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The Top 10 Characters of Friday Night Lights (Pre-Premature Edition, Pt. 1)

I can't take it anymore. I've done all I can to leave my ramblings about Friday Night Lights off the internet until properly catching up with the world, whether it be the lucky ducks with DirecTV who got to watch its fifth and final season come to a close this month, or those who are all caught up with the first four seasons and are now waiting with bated breath for that last set of eps to air on NBC later this year. But no, I still have one episode to go in the third season as I watch with increasing addiction via Nerdflix Watch Now. In fact, I might even be all caught up with the NBC folks by the end of this weekend, as the wife is out of town (bats lashes at AppleTV on top of entertainment center). And yet I still just cannot take it, certainly now that I have seen (*spoiler alert for anyone else even later on the bandwagon than I*) our dear Dillon Panthers lose the state championship game. Especially since I hear I'm going to meet some new characters as I head into the show's final two seasons, and partly because I said goodbye recently to two beloved Panthers, I want to just go through very simply and talk to you about my favorite characters on the show thus far, ranked from awesome with flaws to awesome without a single one...

10) Billy Riggins: Yes, he's a blip on the show's radar in comparison to the other nine characters listed below, but let's face it. I'm not going to put Lyla Garrity on this list. I'm just not. Sorry. You could blame it on Minka Kelly's acting, on her unexplained separation from the church in between the second and third season, or just on the very way she says "Jason!" or "Tim!" in a way that just gets to you, but nevertheless, she's not on this list, just like Julie Taylor, while ultimately more enjoying, still hasn't quite figured out how to be more than a romantically confused brat. I've got hopes for her though now that she's back with Matt. Anyway, Billy Riggins deserves at least a couple sentences of our time because he represents a very particular kind of family drama character that I think is unlike any other big brother on television. He's a screw-up who loves his little bro to pieces, and eternally struggles with his inability to reconcile the two facts about himself. He's simultaneously everything and the complete opposite of what someone would want in a sibling to look up to. Highlight Reel: His teary-eyed-but-not-saccharine testimonial on the tape Jason made for Tim's prospective colleges, his sensitivity to everyone calling him a dumbass when the guys work to flip the Garrity house.

9) Buddy Garrity: To be honest, Buddy may be way higher on this list if it wasn't for the fact that he failed to tell us how he kicked Santiago out on the street, which led to his eventual recidivist activities that got him locked back up at Dillon Penitentiary. Or, you know, whatever happened to Santiago. If you can't tell by now, I'm blaming the writers' inconsistencies on the characters themselves, as if they existed in real life. Can you tell where I'm blurring the line of reality and fiction? Me neither. Anyway, Buddy's great. And by great, I mean he's a lovable oaf. And by lovable oaf, I mean really depressing miser-with-a-grin stuck in his solipsistic ways that somehow worked for him all Homer-Simpson-like for too long and then eventually caught up with him and shoved him into a cruel empty world with only his eldest daughter as sympathizer. This is some dark stuff, right? Right. Luckily, the real life Shrek has an infectiously optimist attitude, even after his most moving states of turmoil. Such is Texas! Highlight Reel: His breakdown at the camp site after realizing his younger offspring want nothing to do with him, his begging of Lyla to come home after he splurges all her college money on a "sure thing."

8) Tim Riggins: Here's a character that really won me over throughout the course of three seasons. When I first found out that Tim's real life counterpart (Taylor Kitsch) played Gambit in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie I thought all my concerns about that questionable piece of superhero cinema were justified, but as I grew to understand and care more for Tim as a character (and I also think I'm safe in assuming that Mr. Kitsch increased his talents as a thespian over time, yes?), I started getting genuinely excited to Nerdflix a Z-grade superhero movie featuring a Black Eyed Pea as a member of its cast. A character that began as your standard brooding strong-but-silent type has bloomed the most subtly over time, potentially oscillating between self-damaging and helpful-to-others more so than any other character. He's both a saint and a sinner, but his heart is always on his sleeve, even when he says nothing but instead just pushes his hair back over his forehead. I wish all jocks followed his lead. Highlight Reel: His reluctance but willingness to go see Crucifictorious live in concert, his guided tour of Dillon's finer establishments to new QB1 J.D. McCoy.

7) Tyra Collette: Oh how I wish I could put her at the top of this list. She's probably the character I want to like the most, and it's not just Adrianne Palicki's...you know...acting. Her drive and self-empowering no-nonsense attitude is incredibly refreshing for a female teenage persona on television, but her self-sabotaging, unfortunately, is just not quite as recognizable and believable at every turn as Riggins'. However, she is just one spot above #33 because she has been more of a constant over the course of these three seasons than I think many fans and critics have given her credit for. Even throughout the whole murder mess of the second season, she ached with a kind of genuine melancholy and morose confusion that did not fit any other character like it did Tyra. She wants so much but knows so little how to break outside of the box that's expected of her from her mom and sister, it's like she's doomed to repeat the Collette cycle, but keeps poking her toes outside the hamster wheel. Here's hoping that her exit from the show is as graceful and befitting to her eff-all spirit as the character discussed below. Highlight Reel: Her voice over work reading the final draft of her inspirational and honest college application essay, her trembling admittance to Landry's accusation of her being the little boy to his Giving Tree.

6) Brian "Smash" Williams: How perfect was this guy's send-off in the first four episodes of the third season? Coming back from a writer's strike that crippled so many scripted shows in 2008, it turns out it was actually a godsend for FNL, which suffered from a, umm, "varied" second season. There were a lot of things that were working, but aside from the more obvious annoyances (the murder plot, Carlotta), there was also one big question that kept getting sidestepped for some reason: where are these characters going? Even though Gaius Charles always took the egocentric melodrama and ran with it like a king, the trite steroids plot and the almost random racism-centric proselytizing never seemed to properly suit the intimacy and grandiosity of his character. But when something as simple as an unseen knee injury during the playoffs in his senior year almost ruins his chances at playing college ball, it feels painfully real, possible, and earth-shattering. And when Smash's truly reveals his love for his family, his commitment and yet undeniable faith-wavering to the game and his coach in what must feel like a super senior year at Dillon High, it's nerve-wracking and bittersweet. The arrogant "hero" becomes a quiet hero, without quote marks. Highlight Reel: His final sweaty smile to the camera as he catches a pass from his teammates during a late-night-in-the-lights scrimmage, his admirable yet flawed and heart-wrenching attempt to tell Mama Smash he's going to become a manager for an Alamo Freeze franchise rather than continue with this whole football thing.

Catch back next week for #s 5-1!

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  1. Blogger Josh "Old Man" Duggan | 5:26 PM |  

    Dude, Tim Riggins is the best character on TV (or at least he was before Raylan Givens was introduced to us).

  2. Blogger Josh "Old Man" Duggan | 5:27 PM |  

    And Smash is an afterthought.

  3. Blogger qualler | 5:56 PM |  

    I look forward to seeing where this list is headed - I assume Saracen, Street, Landry, Coach, and Mrs. Coach in some order? I agree w/Josh, though - Riggins is genius, although he's even more genius in season four which you have not seen yet. One of my fave parts of the show has always been Mrs. Coach and Julie's relationship, though, so I'd probably include her somewhere in my Top 10 and bump Buddy Garrity. Can't totally argue with the exclusion of Lyla, though.

  4. Blogger DoktorPeace | 10:45 PM |  

    I'll deal with Minka and Aimee on the more objective Blogulator list I pen.

  5. Blogger chris | 5:25 PM |  

    Josh: I am excited and scared to see where Tim's character goes after seeing the third season finale just a bit ago. My main issue with him was how his alcoholism was never really dealt with and the fact that Taylor Kitsch didn't figure out how to act until midway through the second season.

    Qualler: You are almost correct, except I might pull a David Simon and put the town of Dillon as my #1. Or maybe not. I alternate between loving Julie (b/c of her scenes w/ Tami) and hating her (b/c when the writers don't know what to do with her, they just have her be a brat for an episode).

    Doktor: You best not leave out Ms. Palicki. She's more "objective" than both Minka and Aimee put together.

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