Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Lights are back on

While we're taking care of relatively trivial matters (see intro to previous post)...my weekends are a little brighter since "Friday Night Lights" has come back for its third season, after I had assumed it had gone the way of other well-done, entertaining shows that are at once thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying...i.e. cancellation. I've seldom been happier to be wrong. OK, that's not saying much (see previous post).

The show features characters that are realistically drawn but have interesting lives (a tender balance). Admittedly they are statistically more attractive than the average sampling of the population, but then this is a show mostly about jocks, jocks' girlfriends, cheerleaders (the latter two often being the same), and former jocks and former jocks' wives. And yes, there's a stripper or two, but they're not the heroes. In fact, that aspect (the wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl trying to better herself) is one of the many good v. evil stories that make this show interesting. Not just us v. them, Bad Guy v. Good Guy, but the inner struggles to make the BEST choices as well as the RIGHT ones, and sometimes the consequences of making bad ones. There's not much glamour even for the jocks; the photography captures the grit and ordinary nature of life in a small Texas town, far from L.A. polish. The storylines do more to bring reality to the myths of the sports hero and the "cool crowd" than the other way around. The high school football game, as looming backdrop or as center stage, is the perfect metaphor for these dramas: the lofty dreams and distant goals of life, the angst of youth as well as the hardships of adulthood, and the victories that make it all worthwhile.

Something for everyone here. Sports, romance, family, adults who care about young people as a profession and as a personal passion...not to mention morality, the pursuit of excellence, self-sacrifice for the good of the community. Some actual religion--not very well portrayed up-close, and now the girl who found change through faith has become a fallen woman--easier to write, I suppose...but I give them credit for trying.

Plus, the Southern qualities are very genuine for network TV, even the accents! Someone in Hollywood finally realized not every Southerner talks like Scarlett O'Hara, and told some actors. Or maybe some of them are actual Southerners, too. Either way, I approve!

For me it's only occasionally reminiscent of my high school days, such as when the characters who are below the upper crust are on screen. Contrary to what I'll assume you would guess (don't correct me), I was not a jock, not part of the popular crowd, and didn't do much after school hours, including attending ball games, because I lived in the sticks and rode the bus until graduation. I was not an outcast either; one friend put me in the "intelligentsia" crowd. I could talk to girls as long as I wasn't asking them out, and I did go to pep rallies when they were during school hours.

I guess it's sheer vicarious entertainment...living in my mind through other people's experiences, for an hour, once a week. That's what TV is good for, and this is good TV.

Surreality TV

Here's a completely trivial reason to break the lull in the more-or-less one-way conversation that this blog is...and challenge the credibility of my blog title (see above)...but then it's not supposed to be a doctoral thesis, either, so here goes:

I saw a friend on American Idol tonight! OK, not a close friend, but more than just a myspace "friend" at least...someone I've met, talked with, shared a table with and hugged a few times (reciprocally). But I've never been to her home or helped her move or anything like that, and this was a surprise, so we'll say she's a very friendly acquaintance. She is QUITE friendly, actually; one of her star qualities. But I was impressed the first time I saw her sing at a local writers night.

Both the pics below are linked to the video clip of Ann Marie's audition. Click to watch:

It's always fun to see people you know on TV. Unless maybe you had been in negotiation with a governor from Illinois for a certain government position...or you invested in what you swore to all your friends was NOT a pyramid scheme ("So, you trusted a guy named "Madoff" with your money...and he made off with your money? Hmmm.")...OK, it's not always fun. But this time it was, because millions of people got to see my opinion being confirmed by experts (not that I didn't know I was right): that Ann Marie has a great potential to be a successful music artist. May not seem like the kind of thing that would be a big deal to some, but then, well, maybe my need to be right is greater than most.

Not that I take all things "AI" at face value. I know it's heavily manipulated, including the freak show aspect...and I know it's not a typical open call for amateurs with no industry experience, etc. But that's entertainment. Including the emphasis, such as it is, on looks; but that's the "real" world of entertainment too, so why not?

During her audition, after a few moments of conversation and declaring her admiration for Kara DioGuardi and singing a few lines from one of Kara's songs, the judges asked her to come back later in the day and show them the star she was auditioning to be (rather than the "gushing fan" she was the first time, maybe? Not sure).

Cameras followed her outside as she consulted with her mom about shoes, hair, the jacket (on or off?) and found someone to help spruce up her makeup (due to these troubled economic times, apparently makeup artists are wandering the streets of Florida...or maybe an AI employee volunteered?).

The "instant makeover" seemed unnecessary and a little contrived, one, because Ann Marie is a gorgeous young (see, I know she's young) woman, regardless...and two, it wasn't exactly a Cinderella metamorphosis (compare the pics; the "before" look is above, and "after" is below).

Granted, the judges said they were looking for attitude to match her other assets, so maybe that came through better in the second part of the audition. Regardless, the process gave her a chance to display her willingness to cooperate and take direction...more necessary for success (in every profession) than most people realize. And, listening to your mother--nearly always a good idea, and a good example for the kids (and some adults). And it got her more camera time. So good on her.

Here's her myspace site...but you won't find her songs there, apparently due to AI rules.

If you want to hear a couple of her own songs, before they're yanked as well, go to the site she shares with her friends collectively known as "The Amateur Hour." A name they picked for themselves. Listen to "My Blue Sky" and my pick for any good "girl embraces womanhood as she enters the big world, and affirms her core identity in the process" film, "Flip Flop Girl." I thought about recommending to her that she work in a reference to a woman's prerogative to change her mind (get it? flip-flop?), but offering unsolicited song critique is pretty obnoxious even when you're right. Even I know that.