This is going to be a trickier week to write than usual: Hanna and I are on vacation in Israel, and Israel, I have come to realize, is the opposite of Friday Night Lights. I have seen a lot of promotion for American export television here, but it’s all CSIs and Law & Orders—tough, urban shows crammed with Jewish—or at least Jewish-ish—characters. FNL: rural, drawling, emotionally subtle. Israel: bustling, fast-talking, blunt. (Has FNL ever given us a Jew? Or even someone vaguely Semitic? Not even the doctors on FNL are Jewish! Not even the sports agents! Not even the lawyers!) And though it’s true I’ve been having lots of conversations about football here, they are all World Cup related.
FNL packed way too much melodrama into this episode, don’t you think? Becky’s getting an abortion; Becky and her mom are having a moment; Vince’s mom is back on the junk; Vince’s mom OD’d; Vince’s mom is in rehab; Vince is getting help from Vernon on the field; Vince is getting help from Vernon off the field; no, he’s not; Vince turns back to crime to pay for mom’s rehab; Jess yearns for her father’s love; Vernon mans up and counsels young Caleb on the field; Vernon does not bother to show up to academic smackdown; Riggins is counseling teenage girls; Riggins is counseling his brother; Riggins is done with the life of crime; Riggins is a partner!; Luke has a secret; Luke’s mom loves Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; Luke’s mom is getting angry; coach Taylor is learning that he has to feel the game; Julie is learning that there is a great, big world out there; Ryan is learning that it’s unbelievably easy to take hot girls to the top of really tall structures and seduce them; and Mrs. Coach, well, she can direct us to some literature.
The main theme of the episode, of course, is that children are better parents than parents are. Luke and Becky approach their problem with emotional nuance and care and agony, while their moms are guilty of putting their principles ahead of their children’s well-being. (Not that Becky’s mom reaches the wrong conclusion—her daughter should get an abortion.) Vince takes care of his mother, who won’t take care of herself. Jess shows her father how to be a better dad. Only Tami—dressed in her unlimited supply of gray hoodies—manages to be a trustworthy adult. This insistence on the incompetence of parents irritates me—perhaps because I’m a parent—but I do give FNL full credit and flowers and thanks for its brazen, aggressive, and honest use of the word abortion. We must have heard it six times this week—probably the first six times I have ever heard it on network television.
One final random football point. I love the way Peter Berg and his colleagues name characters after famous players. Tim Riggins is clearly an homage to John Riggins, the hard-drinking, tough, and hilarious Washington Redskins running back. J.D. McCoy is almost certainly a nod to Colt McCoy, the Texas high school and college phenom quarterback. Villainous Wade Aikman, Eric’s successor as Dillon’s coach, is a mashup of former Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips and Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman. And this week, FNL beats us over the head with one more comparison. Vince Howard= Vince Young, the fantabulous University of Texas (now NFL) quarterback. Young is revered for his uncanny ability to turn broken plays into huge gains using his speed and strength. Our football lesson of the week, courtesy of Vernon, is that Vince Howard can do the same, if only coach Taylor will break his system, and allow his QB to improvise.