Kyle's Career Filmstrip: TV Series and Movies

Jun 25, 2014

WIRED Summer Binge-Watching Guide: Friday Night Lights


Friday Night Lights
NBC Universal

“Just think about it: Love and football are the two greatest things in the world.”

That’s car salesman and professional glad-hander Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland) in the third season premiere of Friday Night Lights, trying to convince the principal of Dillon High that the football team really needs a Jumbotron scoreboard. It’s already a pretty highfalutin statement considering he’s just trying to justify a capital expenditure, but then he follows it up with another that borders on religious devotion: “You put the two together, put it on a 30-foot-tall Mitsubishi screen, and it’s pure nirvana.”

That’s Friday Night Lights for you: small-town football fandom with a dedication that borders on zealotry. And if you ignore the part about the giant screen, it also gives you a pretty good idea of the concept behind FNL itself. Because even though it’s about high school football, it’s also not really about high school football at all. Instead, on this show the sport is just a MacGuffin—no matter how lovingly shot it may be. Football in this case is simply an excuse for an extended exploration of pride, family, and the ways in which both are understood (and, more often, misunderstood) by those who’d claim both are important in their lives. That makes FNL a show far more subtle and requiring of attention and patience than most network dramas—it also makes it a show perfect for binge-watching.

Here’s how to catch up on the complete professional coaching career of Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and, in the process, discover the charms of the fictional town of Dillon, Texas (i.e. Tim Riggins/Taylor Kitsch), in just a few weeks.

Clear Eyes


Friday Night Lights

Number of Seasons: 5 (76 episodes)

Time Requirements: Four weeks. Plan to watch a couple of episodes each weeknight, plus three episodes per weekend day—also, you’re not going to be watching every episode, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

Where to Get Your Fix: Netflix, Amazon Prime

Best Character to Follow: As much as it may be tempting to follow poor underdog quarterback Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) in early episodes, don’t surrender to that impulse: He’ll only let you down later. The same can be said of almost all of the characters in this series at one point or another. For all of its greatness, Friday Night Lights is a series that tends to go utterly off-the-rails in terms of character development given the chance, in both good and bad ways. (Watch as Tim’s brother Billy Riggins goes from abusive asshole to cuddly buffoon over the space of five years! Marvel as Landry Clarke … well, OK, I don’t want to spoil that for you.)

Coach Eric Taylor and wife Tami
Coach Eric Taylor and wife Tami NBC Universal

The exceptions to this rule are the two leads of the show, Coach Taylor and his wife Tami (Connie Britton). Not only are they the heart and soul of Friday Night Lights, they’re the only two characters who don’t offer up a moment of “Wait, what just happened?” during the entire thing. You might be tempted to fall in love with many of the characters of this series, and deservedly so, but only Coach and Tami will love you back and not make you want to reach into the screen and shake them.

Season/Episodes You Can Skip: Season 2. Right now, just cross it off your to-do list, don’t even think twice.

There are a couple of reasons why anyone watching the show can just avoid the second season without any fear of missing out. Firstly, there’s the simple fact that it doesn’t actually finish. The Writers Guild of America strike happened midway through production, meaning that only 15 of the planned 22 episodes were ever made and almost every storyline stalls entirely as a result. There are characters and plots that vanish entirely from the series because of this, but it’s not really a loss, because of the second reason why skipping Season 2 doesn’t present a problem: Season 2 is terrible.

It’s not just the much-maligned “Oh yeah, then one of the schoolkids just straight-up kills a guy” plot that’s the problem, it’s just that writing-wise the second season of the show feels aimless and uncertain, as if no one was quite sure what to do after the critical success of the show’s first year. It’s at once too slow and too over-the-top, with characters acting in ways far too soap operatic to feel true to what happened the first year. (This is most glaring in Saracen’s “I’m having an affair with my grandmother’s in-home caregiver” plot, which even now feels like someone got their teenage dream fulfilled through Mary Sue-ism decades later.)

For those concerned about skipping a year entirely and then jumping into the third season, don’t be. The first episode of Season 3 is pretty much a second pilot for the show, giving you enough exposition about what you missed that you’ll be more or less caught up by the end of the episode.

Which is to say: Just skip the second season already.

Season/Episodes You Can’t Skip: Friday Night Lights isn’t really a show with “standout episodes,” per se, it’s more about the long game and slowly-unfolding storylines across an entire season.
That said, “The Son,” the fifth episode of Season 4, is as good an episode about grief as anything that’s ever appeared on television. And if you’re looking for one episode to sample to see if you’re into the show, try Season 3, Episode 1, “I Knew You When.” If that isn’t your jam, this isn’t the show for you.

In terms of which seasons are particularly strong, the third and fourth are arguably the best of the show’s run, with both Coach and his team seen as underdogs with something to prove and the situation dramatically stacked against them. These seasons also mark the point at which the more melodramatic soap opera moments have been worked out of the series’ system, allowing for more low-key, impressive work. When people talk about why they’re glad they stuck with Friday Night Lights these are the seasons for which they’re glad they kept up with it.

NBC Universal

Why You Should Binge:
 Binge-watching the series allows you to watch at your own pace, and go back and revisit earlier episodes and scenes if you want. Personally, I’m fond of revisiting any episode where slightly-dorky Landry (Jesse Plemons) has to deal with something in his particularly embarrassed, awkward sarcastic way, making his post-break-up crush on regulation hottie Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) in the third season so much fun. Binge-watching also allows you to rush through multiple episodes to find out whether or not the team makes it the state championship, and if they do, whether they win. (Spoiler: Sometimes they do, sometimes not so much.)

More importantly, binge-watching lets you get into the laid-back, sprawl and rhythms of Friday Night Lights a lot easier than was possible during the show’s original broadcasts, where the one-hour-with-ads format interrupted everything far more than was enjoyable. FNL was a television show that didn’t play by traditional network rules, and as such, it’s something that is rewarded by an afterlife outside traditional network restrictions.

Despite the occasional misstep in the writing, there’s a purity of intent and willingness to go down some storytelling avenues and blind alleys in FNL that makes the show feel like the precursor for shows like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. Perhaps Netflix was the natural home for this show all along.

Best Scene—Coach Taylor Answers His Critics:
One of the joys of Friday Night Lights is watching Coach Taylor not only face adversity, but rise above it—more than often simply by staring it down with his seemingly unshakable belief in the greater good. In the final episode of the show’s third season, Taylor has to defend his record as coach of the Dillon Panthers in order to keep his job after a campaign to have him replaced. Instead of showing up and pleading for his job, he delivers this monologue:

“I did not want to be here today. Here I am. I love my job. I’m good at it, and I’d like to keep it. I love this school, I love the kids, and I feel like I’ve just gotten started here. There’s some people here who want to replace me, for a man with an awful lot of money and a boy with a good arm. To those people I would say: you’re wrong. You are dead wrong. Y’all have a good Saturday.”

And then he leaves. Now that is a lead character you want to pay attention to.

Sadly, that scene isn’t on YouTube. Instead, enjoy this supercut of Coach’s inspirational speeches. It’s almost as good.

The Takeaway:
Texas forever. Or, you know, for five seasons at least.

If You Liked Friday Night Lights You’ll Love:
Parenthood would be the most obvious suggestion, as it shares not only a showrunner (Jason Katims) and bunch of writers with FNL, but also quite a few actors, as well. It’s a show that trends more towards the soap opera of FNL and lacks the, for want of a better way to put it, quietly stoic male center that Kyle Chandler provides, but the two series share a love of wonderfully messy emotional drama and overlapping narratives that become more and more addictive with every episode. Plus, if you get hooked on Parenthood then you can enjoy a surprise return from some FNL characters years after the show finished, so there’s that.

From KCC:  Don't skip Season 2.  While it's true there were problems with continuity and the Landry storyline, there are some great episodes a true fan will not want to miss.  Just know that Season 3 on is a retool/reboot of the show.

Jun 18, 2014

17 Important Life Lessons Coach Taylor Taught Us

Clear eyes, full hearts… You know the rest.

1. He taught us to keep our composure.


2. And the importance of being punctual.


3. He taught us responsibility.

17 Important Life Lessons Coach Taylor Taught Us

4. And that yelling in the morning is rude.

And that yelling in the morning is rude.

6. And how to earn people’s respect.


7. He taught us how to teach your daughter a lesson when she gets arrested for being in a strip club while underage.

He taught us how to teach your daughter a lesson when she gets arrested for being in a strip club while underage.

8. And how to say I love you without actually saying it.


9. He taught us how to get out of doing the dishes.

17 Important Life Lessons Coach Taylor Taught Us

10. And to remember to ask before you make the chili too spicy.

And to remember to ask before you make the chili too spicy.

11. He taught us the importance of communication.

17 Important Life Lessons Coach Taylor Taught Us

12. And to tell the people close to you that you’re proud of them.

17 Important Life Lessons Coach Taylor Taught Us

13. He taught us what goes on in a young man’s mind.

He taught us what goes on in a young man's mind.

14. And the only dog you should own is a brown lab.

And the only dog you should own is a brown lab.

15. He taught us how to love.


16. And how to be champions.

17 Important Life Lessons Coach Taylor Taught Us

17. But most importantly, he taught us these six words to live by…

17 Important Life Lessons Coach Taylor Taught Us

Jun 13, 2014

Father's Day: Favorite TV dads who cook, with Walter White and more

Coach Taylor from "Friday Night Lights":

Kyle Chandler is Coach Eric Taylor and Connie Britton is Tami Taylor on "Friday Night Lights." One of Coach Taylor's favorite things to eat on the show was bacon. (Bill Records / NBC)

Coach Eric Taylor, played by Kyle Chandler, is one of the most beloved father characters on TV. Many memorable scenes from the show take place in the kitchen or at the dinner table. Coach Taylor cooked for team barbecues and he was also a fan of bacon. In an interview with The Times in 2011, Chandler said he and the crew would insert bacon into as many scenes as possible. "It wasn’t a set, it was a real house," Chandler said. "So every time we went there to shoot, I’d go in early and cook everyone bacon."

From KCC:  Be sure to click on the link "interview with The Times" to read or re-read a great, post-Emmy interview with Kyle on Coach Taylor.