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Monday, March 23, 2009

Time To Talk

I've been a fan of "Friday Night Lights" since Peter Berg's movie, and I've been impressed with how well the TV series has stretched the film's limits, particularly in the realm of family relationships. One scene on the latest episode really caught my attention.

Here's the set-up. Coach Eric Taylor goes to pick up his daughter, Julie, at the home of Matt Saracen, his former starting quarterback who's still on the team and dating Julie. When the coach arrives, he knocks on the door, gets no response, goes inside and finds the two teenagers in bed. Julie screams, her father leaves the house and goes out to his truck to wait for her. When she comes out of the house, Julie gets in the passenger seat and you can see a look of confusion on Eric's face -- he just isn't sure what to say or how to handle this, so no words are exchanged.

That night, as Eric and his wife Tami are getting ready for bed, he tells her what happened earlier in the day. Tami wants to go talk to Julie about it right now, but Eric tells her she'd better know what she's going to say first, and Tami admits that, like Eric, she doesn't know what to say to their 17-year-old daughter. They sleep on it and, in the morning, Tami tells Julie she knows about what happened at Matt's house. Julie doesn't want to deal with her mother at this point, so she says, "Just tell me what my punishment is." Tami responds, "The punishment is that we're going to have a conversation about this later." That evening, we see the scene below, in which Tami sits Julie down and tells her it's time for that conversation.

This whole plotline caught my attention because I have a teenage daughter. She's nowhere near this point in her life, but I know it's just a matter of a few years and, frankly, I don't know what I'll say either.

Take note of how the "FNL" creative team handles this storyline. I doubt there's another primetime show that would allow this much sensitivity on the part of both mother and daughter. In the hands of lesser talents, this would have been an overbearing mother and a snarky daughter trading one-liners and put-downs. Instead, you get characters who are authentic and relatable, with solid acting from Aimee Teegarden (Julie) and especially Connie Britton (Tami), who has been outstanding in this role from day one -- and keeps getting better.

For all those critics who wrote off "Friday Night Lights" as a show solely about Texas football, you've really missed some terrific television...