Idol Chatter

While many in the press have continued to heap accolades on NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” as the best new series of the fall season, I withdrew my enthusiastic support after the show took a wrong turn and starting heading into tacky teen soapdom in the vein of a series like “The O.C.” But I am back with a vengeance to drum up support for the ratings-deprived Dillon Panthers football team, as recent episodes of the series have insightfully and poetically portrayed the plight of the teens of a small town in Texas, as well as the harsh reality of too many teens all over the country. Issues such as steroid use, domestic violence, living with a physical disability, and absentee parents are all examined with emotional depth and deep respect in a way that should have everyone supporting NBC’s courageous deicison to give this show a chance to find an audience.

Last night’s episode brought to a head several storylines involving teens who are, for all pratical purposes, raising themselves. The new Panther QB, Matt Sarinsin, has been struggling for weeks to balance his new responsibility on the field with his ongoing burden of caring for his grandmother–who is supposed to be his guardian while his dad is in Iraq–who has severe dimentia.When his father returns from the war, it is not a happy reunion, as the father would rather be back in Iraq, and Matt is once again left on his own.

At the same time, across town, an ex-girlfriend of another Panther player has had enough of watching her mother being assaulted by a deadbeat boyfriend. The girl not only attacks the man to protect her mother, but threatens to leave home once and for all if mom doesn’t end the relationship. In both storylines, the teenagers are sadly parenting the parents, when the teens themselves are desparate for some guidance themselves.

The two overlapping storylines have different endings–the girl’s mother bravely chooses to not return to the abusive boyfriend, while Matt resigns himself to his dad’s return to Iraq–and they are framed by a third storyline involving the one redemptive role model these teens know: Coach Taylor. The coach wearily but gladly takes on the challenge of fathering some of these teens, only to have his efforts repaid by being sued by an ex-football player’s family, essentially severing his bonds with the boy permanently.

As the show comes to a close with one father rather foolishly praying for God to let the Panthers win in the upcoming playoffs, his befuddled prayer only sheds more light on this series’ celebration of the importance of facing life’s important battles off the field with unconditional love and a little hope.

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