Friday Night Lights – Season 2, Episode 1 – Last Days of Summer

October 8, 2007

Regular readers of my blog know how much I love this show. I had to stop doing reviews last year because I ran out of ways to say how great this show was without sounding too repetitive and boring even myself. Well, I figure after the summer hiatus I’d start from scratch and I’m not sure yet if the trend of rave reviews is going to continue.

The season opens 8 months after the big Panthers win and the opening scene kicks off with some beefcake and cheesecake which I assume is there to bring new viewers into the fold. If it works, then I’m all for it. As we rejoin our favourite Dilloners, Tyra and Landry have solidified their friendship (can you say Fried Green Tomatoes), Matt and Julie have hit the rocks with Julie flirting with a musician, Smash and Riggins are Smash and Riggins, Lyla has found religion while her mother is dating a health food store owner and her father is living on the couch at the dealership. football team, Landry is trying out, Jason is a coach for the Panthers and Coach Taylor’s replacement isn’t exactly impressed with Riggins or Buddy for that matter.

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NBC Rocks – Friday Night Lights Renewed for 2nd Season

May 11, 2007

TV Guide’s Michael Ausiello announced today what is truly the best TV news in a long time.  NBC has renewed the best new drama of the season and maybe my favourite show of the year for a 2nd season.  Despite mediocre ratings the network has bucked the recent big network trend of cancelling great shows in favour of crap and made the decision to renew Friday Night Lights.

Of all the networks NBC seems to be the least trigger happy and the most willing to stick with quality shows like 30 Rock and The Office.  On behalf of myself and my wife – thanks NBC.   Can’t wait for season 2.

Friday Night Lights – Episode 22 – State

April 13, 2007

Let me start by saying it’s a sad world when this amazing program gets beat in the ratings by garbage like ‘Til Death and ties with back to back episodes of George Lopez.

That being said I can’t see NBC walking away from a show of this quality no matter the ratings.  With so many perfect moments throughout the episode I defy any fan of the show to admit they didn’t get teary multiple times.

Beginning with Tami finding out she’s pregnant (with assistance from Smash’s mother) to the sense of awe perfectly conveyed by the entire cast when they walk into the stadium.  From Landry and his entourage’s hysterical car ride to the Tyra-Lyla confrontation.  From the team’s sense of betrayal over the coach leaving to Buddy’s uncharacteristic response to the news.  Throw in the coach’s response to his wife’s news and his speech after the losing first half (zooming in on all the characters we’ve come to enjoy watching week after week) backed up by “one of the greatest comebacks in Texas football”, Jason Street’s new found calling and finally Eric rediscovering his dream.

I’ve written about the greatness of this show so many times that I don’t feel the need to say anything else about it.  Friday Night Lights was not only the best new show of the season but maybe my favourite show this year, period.  As much as it pains me to say it even if there isn’t a second season, like Freaks & Geeks before it, Friday Night Lights will deservedly make my TV Hall of Fame and I know the best ensemble cast on TV will all go on to great things.

Still NBC it’s really not much to ask for another season, is it?

Avi’s Episode and Season Rating: A+

Friday Night Lights Renewal News

April 11, 2007

It’s not official yet but TV Guide today had an exclusive report that NBC has ordered six more Friday Night Lights scripts. I guess they want to see what direction the writers are planning on taking the show next season before they commit to a new season.

Hopefully as TV Guide guesses, this really is just a precursor to the formal announcement that Friday Night Lights will be renewed despite ratings that for a lesser show would mean it was being canceled.

As a huge fan of what is one of the top 3 or 4 shows currently on the air, I applaud NBC for sticking with a quality show. Don’t miss tomorrow night’s finale. Looks like a great hour of TV.

What Show Will You Save? An E! Online Poll

March 30, 2007

E!Online is running a poll asking people to vote on the one show they would save from a list of programs that are “on the bubble”.  According to Ain’t it Cool News the show that has received the most votes the last five years running has been renewed.

Of the 17 shows on the list there are 5 that I’m pulling for: 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, How I Met Your Mother, Scrubs and Veronica Mars.  But according to the rules I can only choose one.  Last year my vote would have gone to Veronica Mars hands down but this year I have to vote for Friday Night Lights, especially after watching last night’s amazing hour  It’s not that I don’t want the rest to make it but rules are rules.

Click here to vote for your favourite and feel free to comment below and let me know your pick.

Friday Night Lights – Episode 16 – Black Eyes and Broken Hearts

February 20, 2007

It’s not worth me writing another rave review of this show. I can only repeat myself so many times about how great this show is.

This time I’m going to let someone else tell you how great it is.  Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune wrote an article last week on why Friday Night Lights is the best show on Network TV and after last week’s exhilarating episode I’m inclined to agree.  Ranging from serious (the show’s exploration of racism) to humorous (the coach having a discussion with his wife and the guidance counsellor and a third player to be named later) to just plain aw shucks (Julie and Matt getting together) this may have been the best episode of the season.  A special mention needs to be made of the show’s matriarchs, in particular Smash’s mother telling her son that he can’t change things and that he needs to do what’s best for him.  A great scene that wasn’t sappy or typical but practical and real.

As much as I like Ms Ryan’s article I don’t agree with her comparison to The Wire.  I like FNL a lot and I’d argue it’s one of the best shows on network TV today but The Wire is the greatest piece of fiction in probably any medium.  Still, great episode.

Avi’s episode Rating: A

Time Magazine on Friday Night Lights

January 15, 2007

Anyone who reads my blog knows what a huge fan I am of this show and the last couple of episodes have only cemented my love of the show, its cast and what is by far the best marriage on television.  If you haven’t started watching NBC has made it easy by putting all the episodes up on their site.  I don’t care – just download the damn things – whatever it takes to get the ratings up so this show stays on.

Anyway, Time Magazine did an article on the show called Can This Show Be Saved.   Supposedly it’s doing better with the show’s move to Wednesday.  Let’s hope the continued good publicity helps.

Top 10 TV Shows of 2006

January 1, 2007

 It’s been a great TV year.  I’ve spent the last few days making my list, watching the episodes twice all in preparation to give you my top 10 TV shows of 2006.  So without further ado…

1. The Wire – When this show completes its 5 year run after the next season, it will likely be the best show to ever air on television.  This doesn’t mean it will be my favourite – after all it’s not an easy or even particular entertaining show to watch compared to the typical TV fare.  It is, however, the most fascinating, compelling, best acted show ever and this season exceeded even the high bar set by past seasons with its examination of the Baltimore school system, the rise of the next generation corner boys and their leaders and a study of the politics of being mayor.  The thing I find most amazing about this show is its ability to juggle multiple storylines, a cast of 30+ actors – all leads and supporting at the same time – and the way it doesn’t force feed the viewer with simple, pat resolutions to complex situations.  This show is frequently compared to a great book in terms of its pace and complexity but for me The Wire would not be as brilliant in any other medium where the quick cut scenes and the power of the actors transcend any printed page.  I have to give a special shout out to the 4 actors playing Michael, Naymond, Duquan and Randy.  Their performances gave their stories the gravity and heart that made this season one of the best.  It’s going to be a long wait to find out what happens next.

2. The Shield – I’m shocked that I haven’t seen this show on that many best of lists from this year.  In its fifth season, The Shield was at its best, using the unbelievable Forrest Whitaker to paint our Strike Team into a corner from which they did not emerge unscathed.  Bringing to a head all of the storylines from the previous 4 seasons, including the amazing pilot episode, the season concluded with a moment that I saw coming and couldn’t believe was happening at the same time, changing the show forever and setting the groundwork for the new season.  What more could a viewer ask for!

3. The Office – It’s blasphamy to say this in many TV circles but the US version of The Office has now surpassed the original in my books.  I could mention the obvious moment of the past year – the season ending kiss between Jim and Pam which was the best season finale of last year.  I could mention the amazing Steve Carell who brilliantly can be an incompetent buffoon one minute and an effective regional manager who has the loyalty of his staff the next.  I could talk about all of the great episodes from the past year balancing laughs, cringe-worthy moments and emotional scenes simultaneously.  Instead I’m going to focus on what truly has made this show unique from its British counterpart – the amazing work that has been done to make the supporting characters integral parts of the show.  This show would not be as great as it is without Stanley, Kevin, Angela, Creed, Phyllis, Kelly, Oscar, Toby, Roy and new additions Ed Helms and Rashida Jones.  Every week this is my favourite show to watch and I’m sure this won’t change in 2007.

4. Battlestar Galactica – I watched the entire series since the summer and all I have to say is wow!!!  It’s hard not to agree with the mainstream critics who say that this isn’t just great sci-fi but great drama that should appeal to everyone.  2006 saw some brilliant moments for this show including the introduction of Pegasus, the birth of the first Cylon-Human baby and the truly game changing season 2.5 finale which jumped ahead a year in the settlement and Cylon occupation of New Caprica.  I love how the show is able to paint its characters into difficult situations that seem to have no solution and no easy answers, often forcing them to make hard decisions.   Unfortunately this means sometimes the show has to take an easy way out sometimes (Roslin’s cancer, death of Admiral Cain for example).  Still week after week the show is excellent, character driven, action packed TV.

5. Heroes – Although we’re only 11 episodes in, I have high hopes for this show.  As I’ve written before I’m a comic fan so I was somewhat predisposed to either love the show or hate it with nothing in between.  I’m glad it turned out to be the former with great characters, fun mysteries with forward momentum every single week, great villains and cliffhangers galore.  It’s still a little early to know if this show will have the staying power to be great in its 2nd and 3rd seasons but for now I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

6.  Everwood – An unfortunate casualty of the WB-UPN merger (One Tree Hill and 7th Heaven, don’t make me laugh), Everwood was able to wrap up its storylines in a way that not only pleased fans of the show but was consistent with the way we expect the characters we’ve come to love over the show’s 5 seasons to behave.  It also served as an amazing bookend to the first season with Andy talking to his wife, Amy’s grand gesture to win back Ephram, Nina and Andy getting together, Ephram finding his calling in Everwood and the Brown family at peace with their past and future.  Here’s hoping the rest of the series makes its way to DVD very soon.

7.  Friday Night Lights – It’s appropriate that this show follows my previous favourite family drama on this list.  Friday Night Lights has a richness in its stories of the people who make up the Dillon Panthers and the community that worships them, that doesn’t exist on any other show today.  The characters are 3 dimensional with the actors who play them transcending their archetypes of the dumb jock, the arrogant jock, the tough coach, the newbie quarterback and the hot cheerleader.  Like Everwood, this is a show about a town and the families in it.  Jason Street is a definite standout in the cast and I also have to acknowledge the show’s matter of fact integration of religion into its fabric which contrasts with the heavy handed portrayal in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. 

8. The Sopranos – After starting with a bang, the show kind of meandered a bit as it ended the first 1/2 of the 6th season.  Still, The Sopranos remains event television and Edie Falco truly did the work of her career this season as her character finally acknowledged the life she’s led with Tony.  Gandolfini also had amazing moments especially his interactions with AJ.  Those who thought it wasn’t violent enough or moved a little too slow don’t hold much weight with me.  I have high hopes that Chase and company will bring this show to the conclusion it justly deserves.

9. Veronica Mars – I’m not sure if I’m crazy yet about the new format of shorter story arcs but Veronica Mars continues to uniquely mix teenage angst with family drama and film noir each and every week.  Last May’s finale was one of the best edge of your seat episodes ever wrapping up old storylines and showing why the characters on this show have us tuning in. 

10. Lost – I worry about Lost and season 3 to date hasn’t made me feel more confident that the show knows where its going or will be brought to any form of resolution.  However, as long as Abrams, Cuse et al continue to include jaw dropping moments like Michael shooting Ana Lucia and Libby, the destruction of the hatch and the introduction of the Others I can forgive some of the weaker moments and the limited story momentum.  Concept wise I still love the show including the formula that mixes flashbacks with life on the island and I’m glad ABC decided to run it uninterrupted for the duration of the season since the frequent reruns last year didn’t help with momentum issues.  It remains true escapist TV entertainment and I hope the remainder of season 3 is as good as the fantastic back half of season 2.

Honourable Mentions: I’m going to give an honourable mention to Entourage, How I Met Your Mother, Scrubs and Dexter.  All were great this year but making a list is about drawing lines and this is where drew it.

Best of TV 2006 – Best New Show

December 20, 2006

Here are my nominees for the Best New Show of 2006.  Remember the nominees are my picks based on my favourite shows of the year, hence the omission of Ugly Betty which despite it getting lots of love from critics is likely going to make my worst of list.  Also, the show must have actually be on for the full season so ones that have been cancelled are ineligible.

Now on with the nominees:

  • 30 Rock (NBC)
  • Brothers & Sisters (ABC)
  • Friday Night Lights (NBC)
  • Heroes (NBC)
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC)

30 Rock is one of those shows that has grown on me as the season has progressed.  I watched the first couple of episodes and found them okay but not great.  But all of a sudden something started to click with me in particular the brilliance of Alec Baldwin, the over the top a little goes a long way Tracey Morgan and the sarcasticly hysterical Tina Fey.  Throw in Dean Winters as Tina Fey’s girl friend and we’re nearing perfection.  Now that it’s been added to probably the best Thursday night comedy lineup ever it’s drawing power is compounded.  Only place it loses marks is the annoying Jane Krakowski.

Brothers & Sisters started off horribly.  I liked the cast generally (especially the amazing Sally Field) but just found that after the first few weeks I really didn’t care about their stories.  Then something changed and his name is Greg Berlanti fresh off the fantastic and still missed Everwood.  He took over and suddenly the show seemed to have some soul as the relationships between the characters started to matter and their interactions took centre stage.  Still, as much as I’ve come to enjoy the series when I watch, I don’t particularly miss it between episodes.

I’ve written multiple times about my love for Friday Night Lights.  I can tell you right now that this show will be on my best of the year list.  It’s as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking often in the same episode.  Kyle Chandler’s performance is dynamic and understated and I need to highlight the actor playing Jason Street as truly the best find of the year.

Heroes is also a shoo in for my best of the year list.   I’m a comic book geek so I came into this show with high expectations that were greatly exceeded.  11 weeks in and the originally separated and unbelievably interesting characters (with Hiro as the breakout) are starting to intertwine around interesting mysteries (Save the Cheerleader, Are you on the List) with weekly cliffhangers that leave you anxious for the next episode.  This show is going to be a huge hit on DVD and will likely result in many viewing marathons.  After this year’s lackluster and meandering Lost season, this show has become the must see serialized drama.  I can’t believe it’s another month until it starts again.

I’ve put Studio 60 on the list because I think it still holds promise.  Still, it’s my disappointment of the year.  I loved the pilot but the episodes since haven’t lived up to the premise.  There have been many moments of brilliance and the few episodes before the break (since the John Goodman episodes) have started to pick up steam.  I still detest the Harriet character and the show’s preachy approach to religion that seems to be a talking point in every episode.  (Contrast this heavy handed approach with the intelligent integration of religion as a backdrop in Friday Night Lights.)  As I write this I need to acknowledge that maybe this show shouldn’t be on my list.  If I had time to watch Dexter perhaps this show would have been replaced with what I hear is a great program.

And the winner is:

  • Heroes (NBC) with Friday Night Lights being a close runner up.

Friday Night Lights – Episode 7 – Homecoming

November 15, 2006

I watched this week’s Friday Night Lights with a much greater sense of ease this week now that it’s been confirmed for a full season.  Before I was a little concerned that I was getting too emotionally involved in a series that was about to be cancelled, now I can just sit back and enjoy.  I could write another rave review of this week’s episode but I’m in way too much danger of repeating myself praising the amazing cast and how this show packs more heart and emotion into a single hour than any other show on TV.

This week the show focused on homecoming in Dillon and the impact that celebrity has on the football players of the Panthers past and present.  Outside of Jason Street’s story, a lot of the show’s focus to date has been on the perks of being a local football hero.  Jason’s story has been presented as a bit of an anomaly – a bad break for a football player, rather than a risk that each player faces.  That hasn’t made it any less meaningful but the storyline has been maintained somewhat separately – until tonight.  Whether it was the former star who blew out his knee and lost his scholarship or Smash cracking under the pressure of needing to become a star and ultimately turning to steroids to bulk up or Jason showing up at the homecoming game but left on the sidelines, this week’s episode really emphasized the reality that celebrity can be fleeting and most people don’t ever make it to the big time.

Everything else I’ve said about Friday Night Lights in earlier posts still stands.  This is one of the best shows on the air today and it continues to get my highest recommendation.

Avi’s Episode Rating: A