TV Club

Week 11: Matt and Julie Break My Heart

Matt and Julie from Friday Night Lights. Click image to expand.
Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen and Aimee Teegarden as Julie Taylor in Friday Night Lights

First, an apology. We didn’t realize that NBC wasn’t airing FNL last week, so we briefly posted this entry last Friday and Saturday. When we realized that it was a skip week, we immediately pulled down the entry. To all those readers who saw the entry and had some plot developments spoiled by it, we’re very sorry. Even sorrier than Luke Cafferty is!

I thought of one way Israel is like FNL: Neither of them has any Hispanics.

The most interesting part of this very excellent episode is coach Taylor’s failure. For the first time, he is a man who doesn’t notice. He doesn’t notice Vince is doing beatings and shakedowns to pay his mom’s rehab bills; Eric doesn’t even seem to know that Vince’s mom is in rehab. He doesn’t notice that his star running back is not just severely injured but also addicted to Oxycontin. He doesn’t realize that Julie is planning to devote her life to Habitat for Humanity or that she’s newly distraught about Matt. And on the night of Tami’s most desperate need, he doesn’t bother to come home but stays out for another drink with Buddy Garrity.

This self-absorption surely will not last. Such is the morality of FNL that—just as Tim Riggins will soulfully push back his hair, and Vince will make a dazzling game-winning play—Eric Taylor will become a better man, and a better coach, by cutting out the selfish introspection and lending a hand to others.

Another reason I know that Coach’s redemption is coming? This season, when Coach is up, Riggins is down, and when Coach is down, Riggins is up. Tim, who has been cruelly abused by FNL’swriters recently, is set up for crucifixion this week. Tim’s dreams are finally coming true! His land! Technical school! Partnership in Riggins Rigs! It begins to crumble as Becky’s mom, embarrassed that Tim turned her down, assumes he’s screwing Becky and expels him from the Eden of his trailer. Worse is certainly coming. (How did you two ladies like the detail that Tim and Becky were watching Thelma & Louise?A little heavy-handed, I thought. But what is Tim Riggins, if not the Brad Pitt to Becky and her mom’s Thelma and Louise?)

The other moment I loved this week was Julie’s conversation with Matt, which made me tear up. “We were together for almost four years. I know everything about you. You were my other half. …” With Matt’s recent absence in Chicago, I have realized how fundamental Matt and Julie have been to the magic of this show. If Coach and Mrs. Coach are an idealized marriage, Matt and Julie have been an idealized teen romance. Their relationship—the mixtapes, the deflowering, his efforts to win the respect of Coach and Mrs. Coach, her efforts to help Matt’s mom and grandma, the anguish over college—has been a platonic ideal of teen love. We have always been supposed to wonder: Will Matt and Julie grow up to be Coach and Mrs. Coach? It breaks my heart that they won’t.

One final digression, inspired by Tami’s late-night “no comment” to the reporter from the Daily Gazette. (“Daily Gazette“? Is there really any paper in America still called the Daily Gazette?) A couple of weeks ago, I praised FNL for how it weaves old media—newspapers, TV, and radio—into the lives of its characters. But the show also deserves a smack for how it ignores new media. Why do none of the kids ever text? Why don’t Tami and Eric use e-mail? Does anyone in Dillon even own a cell phone?

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