Friday Night Lights

I LOVE football!  It is, by far, my favorite sport (to watch and play) and this show is all about football!  And not just any football … it’s about TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL!  The biggest thing in a state known for big things.  🙂

The show follows Eric and Tammy Taylor in their small Texas town of Dillan.  In Season 1, Eric becomes the head coach of the outstanding Dillan Panthers with high hopes of winning the state title.  Tragedy befalls the team when their headed-for-the-pros quarterback, Jason Street, is injured at the end of the first game of the season and spends the rest of his time on the show as a paraplegic.  The season, Coach Taylor’s job, and the hopes of this football town are then hung on the shoulders of Sophomore QB2, Matt Saracen.  Matt wins that first game and takes the Panthers all the way to the state championship – which they win.

Characters
Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler)
– Head football coach of the Dillan Panthers, at the end of season 1 he leaves to pursue his dream to coach college football but returns part way through the football season (season 2).  At the end of season 3, Taylor is ousted as the head coach of the Panthers and is given the position of head coach of the East Dillon Lions – the school is reopened after a government-issued redistricting for more funding.  By the end of season 4, Taylor has taken a group of misfits and gang bangers and turned them into a football team.  Kyle Chandler brings something real and raw and simply magical to this character.  He is honest in his acting and I sometimes wonder what he would be like in real life.  He embodies Eric Taylor better than another else ever could.  I love watching him perform.

Tammy Taylor (Connie Britton) – Loving wife and mother during season 1; Tammy becomes the Dillon high school counselor and mentor to Tyra Collette as well as pregnant with her second child.  Her daughter is born at the beginning of season 2 and by season 3 Tammy has become Dillon’s principal.  This creates some challenges when Eric is made head coach at the rival high school but by the end of season 4 Tammy is removed as principal for giving counsel to a East Dillon student who desires an abortion.  Connie Britton is a Texas woman!  She is everything I’ve always wanted to be – strong, fierce, confident, passionate, beautiful, loyal to family, and still soft and loving.  She is by far my favorite character and whenever I say “y’all” I hope I sound like her!

Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden) – For me, Julie is a hard character to love.  She is the only daughter of the Taylors (until Tammy has her second daughter at the beginning of season 2).  Much of her life is shown as selfish and whiny – that bothers and annoys me.  She is “over” all things Texas and football but she ends up dating and falling in love with Matt Saracen (QB of the Panthers).  The two date early in season 1, take a short break at the beginning of season 2 while Julie tries to “find herself,” and continue dating until the middle of season 4 when Matt leaves for Chicago and Julie moves on with her life.  Her story lines are not deep and center around her trying to figure out who she is within a football family from a small town.  She is intelligent but allows her judgment to lapse many times – putting her into stupid situations.  She transfers to East Dillon at the beginning of season 4 for many reasons; 1. to support her father 2. to be with her friends 3. to support her mother’s statements that the 2 schools are treated equally (this she also does partly to spite her mother’s words stating that “if East Dillon is just as good as West Dillon then you won’t mind if I transfer.”).  Julie’s greatest fear is becoming like her mother.  Aimee Teegarden is great in this lovable villain-of-sorts.  She is whiny and doesn’t always seem to know what to do next – the perfect teenager!  She makes the character cute and fun even when you just want to smack her.

Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) – Matt is shy and unsure of himself.  When we first meet him in season 1 he is QB2 – a nobody – behind Jason Street (the greatest QB ever).  But by the end of the pilot episode, Matt is QB1 and helps win the opening game after Street’s injury.  Matt starts dating Julie Taylor soon after that and this causes a little friction between himself and his coach.  We soon learn that Matt has much more than just football on his plate.  His mother has never been a part of his life (she shows up during season 3 and creates a relationship with her son), his father is in Iraq with the Marines (he has a brief stint on the show as well but eventually goes back to Iraq where he is killed in action), and he lives with his grandmother who is slowly becoming a handful as her memory slips more and more.  Julie and Matt date off and on (mostly on) until season 4 when Matt takes off for Chicago and the life as an artist that he’s always dreamed of.  At the end of season 4 Matt comes back to visit and Julie ends their relationship for good.  Matt dated a few girls other than Julie throughout the years but never loved any of them.

Zach Gilford doesn’t seem to be acting.  I honestly think he’s just being himself in this role, but I don’t mind because it works.

Lorraine “Grandma” Saracen (Louanne Stephens) – Lorraine is the biggest Panthers football fan in Dillon, Texas.  She is a fan of Coach Eric Taylor even more than she is a fan of the team, though.  She always refers to him as “Coach Eric Taylor” and becomes overjoyed when Coach stops by the house or they see each other out in town.  Lorraine is the legal guardian of Matt but we learn very early that she is incapable of taking care of him and hasn’t in many years.  Her physical and mental health deteriorates as the show progresses and she is eventually placed in a nursing home.  However, Matt “breaks” her out and takes her home “where she belongs” at the end of season 3.  When Matt leaves for Chicago his mother moves in the take care of Lorraine.

Louanne is one of my favorite old lady actresses.  She’s great in this role because it’s so very honest.  She makes you just want to hug her and tell her everything will be okay.

Shelby Saracen (Kim Dickens) – Shelby is introduced during season 3 when Matt goes to see her to get his emancipation paperwork signed so he can become his grandma’s legal guardian.  Shelby starts coming over to help with Lorraine but this seems to cause more problems.  Eventually Shelby and Lorraine work out many of their issues and by season 4 Shelby has moved in as Matt prepares to depart Texas.

There isn’t much to say about Kim Dickens since she hasn’t been a key character on the show.  She’s a quiet presence who makes herself known when she needs to.

Jason Street (Scott Porter) – Jason was one of my least favorite characters.  He spent most of his time whining and that’s annoying.  He was paralyzed in the first episode of the series and spends the next few seasons trying to reinvent himself since he is, obviously, not the star QB anymore.  He briefly sells cars, coaches football, and plays quad rugby before becoming a sports agent in New York City.  He fathers a child with a one-night stand waitress (who looks a lot like the clarinet player from Mr. Holland’s Opus and a lot like a later character, mother of Becky Sproles).  He is written off the show at the end of season 3.

Scott was annoying so he did his job well – I couldn’t separate him from his character.

Herc (Kevin Rankin) – He becomes Jason’s best friend and roommate after his accident.  Herc teaches Jason how to live as a paralyzed person.  He is written off the show when Jason moves to NYC.

Kevin is rude and crass and hilarious.  You can’t help yourself – you just love the guy.

Brian “Smash” Williams (Gaius Charles) – Smash was full of himself and a great football player.  But at the end of season 2 (his senior year) he injures his knee and loses his chances at college football.  During season 3, Coach Taylor helps rehabilitate Smash and he becomes a walk-on at Texas A&M University.  Smash did a lot of things to end his football career – steroid use, constant fighting, walking off the team do to alleged racism – but Coach stuck with him and he was written off the show during season 3.

I was never much of a fan of Gaius Charles.  He played the character well, I just didn’t like the character.

Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly) – She’s head cheerleader, girlfriend of Jason Street (then Tim Riggins, then Jason again, then Tim again, then Church Boy, then Tim again).  There was never much development of her character.  At the end of season 1 she quit cheerleading, during season 2 she becomes a “devout” Christian, and she is written off the show at the end of season 3 with the end of her time at Dillon High.  She makes a brief return during season 4 to officially end things between her and Tim.

Minka Kelly is beautiful and that is about all her character was there for.

Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland) – Buddy grosses me out a lot because he’s always out of breath and sweaty.  Buddy is father to Lyla and two younger kids.  His wife leaves him during season 2 because of all of his affairs.  Lyla stops speaking to him but eventually moves in with him to finish her high school career at Dillon (her mom moved to California with her new husband).  Buddy owns a car dealership in town and is a huge Panthers fan (and former player).  During season 4 he changes teams and joins Eric as a Lion supporter.

Again, Brad kind of grosses me out.  But he does a great job at playing this overbearing and slightly loveable booster.

Tyra Collette (Adrianne Palicki) – she is dating Tim Riggins when we first meet her but that doesn’t last long.  She is popular but in a different way than Lyla.  She is beautiful but anti-school.  That is until Mrs. Taylor takes her under her wing and mentors Tyra.  She and Julie become very close and Tyra eventually gets into college at the University of Texas and is written off the show at the end of season 3 with graduation.  Her biggest storyline was that of her attempted rape and the later murder of her rapist by Landry Clark.  She and Landry then have an on again off again relationship that is mostly off even though he loves her.  She dates a rodeo cowboy for a while too – that doesn’t work out.

Tyra was one of my favorite characters – even with her interesting brand of crazy.  I thought that Adrianne did a great job of showing the battle between doing what’s right and doing what’s easy.

Landry Clark (Jesse Plemons) – He is a brain and best friend to Matt Saracen.  He joins the football team during season 2 and is transferred to East Dillon during the redistricting.  He dates Tyra, a girl who quickly “figures out” she’s a lesbian, and most recently Jess Merriweather.  He becomes the Lions’ kicker and helps them win the final game of the season against the Panthers.

Jesse is a nerdy, ugly kid who eventually grows into a quasi-jock, semi-attractive (depending on the light) man.  He isn’t going to win an Emmy but he’s good as Landry.

Jess Merriweather (Jurnee Smollett) – She is an East Dillon Lion who is introduced in season 4.  She loves football!  She works hard as the only female in her family – she works at the family restaurant and takes care of her 3 younger brothers.  She had a relationship with Vince Howard but we don’t know much about it at the beginning of the season.  Then she starts dating Landry but that becomes weird because she’s black and he’s white – and she still wants to date Vince.  By the end of the season, she and Vince are back together and Landry is heartbroken.

I don’t hate her, but she isn’t my favorite either.

Vince Howard (Michael B Jordan) – He a gang member in East Dillon but he’s good at football.  His mom is an addict and he eventually puts her in a rehab facility but to do it he has to borrow money from a gang and this gets his best friend killed and him into some trouble of his own.  He and Coach Taylor have a few issues because Vince doesn’t do well with authority, but they iron everything out by the end of season 4 (Vince’s first on the show).  He and Jess start dating at the end of the season too.  Vince has a lot of struggles early in the 4th season with Luke as well, because Luke was playing for the Panthers and both bring a lot of aggression and leadership to the team.

Jordan is attractive and a good actor.  I like him in this role even though I don’t like his character all the time.  He makes me WANT to like him.

Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria) – Luke is an amazing JV football player from the Dillon Panthers who is introduced in season 4 after he is transferred to the East Dillon Lions during the redistricting.  He and Vince have a lot of troubles early on as they try to work together to become a team.  Luke is hurt on his farm but continues to play throughout the season with his injury.  The injury comes to light and he is benched but later allowed to play in the final game of the season again the Panthers.  He has a one-night stand with Becky Sproles during which he gets her pregnant.  His mother then tries to get Principal Taylor fired for giving Becky information on abortions when she was asked.  Luke is a “good ol’ Texas boy.”

I love Matt Lauria!  I think he was a wonderful addition to this already great cast!  He’s perfect as the “awe shucks” kind of guy who has a wild streak.

Becky Sproles (Madison Burge) – She’s beautiful and dull.  She has a HUGE crush on Tim Riggins who slept with her mom and then moved into their trailer out back.  Then she has a one-night thing with Luke Cafferty and she gets pregnant and then has an abortion all in about 2 episodes.  She talks to Principal Taylor about her decision and this eventually gets Tammy into a lot of trouble with the school board and angry parents.  I feel like her character is a replacement for Lyla brought in at the beginning of season 4 – so there isn’t much more to her than a pretty face.

Madison is whiny.  She does this thing with her face where she looks up and to the left while slightly shaking her head and making a stereotypical teenage girl noise with her mouth – it’s annoying.

Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) – Tim is, by far, my favorite character on this show.  He is tough and sexy and hot and angry and lazy but lovable and loyal.  He has nicknames for everyone.  He has a plan for life – even when he has no idea how to accomplish it and no desire to try.  He loves his brother very much.  He plays football for the Panthers and then after graduation decides that college isn’t for him so he moves back home and helps out the Lions when he can.  He and his brother Billy open Riggins Riggs where they fix cars but Billy gets them involved in a chop shop and at the end of season 4 Tim takes the fall for the both of them with the police.  He dated Tyra, Lyla, and a few rally girls during his time at Dillon High.  But he kept Becky at bay with her advances.

Taylor Kitsch is a great actor and really nice to look at!  I think he’s great!

Other minor characters – there are many other characters who make short appearances in the show.
Billy Riggins (Derek Phillips) – Tim’s older brother, marries Mindy Collette
Mindy Collette (Stacey Oristano) – Tyra’s older sister, marries Billy Riggins
Corrina “Mama” Williams (Liz Mikel) – Smash’s mom
Mac McGill (Blue Deckert) – Offensive Coordinator for the Panthers
Chad Clarke (Glenn Morshower) – Landry’s dad
Waverly Grady (Aasha Davis) – Smash’s girlfriend with bipolar disorder
Ray “Voodoo” Tatum (Aldis Hodge) – a rival QB
Angela Collette – Mindy and Tyra’s mom
J.D. McCoy (Jeremy Sumpter) – Panther’s QB after Matt Saracen
Joe McCoy – JD’s dad

Plot
It’s a football show … it’s about a football team and the players and fans and coaches of that team.  Much of the plot is told in the character stuff above.  J

I love this show!  I look forward to it every week.  I love that it’s still on Friday nights.  I love that football is still the central point of the show.  I love that it’s more than just football.  I love that the characters push the stories along instead of the other way around.  I love the writing.  I love most of the acting and casting.  This show fills me with joy!

Rating: * * * * *

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