Friday Night Lights, Season 5

FNL Enters the YouTube Age
Talking television.
Nov. 10 2010 10:04 PM

Friday Night Lights, Season 5

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Jeff Rosick as Buddy Jr., Brad Leland as Buddy Garrity. Click image to expand.
Jeff Rosick as Buddy Jr. and Brad Leland as Buddy Garrity

FNL just fast-forwarded 20 years in a single episode, launching itself into the YouTube age. In his office, Principal Levi showed Tami and Eric "Drunk Puppet Girl," a clip from last episode's rally girl party in which our new anti-heroine, Maura, drunk but still smiling, gets passed around among football players and other students like a rag doll. And then Tami says, "Wow, 2000 hits." I had to stop for a minute on that one. We've barely ever seen Tami watch television or use a computer, so it felt like the words were coming out of someone else's mouth. What's next? Checking into Buddy's new place on Foursquare? That said, the video was at the center of a very tight and highly dramatic episode aimed right at your bullying-obsessed heart, Emily.

Hanna Rosin Hanna Rosin

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.

Unlike, say, Easy A, the Emma Stone cyberbullying movie, FNL doesn't wring many laughs out of the situation. Instead, the episode unfolds as a parable about parenting and the need to guide children to become moral adults. Maura is depicted the same way she would be in a made-for-Christian-audience movie. She is an unrepentant slut, giggling her way through her meeting with Tami as her spaghetti strap slips further down her shoulder. "Have you ever been to a party?" That attitude ends later when Tami finds her making out in a supply closet and breaks her with a lecture about brooms and rats. You are smart and beautiful and this is a moment to choose your future, she tells Maura. The exchange has echoes of the generational feminist wars: girls gone wild vs. the sober, moral careerists.

Advertisement

But true to the best of FNL, the writers pull away from easy caricature. Tami triumphs, but she is also shrill and handles the situation without much grace. When the kids in school are failing to pay attention to a deeply droning and boring lecture on alcohol consumption, she just yells at them to shut up. (She should have taken the mic herself and given one of those great talks she always gives to Julie.) And when she and Eric discuss whether they ever did any of this when they were kids, it's clear from that little pause between them that she's not telling the truth or is at least allowing her memory to get selective.

And 2,000 miles away the action unfolds to undercut her and Eric's moral authority completely. Julie, upon learning that her cute TA has a wife, does not turn away and leave the party as a good Taylor daughter should. Instead she seduces him, and next morning we cut to her in bed. She now is just another college girl slipping out of some guy's room in last night's clothes, hoping the latch doesn't click too loudly. And here is the genius of FNL: taking some very old-fashioned subjects—moral guidance, female virtue—and making them modern enough for the YouTube age.

Parties have a second life in this episode, just as they do on YouTube. Maura and Julie both suffered post-party consequences. The episode opened on the post-victory party at Buddy's new honky-tonk joint. And then at the end of the episode, Vince walked through an almost identical party, only this time in a haze because of the showdown with his father.

I will leave it to one of you to discuss the Vince subplot. It had echoes of the Wire, Season 4, when Michael is furious that his little brother Bug's father is out of prison and wants to live with them, so he has him killed. But FNL is at its core sentimental, especially about men, and would only kill off a father if he were a soldier. So after a few confrontations, they have a heart-to-heart in which the dad, while packing his bags, says, "I'm proud of you, Vince." Can't be too hard on the writers for that bit of tenderness. At least he walked out without leaving his address.

Like Slate on  Facebook. Follow us on  Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.