I’m going to come right out and say it: Season 3 is the best season of FNL. It is not a coincidence, I think, that season 3 is also the first season after FNL moved from being a straight network show and the first season with a planned short season (Season 2 being artificially shortened by the writers’ strike, as I recall).
The pressures of setting a show in high school—especially tying seasons of television to seasons of football—really starts showing in season 3. Tim Riggins especially as a sophomore always pushed our suspension of belief. But season 3 shows that the real heart of FNL has always been and always will be Eric and Tami Taylor serving as surrogate parents for half the town. I rolled my eyes when I saw that Smash got a post-graduation storyline in season 3, but after being ill-served by a parade of weak storylines in the first two seasons, Smash finally gets his due here.
The conflict that drives the season, of course, is the introduction of freshman phenom quarterback J.D. McCoy and his overbearing, scheming father Joe McCoy. Joe provides the series with its best villain, and his machinations (and one very foolish decision by Tami) set the stage for an incredibly ballsy move creatively going into season 4. How do you bring down a man with a state championship ring? How do you humiliate him after going to State for the second time in three years? Peter Berg knows. It is a nice touch, I think, that probably shows why the real Permian Panthers’ days as a Texas football powerhouse were always numbered. At some point top coaching talent has to just say F it and go coach somewhere else with just as much money and not nearly as much BS (FORESHADOWING).
I mentioned last week that the scene with Matt Saracen in the shower is my favorite scene from the entire show (he was wearing clothes y’all—not that kind of scene). Maybe my second favorite scene/series of scenes is in season 3. FNL does small town life better than anyone. Street and Riggins and NYC absolutely nails how the lack of social capital can leave you playing the part of the rube. It is also a beautiful capstone to Street and Riggins friendship. Lack of social capital is a MFer, but the Power of Friendship goes a long way.
5 of 5 Stars.
You can find all of my Friday Night Lights Friday posts here.