FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS with Connie Britton, Taylor Kitsch, Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemons. Airs Fridays at 9 pm on NBC. Rating: NNNN
Won't be long before the writers' strike reduces this column to reviews of Deal Or No Deal, The Hour and reruns of Married With Children.
We've already seen the first significant casualty with the decision to postpone the January start of 24 until the mess is settled, so that Jack Bauer can save the world uninterrupted. I suggest we stick reps from both sides in a room with Bauer and a cattle prod and be done with it. (A second option would be to stick them in a car with Kiefer Sutherland after a night on the town.)
Which brings me to Friday Night Lights, about the drama surrounding a small-town Texas football team. It's one of the best shows on TV that's not on HBO, but with its lacklustre ratings, a strike-interrupted season could send it to the showers permanently.
Too bad, since this season has seen the emergence of two of the most compelling characters on TV. Last season, rookie QB Matt Saracen and hotshot receiver "Smash" Williams earned all the attention, and certainly their rivalry has heated up the on-field drama.
But so much of this show is about what happens away from the game. And this season, Coach Taylor's stressed-out wife, Tami (Connie Britton), and perpetually hungover player Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) have provided the show's forward momentum.
I don't know of any actress on TV who is as willing as Britton to look like crap. Tami Taylor is a puffy, bleary-eyed, postpartum mom dealing with a newborn, an often absent husband and a brat of a teenage daughter, and Britton is as gritty as she is ground down in the role.
As for Kitsch, he takes a clichéd part - the team's hillbilly fuckup - and makes him into a smart, sensitive and entirely three-dimensional hillbilly fuckup. Combine Judd Nelson's Bender and Emilio Estevez's Andy from The Breakfast Club and that's close to who Kitsch's Riggins has become this season.
Hopefully, Friday Night Lights recovers from any strike interruption more quickly than the NFL did back when the players walked out in 87.
One ballsy show
TELL ME YOU LOVE ME created by Cynthia Mort, with Ally Walker, Tim DeKay, Jane Alexander and Sonya Walger. Airs Sundays at 9 pm on TMN. Rating: NNNN
Chris Rock once said, "if you like fucking, marriage ain't for you." This 10-part HBO malaisionship melodrama proves his point. Sort of.
There is an awful lot of fucking in this series about several couples whose relationships are suffering varying degrees of decay. Outside of Showcase's Fridays Without Borders wankfest, no show - and certainly no fictional program - contains as much graphic, real, messy, untitillating sex. No clever camera angles or soft lighting obscure or disguise anything. Balls, boobs and pubes are on display in equal measure, at least in terms of screen time.
And these aren't buff and tanned hardbodies with collagen lips going at it either. One couple (half of which is Tony winner Jane Alexander) are in their 60s.
But while sex weighs heavily in the show, it's not a sexy show or even a show about sex. It's about intimacy - frank and scathing and with nary a bubble of lighthearted soapiness.
The couples depicted are in ruts of one kind or another. One pair are having trouble conceiving, so sex has become a chore; another haven't had sex in more than a year; a third couple are great in the sack but can't relate when standing up.
There's an almost European bluntness to everything. Nerves are touched and touched again, exposing complex emotions. And while the couples are all in therapy (their one connecting thread), it's not the fun kind of therapy where breakthroughs are made. Think of it as Scenes From Several Marriages.
Tell Me You Love Me is bold, unapologetic and complicated. So come for the sex, but stay for the story.
What to watch this week
Saturday, November 17
PU-239 (movie) George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh team up with HBO for this dramatic thriller about a Russian nuclear power plant worker (In America's Paddy Considine) who undertakes a Homeric quest to sell stolen plutonium. Finding Neverland's Radha Mitchell plays Considine's Marge, sans blue hair, I'm sure. 9 pm on TMN