TV Club

Week 7: Why Is Lyla All Blush and No Bite This Season?

Well, you have together so thoroughly thumped J.D.’s dad that there’s not much left for me to lay into. He is written to be indefensible, and you’re right that there are real sports dads who spin completely out of control and damage their kids. (They don’t restrict themselves to sons who play football, either: In women’s tennis, there’s the unforgettable father of Jennifer Capriati.) Nobody sympathizes with these people because they are parental wrecking balls.

I will say, though, that I think child prodigies pose a real dilemma for families, one that I’m glad to be spared. When kids have outsize, amazing talent, parents can nurture it and deprive them of being normal, or they can shrug it off and leave their children’s potential untapped. Mr. McCoy is clearly mixing up nurture with self-deluded suffocation. Still, I read J.D.’s line about how his dad just wants him to do his best a little differently than you did, Meghan. On some level, J.D. is right—his father does want him to succeed. It’s just that he wants it in a way that’s utterly self-serving. I wish the character had some hint of subtlety so we could do more than just whack him. And J.D. still just seems like a blank.

Meghan, I’m glad you brought up Buddy and that sad little divorced-dad road trip. Here’s a dad who over three seasons has gone from buffoon to repentant loser to make-amends struggler. The moment in which he lashes out at his kids and then flees weeping down the road should melt the heart of even a bitterly divorced mom, I would think.

But I had mixed feelings about the scene between Buddy and Lyla that follows. It was written to be touching. She says, “Dad, you’ve still got me,” and he tells her that means a lot. But what’s up with how Lyla is all blush and no bite this season? She patiently helps Riggins with the once-and-nevermore drunken J.D. She nobly stands by her father while her siblings refuse to forgive his previous sins. And then at the end of this episode, there’s that close-up, wide-eyed scene between her and Jason, in which she selflessly tells him how great he’ll do as a sports agent in New York as their knees touch and they sway together in the night.

I was taken with that shot for what it says about the capacity of post-breakup friendship. In fact, one by one, I went for each of these scenes of stalwart, good-girl Lyla. But rolled together, they made me miss her sharp, smart, and smug side. I wonder, too, about turning this strong and flawed female character into the beloved helpmate of every man in her life. When was the last time we heard about Lyla’s college plans? Is the turn her role has taken part of the rose-colored softening Meghan has legitimately complained of—FNL maybe anticipating its own sunset by rubbing out its mean streak? I dunno. But I sure am grateful for Devin and her not-melodic Vaseline lyrics. (Though I have a reality-check quibble like the one you raised, Hanna: Would a 14-year-old in small-town Texas really come out as a lesbian without missing a garage-band beat?)