Mike Kueber's Blog

June 22, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #74 – Friday Night Lights (the movie)

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 12:22 am
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A TV show based on a movie is rarely as good as the original movie.  That is not the case with Friday Night Lights (the movie – 2004).  The 76-episode TV show, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, was so good that I decided to re-watch the critically acclaimed movie (81% by the Rotten Tomato critics, 84% by the audience) that I had watched many years ago.

The result?  I found the original movie less satisfying than the TV show.

Why?  I loved the TV show because of its memorable characters, while the movie focuses on a more prosaic subject – high school football in Texas.

An excellent contrast between these two approaches can be shown with the only two actors that appeared in both – Connie Britton plays Tami Taylor, the coach’s wife, and Brad Leland plays Buddy Garrity, the team’s biggest booster.  In the movie, both characters are superficial and have no depth.  In the TV show, however, they come to life and become interesting and important roles.  Plus, the TV show has a coach, Kyle Chandler, who is immensely more charismatic than the movie coach, Billy Bob Thornton.

FNL is based on a true story so the storyline isn’t quite as incredible, but as an editor in the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence suggested, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”  FNL also contains better football action sequences.  In the end, however, I love the characters in the TV show, and missed them terribly in the movie.  I give the movie only two and a half stars.

June 1, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #73 – Friday Night Lights (TV show)

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 7:48 pm
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Well past midnight last night, after finishing episode #76 of “Friday Night Lights,” I posted the following on Facebook:

  • Just finished a viewing binge of 76 episodes of “Friday Night Lights.”  What a fantastic show!  I will ponder for a while before deciding whether it is as good as “24” – action hero vs. glory days of high school.  Although the dialogue and action in FNL can’t compare to “24,” the plethora of memorable, evocative characters in FNL is similarly incomparable.

So, who are these memorable characters?  My favorite is Tim Riggins, a fullback for the Dillon Panthers who wears jersey number “33.”  Tim reminds me of my son Jimmy, not just because of his hulking size and Samson hair, but also because his success on the football field and his easy-going personality have enabled him to experience success in many areas of life without developing the personal discipline that most successful individuals have.  Gotta love him.

Tim’s off-again, on-again girlfriend Tyra Collette is another favorite character.  Like Tim, Tyra oozes charisma and rejects traditional values.  Although they are both extremely successful in high school life, they seem to realize that their success will be short-lived.

The stars of the show are Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami.  They seem to have a perfect marriage, not in the sense of never always acting perfectly, but in the sense that they seem to have a relationship that will enable them to work through all of the problems and challenges that confront everyday people.

The other royal couple on the show is Matt Saracen (also called QB-1 or “7”) and the coach’s daughter Julie.  Matt is amazingly level-headed and sincere despite having immense personal challenges; Julie has all of the typical problems of a teenager despite having two perfect parents who expect her to be perfect, too.

Matt’s best friend is Landry Clarke, who begins as a dorky Irish geek, but evolves into a cool, centered musician/athlete.  His dad is played by Glenn Morshower, who played Secret Service Agent Aaron Piece in “24.”  The two look amazingly alike, as does Buddy Garrity, the warm-hearted, bombastic Panther booster, and his chubby son Buddy, Jr.  Luke Cafferty is a farmboy with evangelical parents who becomes a star running back after getting Becky Sproles pregnant.  Despite having an abortion, Becky remains as lovable as ever.  Tim’s older brother Billy is a loser who, against all odds, manages to get his life together.

The final episode of FNL is amazing.  The penultimate scene involves Tim and his brother Billy taking a break from their work and having a beer, something that they have been doing in most of the 76 episodes.  Billy asks, “Texas forever?”  Tim responds, “Texas forever.”  This slogan defines Tim and it defines the show – i.e., Texas is in their blood, and they will never leave.

Ironically, the final scene finds Coach Taylor coaching a new team after leaving Texas for the first time in his life.  He tries to get his new team to chant his Dillon Panthers slogan – “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”  After he calls out the first two phrases, he waits for the team to yell, “Can’t lose.”  When they look at him dumbly, he simply says, “We’ll deal with that later.”

Sorry, Coach, but you and Tami are going to regret leaving Texas.  Maybe when there is a movie sequel, you will be back home where you belong.

p.s., while at my apartment pool today, a friend and I were discussing FNL and how Texans have a unique love of their state, but that reminded my of Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It,” where the prodigal son refused to move from Montana to his angelic brother in Chicago.  Pitt told him, “Oh, I’ll never leave Montana, brother.”

p.s.s., at the end of the show, Mrs. T argues that her interest in taking a job in Philly should prevail because she had been deferring to Coach’s job pursuits for the past 18 years.  That argument fails to acknowledge that for the first 14 years, Mrs. T was a stay at home mom.  It was only for the past four years that she had a paying job.  Thus, it is misleading to suggest that her career has played second fiddle to his for 18 years.  Rather, she had what should have been a fully satisfying career for 14 years as a mom, and was in the beginning stage of her second career compared to his 18-year career that was really blossoming.  Admittedly, though, her new position as Dean of Admissions at a near-Ivy college provides her with an incredible opportunity to implement her heart-felt philosophy about giving disadvantaged kids more opportunity.  But my feelings for Mrs. T were irreparably damaged when I read a column that her and a producer wrote about their disenchantment with the Romney campaign for borrowing the Panther battle cry – “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”  Seems they thought the theme of FNL was more consistent with Obama’s socialism.  You’ve got to be kidding me, Mrs. T.