Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Old TV Watch Project: Friday Night Lights-"Pilot"

Coach Taylor on "Friday Night Lights"
Credit: NBC

As you probably know, this summer I will be looking back at a few series as a part of the Old TV Watch Project. One of the series I will be revisiting is Friday Night Lights with season one this summer. I'm going to start out by looking back at the pilot of the series. My thoughts on this pilot are after the jump.

 This is a show that I tried to watch a couple years ago. I found that I wasn't quite ready to watch the show and I didn't feel like I would be able to get everything  out of it that I should, so I stopped watching. I selected this show for this summer because of it's pedigree and my interest in watching. Now that I've rewatched the pilot, I'm glad I did. This show's portrayal of the football culture in Texas is something that I have rarely ever seen on a TV series. I found the characters to be a lot more interesting then I did the first time around, mostly because of the way that they were introduced.

The show takes the "show, don't tell" approach to character introductions. This means that it doesn't use dialogue to explain every little detail about the show. This is something that separates it from the many pilots that I've seen since I began watching television. It lets us come up with what is going on in these characters lives and who these characters are. It's rare that a show actually does this, so I have to single out this pilot for it. 

The pilot introduces us to the daunting tasks that are being faced by Coach Taylor on a daily basis. He's faced with the task of leading this team and meeting Dillon's expectations. Dillon's expectations are nothing is acceptable except perfection. Everywhere Coach Taylor walks around, he is asked about something to do with the team and how he was going to run it. This is a lot to deal with and Kyle Chandler does a great job portraying Taylor's reaction to the world around him and his commitment to football. I know there will be a lot of great material for his character coming up in future episodes and I'm excited to see where they take his character.

Matt Saracen is certainly put in an interesting place in this episode. He's the backup quarterback of the team, relatively ignored by his teammates, and suddenly he is forced to play in the opening game. I connected with his character pretty much right as he was introduced, and the material in the last ten minutes of the episode played off of that connection to hold my interest with his character. I'm very much looking forward to where they're going to take the character in the future episodes. Trying to build Saracen into a quarterback for the team should be a very strong arc that should cause some very interesting tension between the characters.

We also get introduced to the other members of the team. We meet Jason Street and his girlfriend, Lyla the cheerleader. These are two characters who left the pilot as well shaped as characters in the pilot possibly could. I'm interested in where they are taking the characters' arc. Street's recovery should be a very compelling storyline that I'm excited to see play out. We also get introduced to Smash Williams. If there's a bigger ego on this show, we haven't met him yet. This guy has a huge ego, and that will probably bite him in the ass sometime. We also meet the drunk Tim Riggins. I'm not sure where they're going to go with his character, but I'm not exactly fully into his arc yet. We'll have to see how this goes.

If there's one thing that the episode did the best, it's having an emotional climax that was very moving to watch. The moment that Jason Street went down on the field this show began to morph into something else for me. The first time I watched the pilot, that's when the portrayal of this town started to click. This was The moment when everyone came together to keep everything going and pray for Street was a very moving moment. The town came together out of respect for Street, and it was that scene that drew me in and made me say "This show is for me".

Some other thoughts:

  • Coach Taylor's speech to Matt Saracen as he was about to enter the game was absolutely perfect. 
  • We don't get much from Connie Britton in this episode, but what we got was very good. She seems like she has a great sense of humor.
  • There were a couple of interesting bits featuring Julie Taylor. She gets to turn down Matt and Landry and compare the football team to Moby Dick. There isn't much here, but I'm interested in where they take her character in the future.
  • The voiceover at the end of the episode was chilling. Those were some very well chosen words that were very well said by Kyle Chandler. It helps that what was happening on screen was brilliant as well. 
  • All Adrianne Palicki does is hang out with all the guys and look pretty in this pilot. Frankly, I'm disappointed.
  • Note: I am going through this series for the first time, so please only comment on the events that happen in the first episode and please don't ruin any future twists. Any spoilerish comment will be deleted.
Overall, this episode was a strong start to the series and has me very excited to watch and review future episodes of this show. 

Next Week: We move on to episode 2 of the series, "Eyes Wide Open"

For more information about the Old TV Watch Project, an archive of previous reviews  please go to the home of the project right here.

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