TV Club

Week 1: Why Doesn’t Tami Taylor Have Any Girlfriends?

Hey there, Hanna and Meghan,

While we’re complaining, isn’t this the third year that some of these characters—Tim, Lyla, Tyra—have been seniors? The producers seemed to be dealing with this small lapse in planning by bringing on the soft lighting and lipstick. Tim looks ever more like Matt Dillon in The Outsiders (not to sound like that thirtysomething mom who was shagging him in the first season).

But I’m letting these objections go. I fell for this opener once Coach and Mrs. Coach had one of those moments that make their marriage a flawed gem.

You’re right, Hanna, that the Taylors seem more like a typical two-career family as we watch Eric tending the baby while Tami comes home at 9:45 at night, tired from her new job as principal. Also, her sermon about how broke the school is descended into liberal pablum (real though it surely could be). But it’s all a setup for a sequence that makes this show a not-idealized, and thus actually useful, marriage primer. He tries to sweet-talk her. She says, with tired affection, “Honey, you’re just trying to get laid.” Then she realizes that he’s signed off on a bad English teacher for their daughter Julie and starts hollering at both of them. Oh, how I do love Tami for losing her temper, snapping at her teenager, and yelling loudly enough to wake her baby. And I love the writers for bringing it back around with a follow-up scene in which Mrs. Coach tells her husband she’s sorry, and he says, “I could never be mad at my wife. It’s that damn principal.” Way to compartmentalize.

Much as I appreciate Tami, I’m puzzled by a weird gap in her life: She doesn’t have girlfriends. I know that her sister showed up last season, but that doesn’t really explain the absence of female friends. In fact, it’s a pattern on the show: Julie’s friend Lois is more a prop than a character, Lyla never hangs out with other girls, and although Tyra occasionally acts like a big sister to Julie, she doesn’t seem to have a close girlfriend, either. Does this seem as strange to you as it does to me? In Lyla’s case, I can see it—she often acts like the kind of girl other girls love to hate (and I look forward to dissecting why that’s so). But Tami is the kind of largehearted person whom other women would want to befriend. The lack of female friendships on the show has become like a missing tooth for me, especially when you consider the vivid and interesting male friendships (Matt and Landry, Tim and Jason, even Coach and Buddy Garrity). It’s revealing in its absence: No matter how good the show’s writers are at portraying women—and they are—they’re leaving out a key part of our lives.

A question for both of you: What do you think of the surly version of Matt Saracen? I’m starting to feel about him as I felt at the end of the fifth Harry Potter book: past ready for the nice boy I thought I knew to come back.


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