tearing up through the entire thing.
I think what I love so much about that show is its fearlessness in putting its main characters through hell. Sure, this could just be seen as a cynical ploy to get you to sympathize with, and like, them, but its more real than that. It treats the ups and downs of life not with reverence or disdain either one, but with the matter-of-factness with which we all have to go through life, at least those of us not on a TV show besides FNL. And in the process, it is also not afraid to make our most beloved characters look like assholes (is there really anything worse than seeing Matt Saracen as dejected, bitter and violent?). And why does it make us cheer on Riggins as he walks out of college about 2 seconds after he starts, and then melodramatically tosses the entire contents of his bookbag out his truck window on the highway? He’s a litterbug, a quitter, and an idiot, yet somehow we see why this decision makes sense to him, and in turn perhaps sympathize a little more with the yokels in real life who consistently vote conservative against their own best interests and cast as an insufferable commie elitist anyone with any intellectual aspirations. Never mind the fact that I can’t actually imagine Riggins ever voting for anything, one way or another, and therein perhaps you have the appeal.
The new season looks promising, with enough conflict and drama to pack an entire lesser series. The McCoys, naturally, are the villains de rigeur, which is a little bit regrettable. How much more compelling would that whole set-up be if they were even moderately sympathetic, as J.D. was throughout most of last season? Now he’s just another stereotyped caricature of a pompous, quarterback date rapist. Maybe he’ll gain back a little more nuance as the season wears on, but I’m not counting on it. Joe, well, with his golf cart and his evil smirk as all hell broke loose at the school assembly, will most definitely not be in line for any nuance, sympathy, or humanity, I’m afraid. But than again, that’s never why his character existed. But he was also never completely believable, and with a show that has such finely drawn and realistic characters, that seems like an almost lazy oversight on the part of the otherwise flawless writers. But I already miss the old characters, even though I’m looking forward to meeting the new ones. Watching this episode was more than a little bittersweet for me, and as much as I just wish maybe season 3 should have been the end of the line, I have a lot of hope and optimism for season 4. I know it’s just a resistance to change, but, like life, things can’t just stay the same all the time. I’m in it for the long haul, and Coach Taylor and Tami (Tammy?) need me, so I’ll be there for them. (Shut up; yes, they’re real people to me.)
And, can I also just say, Coach Taylor doesn’t look nearly as good in red as he does in blue. But maybe I’ll come around. Poor Coach Taylor. I think he might have engaged in some emotional eating over the summer, if you know what I mean.