Tag Archives: Friday Night Lights

“Creed” a highly entertaining, solid flick, with just one flaw. “The Onion” reminds me how great it is. And a “Friday Night Lights” musical? No thank you

creed

When I first heard there was going to be yet another movie in the “Rocky” franchise, I said in this space that I was really angry, because if there’s one collection of films that does NOT need another addition, it’s “Rocky.” I was mad, I was annoyed … and then I saw the trailer, and immediately wanted to see the film.

Michael B. Jordan as Apollo Creed’s son? Stallone as the old, grizzled trainer helping him get to the top? Sign me up, please.

The wife and I saw “Creed” on Saturday night, and it was fantastic. Really sensational stuff. Not four stars, in my book, but a solid 3 or 3.5.

First of all, the story is really well-told: The illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, who never met his dad, throws away his regular day job to move to Philadelphia, desperate to connect with his father’s legacy and meet the man’s greatest rival and friend, Rocky Balboa.

Michael B. Jordan is, typically, fabulous in the role; I truly think he’s the next Denzel Washington. So confident, so poised, and so able to tap into any emotion a scene needs.
The script by Ryan Coogler is also terrific, the boxing scenes themselves beautifully shot, and the direction is excellent. As a longtime Rocky-phile I also appreciated the many nods to the previous movies, especially ones involving a chicken.

The one flaw in “Creed” for me? The boxing storylines were so over the top and ludicrious, as in, this could never in a million years happen this way. I won’t ruin any plot points but there are at least 3-4 times where something occurs and you’re just incredulous, knowing how silly that storyline is.

But the real revelation in the movie is Stallone’s acting. He steals the movie, and probably should get an Oscar nomination. Since the first two “Rocky” films Sly has pretty much been a terrible actor, really bad.

But in “Creed” he gets back to his roots, tapping into his iconic character perfectly. We see the charm, we see the facial tics, but we also see a poignancy and deep soul that I didn’t know Stallone had in him. He makes Rocky a wonderfully human character, fading away but energized by this kid.

“Creed” deserves the love it’s been getting from critics. Go see it. You’ll end up cheering in the final minutes even if you never do that sort of thing.

Onion.photo

**Next up, like the greatness of Steph Curry or traffic in New York City, I tend to take the wonderful satirical newspaper “The Onion” and its brilliance for granted. It’s usually so consistently funny, and biting, that sometimes it takes reminding how great it is.

This week I saw two Onion headlines, one that cracked me up beyond all reason, and another that made me laugh so hard and yet hate myself for laughing at it, because it’s so, so wrong.

The first is was this one:
“Members of Twisted Sister Now Willing to Take It.” which of course plays on the classic 1980s song.
And then there was this one, which screams “too soon” and borders on offensive but was so damn funny (and accurate) I couldn’t help laughing.

Frustrated Gunman Can’t Believe How Far He Has To Drive To Find Nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic

God bless The Onion.

**Finally today, I love pointing out and mocking ideas so bad, you question the sanity of those who came up with them. “Friday Night Lights,” the TV show, is an all-time classic, one I’ve waxed poetic about numerous times on here. It’s in the pantheon of the greatest shows ever, and so of course, being a classic, it’s bound to spawn some attention after it’s dead.

But this … “Friday Night Lights” is set to become a musical, with Scott Porter, who played Jason Street on the show, playing Coach Eric Taylor in the starring role?

Come on, people, don’t do this! Don’t massacre a legend. “FNL” is a lot of things. A LOT of things. It’s poignant and smart and funny and brilliantly acted and beautiful. But it is NOT a friggin’ musical! Do not do this, Scott Porter, do not go down this road. You are Jason Street, you are not Coach Taylor, no matter how many “let me tell you something’s” you may utter. I do not want to see Landry and Matt Saracen boogieing around Grandma Saracen’s house. I don’t want to see Billy Riggins crooning his heart out to Mindy.

Please don’t do this. It will absolutely be awful.

A tribute to Jon Stewart, as he exits the stage. Coach Eric Taylor is back! (sorta) in a new PSA. And ESPN continues to try to ruin Little Leaguer’s lives

Tomorrow is a day many of us hoped would never arrive.

A day we knew could happen, a day that really ought not to make us so sad. But it’s a day that smacks of finality in late-night television.

I was bummed in May when David Letterman signed off, but if you threw Wonder Woman’s lasso around me and forced me to tell the truth, Dave stopped being a late-night newsmaker and having an impact on our culture years ago.

No, tomorrow night is truly an end of an era: The great, immense talent that is Jon Stewart will be taping his last episode of “The Daily Show.”

And after 16 years, he’ll sign off having changed television, and the coverage of politics, forever.

I started watching my fellow Member of the Tribe’s show (his real name is Jon Leibowitz) in 2000, when Bush-Gore was getting good, and then of course we had the recount madness and the stolen election and man, did Stewart ever go to town on that.

His sense of timing was impeccable, his outrage was always entertaining; for liberals like me, one of the things that got us through the eight long, destructive years of Bush-Cheney were Stewart’s hilarious “High atop Bullshit Mountain” segments, where he called out the lies coming from the White House.

Stewart was a comedian at heart, but he also could be poignant, like during his recent show after the Charleston black church massacre.

He was a terrific interviewer, and was just as capable of chatting with Channing Tatum about some recent movie as he was with Madeline Albright or David McCullough about world affairs.

Stewart called it like he saw it, drilling Bill Clinton and Barack Obama alike, and anyone who called him a liberal shill wasn’t watching the last six years when he called Obama out on so many things.

There’s an entire generation of people, including some from my Gen X group, that got their news entirely from “The Daily Show.” And night after night, week after week, Stewart delivered it.

He was truly an outstanding TV host, and the tributes leading up to this final show have been numerous (The best I’ve read comes, not surprisingly, from David Remnick of The New Yorker).

Stewart was a truth-teller and bullshit-detector for our time, and I will miss him very, very much.

L’chaim, and Godspeed, Mr. Leibowitz.

**Next up, this was utterly fantastic, and will appeal to all of my fellow “Friday Night Lights” devotees out there. A small movie chain in Texas called Alamo Drafthouse got Kyle Chandler to reprise his role as Coach Taylor and film a public service announcement telling people not to talk or text during movies.

So funny… Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!

**Finally today, a brief rant about a news item I saw on Twitter today, from all-time Twitter jerk Darren Rovell, an ESPN sports business reporter:

“ESPN will broadcast a record 135 Little League World Series games this year from Aug. 4 through Aug. 30.”

One hundred and thirty-five nationally televised games from the Little League World Series tournament, including all the regional semifinals and finals.

I mean, the mind just boggles. You are taking 11 and 12-year-old kids, who are still playing a pure game they love for the sheer love of it, and putting them under a nationally televised spotlight, where every mistake, every miss, every disappointment, will be available to be seen by millions.

It’s so freaking wrong, to glorify kids’ sports to this degree, and to put this kind of pressure on these kids.

ESPN has done nothing but steamroll past any moral or ethical implications of what they do for years now in a lot of areas, but by force-feeding the Little League World Series and treating these kids like major-leaguers, they’re committing, in my mind, borderline child abuse.

Absolutely, positively disgusting.

The five best TV dramas of all time (according to me)

Thewire.stringeravon

You may remember a few weeks ago when I put together a list of what I thought were the five best TV sitcoms of all time.

A few of you were mad I omitted “Taxi,” and “Mad About You,” and M-A-S-H,” and on the first two I see your argument, but I just never got the appeal of Alan Alda and crew working to save lives during the Korean War. I mean, I get why people loved it, but it just never did it for me.

Now, since dramas deserve equal time, I present my five favorite one-hour shows of all time.

5. L.A. Law: The greatest show of my childhood, and one I used to beg to be allowed to stay up late for. Sleazy but lovable Arnie Becker. Straight-laced legal wizard Michael Kuzak. Tough-as-nails prosecutor Grace Van Owen. Crotchety old Douglas Brackman. Tax attorney Stuart Markowitz and his bride, Ann Kelsey.
These were the brilliant legal minds of Mackenzie Brackman, and they brought the funny, the serious and the heart-tugging emotions every week. Thursday nights at 10, I felt like I was getting a glimpse into “grown-up world” television. “L.A. Law” never patronized its viewers, always brought interesting cases, and was the forerunner of so many of today’s legal dramas.
It’s entirely possible that my friends Marc, Andrew and I were the only 12-year-olds in America debating Arnie’s sex life and Abby looking for her kidnapped son, but man did we love that show.

I miss it still.

4. Friday Night Lights: One of three shows on my list that I didn’t discover until very late in its original run, or after it was over, the tribulations, joys and heartache of the Dillon Panthers, and everyone around the West Texas football team, was simply sensational. I’ve never seen a show beloved by such a cross-section of people as this one; Kyle MacLachlan as Eric Taylor, and Connie Britton as Tammy (aka Mrs. Coach) led an incredible cast, the writing was sensational, and it pulled on your emotions like few others.

The scene that hooked me for good was early in the first season, in the third episode, when Taylor had his team run up and down a hill in the rain while screaming at them.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
If you’ve never seen it, the whole run of the series is on Netflix. So good.

3. Breaking Bad: I’m cheating a little here because my wife and I aren’t finished with all five seasons of this glorious show (right now we’re three episodes away from the end of season 4), but it’s been so incredible, living up to all the hype so many people in my life have promised, that it’s already No. 3 on my list, and quite possibly moving up.
A high school chemistry teacher stricken with cancer, his troubled but good-hearted (mostly) protege, and an indelible cast of drug dealers, lawyers and family members have made this probably the best piece of television made in the past decade.
Just as everyone told me, Season 1 was really good, Season 2 was better, Season 3 was even better, and Season 4 blows them all away (yep, it’s incredible).
There isn’t a single flaw in this show, and it’s so beautifully constructed that most of the time when the episodes end my wife and I are both open-mouthed, jaws dropping, uttering “Wow.”

2. The West Wing: I’ve always told myself that this and my No. 1 choice were dead even in every way, but if I absolutely had to choose, the Jed Bartlet administration comes in second. Loved this show from the minute I first started watching, at the start of season 2, and its first four seasons were so incredible I could (and have) watched them on reruns dozens of times.

The casting was perfect, especially Leo McGarry (John Spencer), Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), and Martin Sheen as President Jed Bartlet. Aaron Sorkin’s writing was cracklingly brilliant, the storylines were fascinating, and the humor and drama blended beautifully.
The last two seasons weren’t quite as magical, but as a whole “The West Wing” was still better than any other network drama ever.

1. The Wire: Nothing I can say here except that “The Wire” is the greatest piece of pop culture entertainment I’ve ever experienced. I’ve proselytized about this show to so many of my friends and family that many have watched it just to shut me up, I think.

David Simon, over five seasons on HBO, created a masterpiece, weaving the lives of drug dealers and police officers in inner-city Baltimore into a coherent narrative that stands up to anything else that’s ever been on TV.
“The Wire” treated you as an adult, forced you to pay attention, and rewarded you for watching all the way through.
I bow down to you, David Simon, and me and millions of others are grateful that you created such a fantastic show.

 

Diana Nyad, a woman who fails but keeps trying. An umpire makes the best call of his life. And something to get you ready for football season

Synchronized blogging note: I spent most of my free time this week reading the new Joe Posnanski biography of Joe Paterno, which has gotten quite a bit of buzz. As you know, there’s no bigger Joe Poz lover than me, so I was eager to read it.

My buddy Jeff Pearlman asked me to write a review of the book for his blog, and since he’s bigger than me and threatened to beat me up if I didn’t (plus he gets more web traffic), I have complied. For my thoughts on what was a terrific and balanced book, click here to read my review on Jeff’s site.

We begin Good News Friday with a story of a woman who failed in a quest this week.
Yes, I know that sounds weird. Let me explain. Maybe you’ve heard about Diana Nyad, a 63-year-old distance swimmer. She’s been famous for decades for doing all kinds of long-distance swims most people wouldn’t ever try.

Last week, for the fourth time in her life, Nyad tried to do something that sounds impossible: She wanted to swim from Cuba to Florida (103 miles) without a shark cage.
Sort of like jumping off a high-wire without a net, but more dangerous because jellyfish and all kinds of hellish weather are waiting for you.

It was the fourth time Nyad tried this swim. She had a team around her monitoring everything, from trying to keep sharks away from her, to weather monitors.
She was trying this swim, at her age, because she has always wanted to do it and because she was pushing the limits of what humans can do.
For the fourth time, Nyad failed. She lasted 41 hours and got about halfway, before the jelly-fish stings and the lightning storms did her in. She wanted to go on, but couldn’t.

Why is this Good News? Because Nyad keeps trying. She still believes in her cause, and I have no doubt she’ll try again.
Dreamers who dream big; to me, that’s always a beautiful thing.

**So this was cool: Jim Joyce, a major league umpire heretofore famous for blowing a perfect game for Detroit pitcher Andres Galarraga in 2010, saved a woman’s life the other day before a game.
Seems a woman named Jayne Powers was having a seizure and was unconscious. Joyce was walking through the Arizona Diamondbacks’ ballpark tunnel and saw her, ran over and administered CPR.

Powers is recovering now. Great job, Jim.

**Football season is almost here. I can feel it, you can feel it, and it’s awesome. I love the end of August because it means the U.S. Open is here (excited to be going to Flushing Meadows twice next week!) and NFL football is too.

This gets me in the mood every time. The great “Friday Night Lights” summarized in five minutes. Gives me chills…

The guy who walked into court with a crack recipe on his jacket. The refrigerator that watches your diet. And for football weekend, my fave 5 minutes on YouTube

Once again, I bring you one of the stupidest criminals found in America. A Florida man decided it’d be a really good idea to walk into court, while facing drug charges, wearing a jacket that had a recipe for making crack cocaine on it.

Stunningly, this didn’t help the defendant with the judge.
Now this dude’s in trouble with the real police AND the Fashion Police.

**Now here’s something we all could use after putting on some pounds during the holidays. LG has announced the totally-awesome, yet a little bit creepy, Think Smart refrigerator.

This baby has a built-in dietician, an Internet screen to show you what’s inside it without having to open the door. You can also input your body mass index, what your target weight loss is, and the fridge will tell you whether you’ve made the healthiest choice available. Or if there’s a better one.

Of course, if all you’ve got is leftover pizza, a case of Bud Light and some strange cheese that’s been there for a few months, the smartest damn fridge in the world probably won’t help you too much.

**I think I put this up once before, but with many sports fans fired up about this Sunday’s NFL conference championship games, I got to thinking about “Friday Night Lights.” And of course, this fantastic five-minute video of what the show’s all about.
ESPN Classic is running the re-runs, and it’s available on Netflix. Truly no reason you shouldn’t be watching one of the all-time classics.

Getting over your fear of heights isn’t helped when you’re trapped 50 feet up. Some Mariano Rivera love. And “Friday Night Lights” blows me away again

So pretend for a minute that you’re Talia Rodriguez, a recently-engaged woman in Texas. You’re getting set to marry the man of your dreams, William Mancera, but he has a paralyzing fear of heights.
So you decide that to help him overcome it, the two of you will go to the Zero Gravity Amusement Park in Dallas and go on the Texas Blastoff Bungee Ridge.
Great idea, right? William will see there’s nothing to be scared of.
Ah, Talia. Such a good idea at the time. How could she have known that the cords on the ride would get tangled, and the pair would get stuck 50 feet in the air, dangling, for three hours?
They had to be rescued by the fire department. Fortunately, they weren’t injured.
I love this quote from Talia:  “We will never go on these ever, ever again,” she said. “Our kids will never go on them, our brothers and sisters will never go on them – we’re done.”
Sometimes, true love is literally found in the clouds.

**I’m a pretty lapsed baseball fan, and a lapsed Yankees fan to boot. But Friday night the Yankees and Red Sox, tied for first place and playing each other at Fenway, sucked me back in a little bit.
And in the 9th inning, I got to thinking about Mariano Rivera. He’s been taken so for granted by Yankees fans, and baseball fans in general, because he’s been so good for so long. But do you realize how incredible it is that No. 42 is still getting the job done as a relief pitcher, 15 years after starting to dominate? And he still does it with two basic pitches. And the batters know what’s coming, and he knows they know, and this legend of the mound, now 41 years old, is still getting it done.
People talk about Pedro Martinez or Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux being the best pitchers of the last 25 years.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s Mo.
If you want to read more about Rivera, here’s Tom Verducci’s stellar profile of him from 2009.

**So I’ve mentioned before that I came very late to the party on “Friday Night Lights,” but have been catching up on Netflix a season at a time.
I’m almost done with Season 4 right now, and Friday night I saw maybe the best episode in the show’s history, the one called “I Can’t.”
More proof that this brilliant show was more than about just football: This episode was the most honest, accurate portrayal of a teenager’s wrenching struggle about whether to have an abortion as I’ve ever seen on TV. I ripped “Desperate Housewives” a while back for not having the guts to even discuss abortion on TV.
Well, “Friday Night Lights” had the guts to go there, and thanks to brilliant writing and acting, it was a hell of a show. Man, I can’t wait to get to Season 5, because Season 4 has been sensational.

Schoolchildren as speed bumps. Seriously. And loving “Friday Night Lights” so far

This is one of those ideas that I’m not sure is either brilliant, or horribly misguided.

The city of Vancouver was unhappy that drivers seemed to be speeding through school zones, and ignoring the speed bumps as well.
So they’ve decided to unveil new “pavement paintings” on the city’s speed bumps near École Pauline Johnson Elementary School.

The 2-D image they’re using? A playing child.
That’s right, the image is designed to make it seem to the driver that as he’s driving closer and closer to the school zone, he’s about to ram into a child.

According to this story, the pavement painting appears to rise up as the driver gets closer to it, reaching full 3-D realism at around 100 feet. “Pavement Patty,” as the girl in the painting is known, is intended to “give drivers who travel at the street’s recommended 18 miles per hour (30 km per hour) enough time to stop” before running over the fake child, “acknowledging the spectacle before they continue to safely roll over her.”

Wow. I mean, wow. I guess this could convince people to drive slower. I think it also could mean a ton of drivers slam on their brakes and cause accidents because they think they’re about to hit an innocent child.
Curious to hear what you think; brilliant idea, or really misguided one?

**I mentioned last week that I was finally taking the plunge and starting to watch the show everyone has told me is so awesome, “Friday Night Lights,” from the beginning.

Six episodes in, I’m hooked. The music is fantastic, and it plays under just about every scene. The acting is excellent, particularly Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler. The football scenes? Yeah, there’s some Hollywood-ization there, but I’ve seen much worse.

So far I have to admit it’s as great as everyone has told me it is.  Really strong writing, and Minka Kelly is not bad to look at every episode.  Just sayin’.

On a related note, my best friend Clay has finally, after years of me nagging, begun to watch Season 1 of “The Wire.” I’ve told him he’s got to stick with it for at least 3-4 episodes, because it gets better every episode and you need to at least give it a chance.

After one episode, he called and reluctantly agreed it’s “interesting” and that he’ll keep watching.
It’s the best show in the history of television, I’ve told him. I hope he watches long enough to believe me.

And for you “Wire” fans out there, here’s a great clip:

On Labor Day, thinking of prostitution. And jumping on the “Friday Night Lights” bandwagon

So I was thinking a lot about prostitution this weekend.
Not for no reason, of course. Sunday and Monday I was chasing a pretty big story at my newspaper: The most famous high school football coach in town was arrested Saturday night for trying to solicit a hooker. He was caught as part of an undercover sting operation by the local police.

I got to thinking a little bit about the whole way we criminalize prostitution in this country. I’ve never been entirely comfortable seeing this as a black and white issue. Prostitution is a victimless crime, legalization proponents say. It’s one person and another person coming to a mutual agreement to have sex, and one person pays the other for it.

Why is this illegal? Of course, there’s the other side, which says that making women sell their bodies for sex, while a pimp profits, is downright wrong.

I don’t know, I’m a pretty liberal guy. I happen to think prostitution isn’t the biggest priority for our police forces right now. I think laws should be looked at and loosened. But I’m open to arguments, as always.

**It took me a while to finally listen to everyone I knew who told me to watch “The Wire.” When I finally did start watching the greatest show ever on television, I kicked myself for waiting this long.

That’s probably how I’m going to feel about “Friday Night Lights.” Many people, from different areas of my life, have been telling me for years how good the show is.

The book was incredible, and the movie was pretty good. So I had no interest in the TV show when it first came out.
I watched one episode the first season, and there was a scene where a kid threw like an 80-yard pass in the air. That was all I needed to see.
But since it’s been so universally beloved for so long, I figured it’s time. ABC Family is re-running the whole series, from the beginning, starting today at 6 p.m. So I’ll be DVR’ing and watching for as long as the show interests me, probably posting periodic blogs about it.
All the hype can’t be wrong, right?