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'FNL': Is there a tomorrow?

February 9, 2008 |  2:13 pm


And now, Panther fans, we wait.

 Wait to see if “Friday Night Lights” will be one of the shows that goes back into production, now that a tentative agreement has been reached in the Writers Guild of America strike that could allow  TV production to resume by next week.

We wait to see if NBC will renew a series whose passionate following falls far short of making it a hit.

 Wait to see if the producers of "FNL" will get offers to do a third season from a cable network (Hello, NBC-Universal-owned big-tent cable network USA).

 Wait to see if the creators and actors stay or move on.

 Last week at an "FNL" panel discussion at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, "FNL" exec producer Jason Katims said he’s got a football arc in mind for the end of this season.

 I hope he gets to do it because I’ll tell you this, Panther fans: Last night’s episode of "FNL," the final one completed before the writers strike, felt dangerously close to ho-hum.

OK, let’s just say it—yawnster!

First of all, how can you end one week with an impassioned, pre-game pep talk from your fallen star, Smash Williams, and not begin the next week with the dag-gum game? It’s indicative of what has ailed "FNL" this season, the oft-cited criticism that the show gave up being about the outsized importance of high school football in a small Texas town and became a weekly teen soap occasionally interrupted by activity on the gridiron.

That’s a sweeping generalization, of course, 'cause we need some soap opera. This week, Smash lost his big-time college scholarship, ending up finally at a small school where he'll make an immediate impact. "FNL" has done a good job with his recruiting saga this season, which has effectively deepened his character (as my g'friend pointed out admiringly, he certainly cries a lot for a football player).

The big shocker last night was Street’s one-night stand of a few weeks back, a cute waitress, re-appearing to inform him that she’s pregnant. Impotent on so many levels, Street urges her to go through with the pregnancy.

“This is a miracle,” he tells her. “It’s a blessing from God.”

If I heard it right, the scene included one of the most unusual lines I’ve ever heard on network television, when Street says to her: “Even to get an erection with you, I had to go reflex instead of psychogenic. Which you were great with, by the way.”

Et tu, frank talk on "Grey's Anatomy"?

But we digress. We digress when we should point out that Lyla and Riggins just need to hook up; I’m sick of watching Jesus forced into service as their wing man. He’s got better things to do, kids!

 And while I offer kudos to actor/writer/director Peter Berg for creating the show-based-on-the-movie-based on the book, his guest shot  last night as an old flame of Tami Taylor’s reeked of self-indulgence.

Was he paying homage to J.R. Ewing?  Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones?

Most especially, that kind of scene-chewing robs the show of face time for more deserving characters—i.e. Buddy Garrity, the most unsung character on network TV.

I’m laying on the platitudes here because it’s desperation time, Panther fans, no time to be vamping like there’s no tomorrow. Because there is a tomorrow, and it’s probably coming fast, and when it arrives, that might very well be that.

--Paul Brownfield

(Photo courtesy Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)