FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
I have lately late at night been binge-watching the series FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, which I had heard for years was excellent but just hadn’t got around to. I picked up the boxed set of all five seasons at a Half-Price Books and got caught up in what is superficially a teenage soap opera with a football background but is actually as good a dramatic series as I’ve ever seen on television. As much as I like THE SOPRANOS and MAD MEN, the good heart and skillful storytelling displayed in this sentiment-filled (but not sentimental) series reminds me how easy it is in writing to fall back on cheap-shot cynicism, snarky irony and the dark side. The naturalistic acting and the character-driven plotting show how empty and soulless are the likes of BOARDWALK EMPIRE and HOUSE OF LIES. There’s a lot of talent on display in front of and in back of the lights, with eavesdropping hand-held cameras and an evocative guitar-dominated score by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden (of the similarly excellent WEST WING).
Because the producers and writers knew that the fifth season was their last, they brought back characters from previous seasons (it’s a high school story, so characters graduate and move on) and wrapped up the entire story in a longer-than-usual episode that is my candidate for the best and most satisfying final show in a serial. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as the coach and his wife are responsible (along with the writers, of course) for what is the most realistic and believable marriage ever depicted on television.
One of the reasons I finally watched the show was Taylor Kitsch’s role in it – I was impressed with Kitsch in both JOHN CARTER and the surprisingly good BATTLESHIP (directed by Peter Berg, the director/writer of the film FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and creator of the TV version). Kitsch’s Tim Riggins is a memorable creation, breathing life into the cliche of the seemingly doomed working-class high school sports hero whose glory days will soon be behind him. This is a charismatic and talented actor, who would make a fine Nate Heller. He’s in Oliver Stone’s SAVAGES (from the Don Winslow novel) right now, which I haven’t seen yet. Somehow I imagine it’s not going to be as heartwarming as FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.
And MICKEY SPILLANE ON SCREEN was given a nice review in Crimespree (not available on line) and a small but appreciated write up here. The Crimespree review advises potential readers that the high price of the book makes finding a library copy to read a priority. But both Barnes & Noble and Amazon are carrying it at a decent, if shifting, discount. At any given time, one of them usually has it for around thirty bucks – still stiff, but anyone interested in my work or Mickey’s will want it.
Here’s a surprise: a glowing write-up about one of my BATMAN comic book stories.
Speaking of Batman, count me among the minority who found THE DARK KNIGHT RISES the latest candidate for “Emperor’s New Clothes” status. The pretentiousness and the self-importance on display are almost as unbearable as the length of the thing, which contains more absurdities than a Dr. Seuss book (but is far less fun). What I come away with most are the unintelligible dialogue exchanges between pro-wrestler-like Bane, whose mouth is covered by a pointlessly grotesque mask, and Bale’s Batman, who talks in his now trademark low, lispy spooky Batman voice – not that any of it is worth hearing. Their muffled back-and-forth is the stuff that Riff Trax are made of. And if you like kettle drums, you’ll just love the score. Perfect for an endless Samoan war dance.
On the plus side, Anne Hathaway makes a perfectly fine Catwoman who actually injects some humor into the mix (a rarity in these dour films). And while I like Ms. Hathaway’s rear view just fine, was it really necessary to design a bat-cycle that has her riding it prone with her butt in their air? Just wondering.