Recaps

Get with the Program: Friday Night Lights, Season 4

I know Friday Night Lights fans everywhere are currently dealing with the loss of this show that has continually blown them away for the last few years. Since I didn’t get hooked until somewhat recently, I’m a little bit behind. I’m just now starting Season Five. In my first “Get with the Program,” I tackled the first three seasons. I wanted to save Season Four for its own blog. While watching it quickly over one weekend like a woman possessed, it sent my love for FNL into the stratosphere. Every show has their game-changing storylines. I just don’t think that anyone has done it as seamlessly and brilliantly as the producers, writers and actors behind FNL. I heard rumblings about Coach Taylor no longer heading up Dillon Panthers football, and everyone I knew just raved about this move. I had to see it for myself, though. So happy I did.

As great as Season Three was, it was sometimes difficult to deal with what was happening to the town and to Dillon Football. I pretty much worship Eric and Tami Taylor. So, the boosters lording their power and making work-life impossibly hard for the couple was tough to handle. And then when they replaced Eric as coach, I was so angry. You see, this is what kind of show FNL is. It makes you feel the gamut of emotions in one episode, one season, and heck, even one motto (“Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.”).

Photo Credit: NBC

Coach getting fired as Head Coach of the Dillon Panthers was probably the best thing that ever happened to him, actually. It was an ingenious way of breathing new life into the show. A lot of our favorites were gone (Jason, Tyra, Smash, Lyla) but no worries. A new crop of students were introduced. What show, this side of Law & Order, can introduce a slew of new characters and not go downhill? In fact, the show got even better. I was in awe of this.

And what I was even more impressed with is how for three seasons I loved the folks of Dillon. Sure, they were obsessed with football in an unhealthy way, really, but they were all characters. And it all worked. Fast forward to Season Four and a line has divided the town. We now think of Dillon in terms of the West Side and the East Side. All of a sudden, the West Side has become the bad guys. In fact, I started dubbing them West Villain instead of West Dillon. They could have their Joe McCoys and the Mayor and all those boosters who gave Coach Taylor the boot. Tami was principal of Dillon High School, but you could tell her allegiance was with her husband on the East side. And then there was Buddy Garrity. Thankfully, by the end, he was exiled from the cushy life he knew as one of the biggest Dillon Panther cheerleaders. He was reunited with Eric and quickly adjusted his loyalties. A whole town became the antagonist seemingly over night (although it wasn’t that simplistic, was it?). Another brilliant move. Again, I was in awe.

Have you guys ever seen the awesome 80s movie Wildcats with Goldie Hawn, Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson and Mykelti Williamson? That’s how the beginning of East Dillon football felt like to me. And I loved every bit of it. Coach Taylor was trying to cobble together a team, in a difficult environment. As hardcore about football as the folks over at his last job were, finding that same sort of energy and enthusiasm was going to be decidedly harder. There were so many obstacles preventing Coach Taylor from succeeding: the poor facilities; finding students willing to play; West Dillon boosters were busy stacking the deck for their side; and students, parents and faculty that weren’t used to someone believing in them. What a journey Eric went through; he went from forfeiting the first game to beating the Panthers at the end of the season. And I bought the entire thing hook, line and sinker.

Photo Credit: NBC

Photo Credit: NBC

My most favorite new character had to be Vince Howard. First of all, I used to watch All My Children when Michael B. Jordan was a part of that soap. I knew he had potential, but what he has done on Friday Night Lights far exceeded any expectations I had. Just seeing the relationship Coach Taylor and Vince forged was really wonderful. And how beautiful and fierce has Jurnee Smollett become, huh? I remember her from when she was a kid on sitcoms. And now she’s grown into this gorgeous, talented actress. She has this toughness that I really like. And a sparkle that takes over scenes.

Photo Credit: NBC

I talked about Matt Lauria and his character (Luke Cafferty) in my recent article about Mid-Season TV Crushes. I loved how Luke was able to adapt to the Lions way after thinking he’d had it made as a Panther. He was this innocent kid who just wanted to play football and get a scholarship that would get him off the farm and into college. However, he ultimately became collateral damage in the war between the East and the West. And while I grew to like Becky, I really couldn’t get into her at first because she was so pushy with Tim. It was a little disturbing. She had a tough life and then there was her pregnancy; but having sympathy for her was tough to muster at times. But, I think the show worked it out. I have yet to see where she goes in Season Five, so who knows, by the end of the series, Becky may be one of my favorites.

Photo Credit: NBC

With all the new faces on the scene, we can’t forget the ones that were still around: Landry, Tim, Matt and Julie. Zach Gilford was on his way out but not before giving the performance of his life in “The Son.” However, I didn’t like the way they had Matt just leave town without saying a word to Julie. That was a big issue for me. And as for Julie, she’s just not my favorite character. I pretty much only like her when she’s with Matt. So when they were apart, I was Team Matt. Together, I think they’re a cute couple. So, it was hard for me to know Matt left to go to art school and didn’t bother to call Julie for a long time.

Also, one of the best things the show ever did, in my opinion, was to reunite Matt with his mom. I love Kim Dickens and I’m ecstatic the show didn’t introduce her only to send her away again. As for Tim, he just always gets in the way of himself. Every time you think he’s got it going on, something goes wrong. But it was heartbreaking the way he took the blame for what his brother started, because Billy had a wife and kid. It was a pretty bold move for the show to send him to jail. Meanwhile, I loved that Landry got to be a hero in the game against Dillon. I will admit to wondering how in the world he was only a senior in Season Four. I always thought he was on par with Matt, not Julie. So it was a bit jarring to still see him in high school. But how great was Landry? He had his band, Crucifictorious; and bad luck with the girls; yet, he always remained a pretty positive guy.

I could go on and on about this game-changing season of Friday Night Lights. I look forward to Season Five with excitement, and of course, sadness. But, this is the kind of show that will live on in our hearts for a long time to come.

NOTE1: Catch up on all our Friday Night Lights articles here

NOTE2: The DVD for Season Four is available on Amazon. The release for Season Five happens April 5, 2011; and look for the final season to also air on NBC this spring…

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