It’s been called one of the best dramas on television. It’s been called a work of art. It’s been called extraordinary in just about every conceivable way. It’s been called outstanding, inventive, engrossing, moving, stirring, smart, surprising, compelling, honest, and authentic. And it’s also been close to cancellation more times than Britney Spears has dressed funny.
Why is that? I dunno. Maybe, and I find this increasingly difficult to believe, people hate football. Or shows about football. Or shows about high school kids playing football. Or Texas (at least I can understand that one). Maybe the fact that it comes on at 9pm on Friday night has something to do with it too.
All I do know is that this show is one of my all-time favorites. I’m not kidding. It’s right up there with Star Blazers and Tour of Duty. And the fact that it just got renewed for two more 13-episode seasons has me so excited that I’m actually going to buckle down and pay for cable this year instead of just standing outside my neighbor’s window every night and “enjoying her company.”
My only concern is that the Friday Night Lights folks, ever fearful that half-assing their way through the current season would cost them their cushy jobs, may have put all of their eggs into one basket this season. And that basket is called: Senior Year. See, most of the primary cast members are graduating from Dillon High this year. Three out of the four football players the season has focused on are all packing their bags for college. The only one still around, the star freshman quarterback, was just introduced this season. On top of that, arguably the two hottest members of the cast (unless you prefer cougars or underage girls) will be matriculating on to bigger and better things at the current season’s end. And no, matriculating is not a dirty word.
Worst case scenario, the fourth season will begin with only the coach, his wife, his daughter and his quarterback in the cast. Sure, there’ll be the quarterback’s abusive dad and his Stepford mom and that cocky assistant coach and I’m sure the overeager booster with money problems will be back. But what else is there? That lesbian girl from Landry’s band? Tales of Billy and Mindy’s wedded bliss? Saracen’s crotchety grandma getting a spinoff series? Doesn’t sound very promising, does it?
So, in order to keep one of my favorite series alive, I’m going to comb through my vast knowledge of great (or at least well-known) network television and find some suitable scenarios that Friday Night Lights can adapt to its own special form of adolescent melodrama. Onward…to gravitas!
Option #1 – The Get Rich Quick Scheme
Every great school-based show always has at least one episode where the disparate cliques of teenagers band together to do something for their teacher/classmate/mascot/dealer. This “something” usually involves raising a large amount of money in a short amount of time. And that fundraising effort using results in hijinks. And hijinks are what make good television. Perhaps superstar QB J.D. McCoy organizes an impromptu indoor carnival to raise money for a hooker. But in order to make it work, he has to convince Principal Taylor that he’s dying. The nerdy kid (who later becomes a horrible stand-up comedian and stars in an amateur porn), the smart girl (who goes on to star in a horrible — redundant? — Paul Verhoeven film), the cute cheerleader (who, miraculously, gets even cuter) and the token minority snob (who fades into obscurity) all help him stage a “Dunk for the Cure” event where participants pay for the chance to drop Coach Taylor’s overly chesty young daughter into a tank of freezing cold water. However, they end up burning the gym down and have to use their proceeds to pay for damages…which work out to be the exact amount they raised. Weird, huh?
Option #2 – Push A Girl Down A Flight Of Stairs
Whenever a group of teenagers get together and start dating each other, something bad is bound to happen…or at least something gets misinterpreted as bad and blown out of proportion just to make some sort of moral lesson at the end of the show. This convoluted scenario perfectly fits the football set. First, we need to introduce a bad boy to the team. Let’s make him a linebacker from “the wrong side of the tracks” (As an aside, does anyone else find it odd that the Dillon Panthers seem to have no defensive players?). The “gang,” which now consists of J.D., his girl Madison, Julie Taylor, Smash Williams’ little sister, the new Brazilian exchange student/team kicker, and Daryl (some player who’s evidently been in 11 episodes yet has zero resonance in my mind), welcomes the bad boy into the group. Julie falls for him and they start dating. Then the whole gang goes to Cancun for Spring Break. When no one is around, bad boy and Julie argue about the length of his sideburns. He gets mad and says he’s going back to the room. She tries to stop him by grabbing onto his arm. He shrugs out of her grip, causing her to lose her balance and tumble down six flights of stairs into a piranha tank. In order to cover her own embarrassment, she accuses him of abuse. The exchange student then contacts his uncle’s “associates” who make the bad boy disappear for about 15 years, before he returns to play guitar and emote on a second-rate VH1 reality show. Lesson learned.
Option #3 – The Disaster Of The Week
The most successful weekly dramas follow a tried and true course: the big event. Think about it. ER, Criminal Minds, House, Smallville, America’s Funniest Home Videos…they all have some sort of ridiculous threat on each episode that the brave characters manage to tamp down at the last possible moment (which is right before the credits and next week’s “explosive” preview). For this show, I’m thinking…tornado! What better way to bring J.D. and his parents back together than to have them all huddled in fear inside a small equipment shed near the football field, watching in abject horror as the fancy new jumbotron is ripped from the earth and sent hurtling into The Alamo Freeze? Will Buddy Garrity get all his vehicles off the lot before the storm claims his only chance of reuniting with his wayward daughter? Will that lesbian girl from Landry’s band ever show up again? You’ll be on the edge of your seat! You’ll wonder if anyone could survive such danger! And you’ll ultimately be let down by how easily everything resolves itself! But wait…next week’s episode promises something you’ve never seen before and you won’t believe what happens!!!
Option #4 – Racism