Friday Night Lights, Characters Who are Better than the Actors Who Portray Them, and Haiku

This week, I stumbled for the first time on this delightful oral history of  Friday Night Lights, that one show about high school football that you always thought looked like kind of a silly, One Tree Hill knockoff teen soap opera, and then a girl you had recently started dating raved about it so much that you decided to try a few episodes on Netflix, if for no other reason than to make her like you more, and then before you knew it you had blown through three seasons in two weeks and concluded between heaving sobs that there were not nearly enough tears in your body for this ordeal. (This scenario is entirely hypothetical.)

The piece is well worth the read, but by far the best quote comes from, of course, Kyle Chandler, who for five wonderful years portrayed the soft-spoken, tough-loving Coach Taylor in a way that made you think that, while you love your dad very much, perhaps if you somehow had Coach Taylor as a second dad, or at least as an uncle who lived close by and would take you out and throw a football with you while delivering deeply profound life lessons, that would be pretty cool, too. The winner quote is buried at the end, reserved for those patient readers who take in the whole thing. Kyle:

I was back home in Los Angeles and we wanted to put a gate up in our yard. The fella came over and said, “Mr. Chandler, how do you want me to build this?” I said, “I’m not going to tell you how to build this gate. You just look around at what’s here, and you build the best gate you can. Be as creative as you want. Take your time, and just give me a good gate.” That gate’s probably going to stand for 400 years.

This…this is wonderful. For five seasons, despite being an actor whose job it is to portray people other than himself, Kyle Chandler  became Coach Taylor! To be fair, if I were given the option of adopting the identity of Coach Taylor, I’d do it every time, but still. I absolutely love the idea of Chandler finding himself wholly unable to break out of the character in his everyday life in situations where an aphorism-laden pregame speech delivered to quivering high school students makes absolutely no sense in context, but that’s the only things he knows anymore.

Kyle [SUNGLASSES ON, BUT YOU CAN TELL HE’S STARING INTO YOUR EYES AND SPEAKING TO YOUR HEART]: Tonight it’s about more than execution. It’s about more than Xs and Os, more than defending the A-gap, more than reading the safety’s eyes as he creeps up to the line. Tonight is about character. And when it’s your time, when everyone is counting on you to make the right decision, I hope you look deep within yourself and do it, not as a child, not as a boy, but as a man and as a leader of your community.

Onlookers: [HORRIFIED SILENCE]

Kyle [REMOVING CAP, WIPING SWEAT FROM HIS BROW EVEN THOUGH HE’S INDOORS AND IT’S NOT AT ALL HOT]: When you look back on this moment ten, twenty, thirty years from now, when your children and then grandchildren are bouncing on your lap and they look up at you and ask about days gone by, I want you to be able to look them in the eye and tell them that you did the right thing, that you gave it your best, and that you sacrificed everything you had for your brothers. No matter what the scoreboard says, if you do that tonight, you can be proud of that for the rest of your lives. Take that to heart, men. Together.

Waiter [DEEPLY TROUBLED]: Sir, I just asked how you wanted your steak cooked.

Kyle: [HEAD BOWED, HAND PLACED FIRMLY ON WAITER’S SHOULDER]: Clear eyes, full hearts!

Waiter: [GIVES UP, TACKLES BUSBOY]

God, I miss this show. I hope this carries over to other characters, too, and that to this day Taylor Kitsch owns only ragged cutoff T-shirts, Zach Gilford exclusively ambulates by shuffling and always looks at the ground while speaking, and Aimee Teegarden makes only the most irrational of decisions in every situation and in doing so has turned everyone in her life against her but somehow still won’t go away or learn even one lesson from it all.

I know of no better way to celebrate FNL (or anything else that I love in my life, for that matter) than ghostwriting autobiographical haiku for my favorite characters. Other than the occasional tortuous math tutoring scene that really just served as a vehicle for Landry stammering out something impossibly awkward while ogling Tyra, academics were never a major component of the FNL story arc, probably because the “school” parts of high school are terribly uninteresting. That said, I am reasonably sure haiku would have been a hit with almost everyone at either of the Dillon high schools. Even Tyra. (Matt would use too many syllables.)

I’d identify the authors, but also nah.

Wish I was your mom?
Or want to see me naked?
YOU STILL AREN’T QUITE SURE!

I’ll fix up this house!
No, I’ll become an agent!
All my plans are bad.

PANTHERS. AND. CHEVYS.
That’s what Dillon, Texas DOES.
Lions too, I guess.

Which gorgeous woman
Should I ignore this season?
[Sighs, cracks a new beer]

Tried to make my dad proud
Thought tutoring would be enough
Then I killed a guy

Lovable stutter
Grandma and Alamo Freeze
No taste in women

Which plot about me
Made less sense? Dating Landry?
Or — JK that’s it.

Perma-furrowed brow,
Farming, sincerity, and
Awkward talks with Becks.

Bad things happened when
Tim and Jason both loved her.
…can you blame them, though?

I dumped Landry, and
I might be better than him
At football, too (shhhh).

The writers must have
Been going somewhere with me.
I quit hoops for this?

Mom brings randos home
Just how I make friends I guess!
(Still kinda want him.)

A chop shop? Really?
That’s your best idea here?
Like Tim, but lamer.

You spent the whole show
Hoping a bus would hit me.
[Cries for some reason]

I wasn’t aware
There are persons besides “third”
Just let the Smash live!

Cannon for an arm
And a heart of gold but Dad
Ruins everything!

I had to leave home
My city underwater
And got benched for Matt?

The worst portrayal
That’s not how Alzheimer’s works
Adorable, though.

And, finally:

No one looks better
Sweating through polos than me
Clear eyes, et cetera.

[Tami Taylor, Jason Street, Buddy Garrity, Tim Riggins, Landry Clarke, Matt Saracen, Tyra Collette, Luke Cafferty, Lyla Garrity, Jess Merriweather, that one white guy who played wideout and somehow got main billing in Season 5 even though he never said anything and you never cared about his character even once, Becky Sproles,  Billy Riggins, fucking Julie Taylor, Smash Williams, Vince Howard, the immortal Voodoo Tatum, Grandma Saracen, and Coach]

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