Hanna, that’s such a good point about the power of random and fleeting moments to wreak havoc on this show. I think that’s a theme common to many of the best HBO dramas as well. Maybe it’s a life truth that a TV show is particularly well-suited to reveal. There’s much more pressure on movies, with their two-hour arcs, to depict larger-than-life incidents and tell a story as if it’s complete and whole. And often that constraint gives short shrift to the power of the random and to the frayed threads that make up so much of lived experience.
But I don’t really buy your idea that on FNL the central conflict between good and evil is also between heart vs. money. That seems too simple. J.D. isn’t a potentially brilliant quarterback because he’s rich. Yes, his parents paid for extra coaching, but mostly, J.D. has God-given talent. Smash’s similar talent comes with working-class roots, and it looks like he’s on his way to success, and we’re meant to celebrate that. Money is a source of corruption—Tim and Billy’s copper wire theft—but it’s also the vehicle for redemption—Jason’s attempt to channel those ill-gotten gains into his house-buying scheme. If he fails, I don’t think it will be because the show treats money as inherently corrupt. It’ll be because money is painfully out of reach. And money vs. heart leaves out other deep currents on FNL—like athletic prowess and also the religious belief represented by all those pregame prayer circles.
A couple of observations from readers before I sign off. My friend Ruben Castaneda points out that for all its subtle treatment of black-white race relations, FNL has had only a few, not wholly developed, Hispanic characters. That’s especially too bad for a show about Texas. From reader Greg Mays, one more thought about why Tami has no girlfriends. He writes, “As the husband of a coach’s wife, I have a theory: It’s tough to have any real friends in the school-student circle as the coach’s wife because you have to be watchful of their intentions to influence your husband. … Also, if my wife is representative, there is a population of coaches’ wives who are coaches’ wives because they are more likely to have male friends than female.” I’m not sure that last part describes Tami, but I could imagine it does other Mrs. Coaches.
And hey, Meghan, I have the same double pierce story, from seventh grade. My parents drew a straight line: earring to mohawk to drugs to jail. They didn’t come to their senses as quickly as Tami, either.