Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose

Via the very-readable film/TV criticism blog The House Next Door comes a great posting by Joan O'Connell Hedman who ponders some possible reasons for the continued struggles of NBC's Friday Night Lights.

This is the best drama on television. This statement is true even with this season's rather obvious attempts to expand its audience base by making it more of a traditional prime-time soap (e.g. road trip to Mexico! dead body in the river!). Even with that tinkering this remains a tough show to categorize, a fact that is clearly driving the NBC promotions department crazy. Everyone agrees it's a good show, but how to get good ratings? This isn't a slick, violent, high-concept police procedural like CSI or an over-the-top, wink-wink dramedy like Desperate Housewives.

Friday Night Lights may be a little too gritty and real in its depiction of everyday life. Yes, there are some uncomfortable and painful truths, but there's also some poignant and uplifting triumphs. But you'll never know unless you try it.


New TV season three-word reviews

* "Survivor: China" - Still enjoyably addictive
* "ER" - Time to cancel
* "Friday Night Lights" - Soapier but solid
* "Bionic Woman" - Gilmores meets Alias
* "The Office" - Getting much sillier
* "Heroes" - Losing my patience
* "30 Rock" - Deserved the Emmy
* "Desperate Housewives" - Regaining its glory
* The Bachelor" - Shameful and embarrasing
* "Kid Nation" - Clever but icky

Knee-jerk review: "Dan in Real Life"

1. Funniest line of the movie: "This corn is like an angel."
2. There's been much ado in the reviews and PR about the film's use of a single songwriter - Sondre Lerche - to provide the music, with some applauding the bold decision and others complaining the songs are too heavy-handed. Truth be told, the songs really doesn't have much of an impact either way. They're just some nice background filler.
3. It is possible: Dane Cook can dial down his self-satisfied mugging and deliver an understated performance if he so chooses.
4. John Mahoney's looking old.
5. Steve Carrell's most naturalistic role yet and he hits a home run.
6. A tough film to market. More a warm, sweet romantic comedy than the sort of broad, profane, high-concept comedies that have been so popular lately. Hopefully word of mouth will get audiences into theaters.
7. Nice to see a big extended family that actually, you know, gets along and enjoys each other. No one in this film is dysfunctional in the brash, exaggerated way Hollywood movies families typically are.
8. And for those of us who don't come from the East Coast, there's something incredibly soothing and attractive about the rural Rhode Island setting of this movie. All flannel and fleece, sprawling lake houses, and fall colors. It's like a J. Crew catalog, only wthout the snooty condescension. You want to be there with the characters.
9. We'd probably pick Juliette Binoche over Emily Blunt, too. But it's close.
10. A good reminder of how satisfying a movie can be if you really, truly care about the characters. All of the characters.