Several shows returned last night after especially long hiatuses brought on by the WGA strike last winter. I haven't yet caught the season premieres of Pushing Daisies or Private Practice, but judging from last night's Friday Night Lights and Dirty Sexy Money, I'm not very hopeful.
Dirty Sexy Money: I'd read several reports of massive re-tooling happening behind the scenes over the summer; whole scripts being scrapped, new writers and producers being brought in to fix perceived problems, and at least one cast member being axed (Samaire Armstrong was shown the door shortly after returning from a stint in rehab - whether the two were related is not clear). I was puzzled by the reports since I thought the show was really firing on all cylinders when it bowed out last December and now, having seen the results of the re-tooling, I'm even more stumped. Some things have gotten ridiculously cartoon-y, others have gotten unbearably boring and none of it seems to have anything to do with what they spent all of last season focusing on. Ok, it ended with a totally random and out-of-nowhere arrest for Dutch's murder, and Simon Elder's Crystal Swan from the first act certainly went off in the third but...the arrest was totally tacked-on and the swan was confusing and not anywhere near enough to make up for the rest of the show's total lack of cohesiveness.
Season one was 98% Soapy Awesomeness and 2% Campy Fun, season two has started out with 90% Campy Cheesiness and 10% Bad Writing amplified to the 10th power by a shit-ton of really bad acting.
One moment I did manage to enjoy during the show was the appearance of Ron Ostrow as a reporter accosting Peter Krause's Nick with questions about some Darling family nonsense. Why did I enjoy it? Because it tickled me to see Peter and Ron back together again - having played Casey McCall and Will the technician on Sports Night back in the day. Yeah, that was my favorite thing about the episode and that's exactly as sad as it sounds.
Friday Night Lights wasn't nearly that bad. The acting is still outstanding and the writing itself is very good, however the decision the writers made to pick up the story this season 4 months after the abrupt end of last season was terrible. A lot of stuff has changed and much of it was "explained" with exposition and small flash-back clips but some things weren't explained at all and almost all of both are irksome.
The Panthers lost the State Championship title when Smash injured his knee during the last playoff game and then lost his scholarship to the school I could have sworn was equally as interested in him academically as they were for his abilities on the field.
Tim and Lyla are a couple but only in the sense that they're secretly having a lot of sex which makes sense in light of season two's main Lyla plot being her extreme Christianity and resistance to being with Tim specifically because of his bad-boy, sex-having ways and her inability to control herself around him (which, you know, I totally get). Oh wait, no it really DOESN'T.
Lyla's mother and her granola-loving second husband took the youngest Garitys and relocated to San Diego, so now Lyla is living with Buddy. Santiago isn't living with Buddy anymore but no one speaks of him at all so it's like that never happened.
Tammy is the principle. How? Why? They never said.
Tyra and Landry have broken up (says Tyra) or are on a break (says Landry) but either way, he still calls her baby and they still spend every waking minute together and he still does all the manly chores around her house for her wacky mother and stripper sister, who incidental, is now engaged to the creepiest, drunkest, saddest version of Billy Riggins the world has ever seen.
Matt's place on the team is in question because there's a new kid in town, a freshman who is the second coming of both Manning brothers and Jason Street all rolled into one, and as usually happens to our beloved Saracen, he turns into a bumbling dipstick when he gets nervous about his future as QB1.
Now, Smash has graduated but didn't go to college so he's now managing the Alamo Freeze (which would make him Matt's boss and I really hope we get a scene or two of THAT action before Gaius Charles hits the bricks), but all the other people that we were always led to believe were in the same grade as Smash, have not. Riggins, Lyla and Tyra are all joining Matt and Landry as seniors this year with no explanation for why. That pisses me off because I know damn well that Tim and his women were all juniors at the start of the first season and while I have no problem believing that Tim failed, I don't see how he could fail and still be eligible to play football - even in Dillion. Oh, and he is still playing football, having left his position as full back to replace Smash as half back. And I don't care how much time was spent avoiding prosecution for murder or hanging out in churches, I don't believe for a second that Tyra and Lyla failed to graduate on time.
Street wasn't even in the episode and Julie only got to complain about wanting a car and a job and also fight with her parents.
Coach Taylor faced off with the new QB's dad, DW Moffat, in a showdown of two kinds of awesome that I would have enjoyed watching even if I wasn't deeply in love with Kyle Chandler and utterly smitten with DW Moffat.
My last complaint is that it seems like they tried to hip-up or MTV-ify the editing of this show in some way adding too many music-montages and quick-cuts and taking out a lot of the hand-held camera work that usually makes this show feel more like a peek into real lives than a scripted and blocked television show. I hope that isn't a change that's sticking around.
At it's worst, FNL is still better than nearly everything else on TV right now, so it's not as though I didn't enjoy it, but I didn't feel the deep love for it that I have in the past. I think I had more problems with this premiere than the murder premiere last year even, and that's not good news. Still, I remain happy it's back and hopefull for then next 12 episodes.