Monthly Archives: September 2008

FNL 101

So earlier in the week I heard the most crushing news I’ve heard in quite some time…


That’s right, Friday Night Lights, fondly/annoyingly known by me as FNL, will be unveiled on DirecTV a full four months before (finally) airing on NBC. Season 3 premieres on DirecTV on Oct. 1 and won’t be available to the rest of us until February!

Talk about disappointing.

FNL is one of the most underappreciated shows I’ve ever seen. (It’s awesome. Even Peyton Manning thinks so!) I’ve loved it from the beginning, but NBC has threatened to pull the plug on the show every year since its inception. The show has shuffled around from timeslot to timeslot, night to night, and eventually last year landed in a pretty self-explanatory timeslot… Friday night.

What does this mean for avid FNL fans like myself? I’ll suffer through a disheartening one-third of a year or I’ll somehow cave and buy DirecTV. Personally, I’m hoping for the episodes finding their way to Hulu.

Anyway, as a big fan of the entire FNL franchise (yes, there is a franchise in that there’s more than one), I’m frequently asked what the differences are between Friday Night Lights the book, the movie, and the TV show. Here is today’s lesson:

The whole thing started with H.G. Bissinger’s book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream, a non-fiction book about the 1988 Permian football team in the west Texas oil town of Odessa. Bissinger followed the Permian Panthers around for a year, went to the annual watermelon feed, attended practices and games, and even sat in on halftime and pre-game pep talks on the team’s quest for the Texas State Championship. The dark and beautifully written book was published in 1990 and exposed the unglamorous underbelly of racism, economic despair, and a community too focused on sports and not enough on education. Unsurprisingly my sentiments on the quality of Bissinger’s work is not shared by many Odessa residents.

Then in 2004, the book was made into a movie called — you guessed it — Friday Night Lights. For the most part the movie followed the book, obviously many details were left out for the sake of time. The characters were the same, had similar dilemmas and personalities, and again was set in Odessa. Billy Bob Thornton played the part of Coach Gary Gaines. Oddly enough, Connie Britton played his wife, Sharon Gaines. Britton plays “the coach’s wife” in the TV series as well.

Then, flash forward to 2006. Friday Night Lights, the TV series, hit the airwaves. However, unlike the movie, this one was not based on the book, but inspired by it. Oddly enough, the show’s executive producer is Peter Berg, first cousin of the book’s writer.

The TV show is a pretty sizeable departure from the book and movie. There are a few similarities, like the tragedy, immense sadness, and tough lives of the characters, the town’s obsession with high school football, the team’s mascot (the Panthers), and the small town Texas setting. The TV show is filmed in Austin and nearby suburb Pflugerville (note what real Pflugerville’s football jerseys look like, pretty much the same look as those on the show) but takes place in fictional Dillon, Texas. The Dillon Panthers have blue and yellow jerseys, unlike Permian’s trademark black jerseys (see below). Apologies for waxing Uni Watch again.

The TV show never really says where in Texas Dillon is. Sometimes you’ll hear that it is a few hours from Austin, or a few from Dallas, but it never gives any real indication where in the state they’re located. There are frequent references to Mack Brown and/or the Texas Longhorns. Honestly my analysis of the show could last for hours, but I’ll curtail the details here. But like the book, the sadness and rawness of the emotions is what makes the TV show so beautiful.

If pressed for an opinion, I would say the book is the best, but it wins in a squeaker (over the TV show… the movie didn’t bring much new to the table). Great writing (Bissinger formerly wrote for Sports Illustrated by the way) wins every time, but you have to keep in mind that the hugely successful movie and great TV show (bad ratings, but critically acclaimed) wouldn’t exist without the book.

PS, one day I hope to attend a high school football game at Permian. I realize that likelihood hovers around nill, as it is a 6 hour drive, and um, 370 miles away. Couple that with gas for $3.70 a gallon, and yeah…

The end. Finally.


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Filed under Austin, books, Friday Night Lights, movies, sports, TV

Tasty Trailer Treats

So one of my favorite things about Austin is the numerous delicious food-supplying trailers and carts.

This week I finally tried Flip Happy Crepes and Hey Cupcake!

While I enjoyed both of them, my favorite trailer foods still remain Torchy’s (though I usually cheat and go to the Guadalupe location in the strip mall) and the snowcone stands Sno Beach and Molly’s Sno Cups.

I enjoyed Flip Happy despite not being a bona fide “crepe fan.” The lines are long, and I will definitely keep in mind to arrive there no later than 11 a.m. in the future. I tried an entree crepe filled with roasted chicken and goat cheese, and it was fabulous. I tried a dessert one draped with berry dressing as well, but I found the entree one to be the star of the show.

I thought Hey Cupcake! was a really cute place, but based on my limited sampling (Red Velvet and “The Standard,” a vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing), I’d have to say it was a bit overrated. Plus $2.50 and $2 for cupcakes (respectively) was a bit much. But having had a rough week, I decided to treat myself. This will probably the most asinine food observation of all time, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a cake (or cupcake) I’ve enjoyed more than one made from a Duncan Hines cake mix. I’m really not kidding. I’m all for making icings from scratch to add to these cakes, but the cakes themselves are so perfectly moist and tasty. This is probably why I have no future as a food critic.

Going back to Hey Cupcake!, what I found most disappointing about the cupcake was that the tops were especially hard and a little overcooked. Maybe I’m a picky cupcake-eater, but I like the cake portion to be reasonably consistent throughout, as in soft, but not falling apart.

I love all types of cupcakes… red velvet, chocolate, yellow, carrot cake, Funfetti, you name it. (By the way, I lump Pillsbury’s Funfetti in that category of Duncan Hines-caliber amazing boxed cake mixes.) I have tried many far and wide, but I have yet to find one I thought tasted better than my Mom’s Duncan Hines yellow cake with her own fudge icing. It’s truly dynamite. If I’m feeling more charitable, I’ll share the recipe at some point. Though I think she originally got the recipe from the cooking bible.

I’m looking to try some more tasty trailer and cart treats in the coming weeks as well. Right now I have my eye on Kebabalicious, Best Wurst (we’ll save that one for a drunken night out though), and Rosita’s al Pastor, should you feel compelled to join for sampling.

PS Thanks to my awesome friends. You’ve been fantastic, this week especially, but always!


Filed under Austin, food

More Microsoft WTF?

Here’s the second installment of WTF? Microsoft. This time the ad is far too long, and instead of a lousy minute and a half, it reaches four full minutes and some change. Unbelievable. It’s funnier, but still irksomely long and nonsensical. There are however, fleeting moments where I thought I was seeing a brand message or learning about Microsoft products, which is an improvement over the previous ad.

I did enjoy the double reference of Cabo San Lucas. Done so in a mocking manner of course, but I appreciated it nonetheless.

Jeers for ending the commercial in the lame, annoying way as last time. Seinfeld asks about the future of Microsoft to its founder, will there be a “Frog with an e-mail? Goldfish with a website? Amoeba with a blog?” Once again he begs Gates to “Give me a sign,” this time with the billionaire performing the robot.

Oh, the commercial, it’s something. But nothing I care for. It probably hits its campaign goals if Microsoft aims to succeed virally and by word-of-mouth in an effort to drum up brand awareness. If it’s to take back some of Apple’s market share though, I’d venture to guess it isn’t going to be overly successful.

Here is AdAge’s discussion, which found a lot more glimpses of excitement in the commercial than me.

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Filed under advertising, commercials

Classroom chat with SVP

So in sports (journalism) class this week we had an hour-long conference call with Scott Van Pelt. As noted earlier, the key to discussion, as stated by the professor, was to treat celebrities like normal people and normal people like celebrities. We were prepared.

Scott, known as SVP in our class, is a very cool, laid-back, self-deprecating, funny, and articulate guy, just like the one he is on TV (and presumably the radio). He was so happy to answer the questions of a room full of aspiring sports writers, announcers, and marketers. He answered a wide variety of questions: really specific ones addressing past radio segments, hoping to get tips on getting the big break in the industry, how he enjoys acting in the ESPN commercials, how long his days are, and even “What did you think of all ESPN coverage of Brett Favre this summer?”

SVP was very honest in all of his responses. When asked about landing his ESPN job (he got it after 5 or 6 years at The Golf Channel and because of his ability to chase down Tiger Woods interviews when most journalists were unable) he even said, “you have to treat celebrities like they are normal people.” Unseen to him, eyes darted around the room at each other, and of course, the professor. She prepared us well.

Well, I was watching SportsCenter last night and it was cool to hear the same relaxed voice anchoring the program a few days after the call. In watching highlights, I can’t help but notice SVP’s gift for saying my exact thoughts, but in a much more succinct and snazzier way. In reference to a UNC blowout of Rutgers last night, he said, “I’ve never seen Carolina with that shade of blue trouser. Whatever it is, it works, they win.” Prior to the segment, I was aware that Carolina wasn’t great at football and was surprised by their performance against a I-A football squad of any caliber not named Duke. When watching the highlight, the whole time I kept thinking “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Carolina wear navy blue pants before. Not a good uniform choice. I miss the Carolina blue.” Next thing I know SVP is commenting on the shade of trouser. I would have never put it so eloquently.

Anyway, all in all it’s always encouraging to hear of likeable people finding so much success in their lives. Other celebrities (though SVP doesn’t seem to think of himself as one) certainly could stand to learn a thing or two.

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Filed under broadcasting, ESPN, journalism, sports

Reilly on Free Speech and Sports

When I was younger (10 or so, let’s say), I remember helping my brothers make cardboard signs for them to take to a Steelers game. I remember vividly the Prang marker set we used and how clever my brothers and I thought we were when we made a sign that said

Body likes

when the game was televised on NBC. Oh, we were smart ones all right.

I think I speak for most when I say that signs are a fun and jovial part of the atmosphere at sporting events. Most support their team, sometimes they make small jabs at the opponent, and yet other occasions they call attention to completely different phenomena (for example “Hi Mom, please send $!” pleas). Whatever the inspiration, signs are overwhelmingly a tradition that many sports fans have come to embrace.

Not so at the University of Virginia, according to Rick Reilly’s latest story. According to some sort of rule there, no signs of any size are allowed at sporting events anymore. Not even “Go UVA!,” not even a message on a sheet of notebook paper. The only exception, unsurprisingly, are advertisements.

As a former UVA student myself, I’m pretty appalled by the school’s stance against free speech. Apparently it is some sort of new athletic department policy. Reilly interviewed former UVA football standout Ronde Barber about the situation and Barber said, “Seems odd. You’d think if there was one university that would stand up for free speech, it’d be Virginia. When I was there, the signs were really clever.”

I graduated after Ronde Barber, and thankfully, sometime before the new communist revolution. And I’d have to say, my experience was pretty much the same as Barber’s. UVA may not have had national championships in football or basketball, but we had clever fans dammit!

Of all of the amusing signs people brought to games, my favorite was one that someone had a picture of Dick Vitale‘s head Photoshopped into a Duke cheerleader’s uniform. Some friends and I had camped out 17 days — yes 17 days! — for the big UVA-Duke basketball showdown at UVA’s University Hall (U-Hall, because we love to abbreviate everything at UVA). Anyway, my friends and I got front row seats to the contest, and a group with that poster was right behind us. To no one’s surprise, Dick Vitale was there to broadcast the game.

I’m not sure this is the exact picture, but it looks exactly how I remembered it in my head. Source:

And how do you think he responded? He laughed and even autographed the sign for the students! Unbelievable. I think this says in a nutshell why people should be able to make signs; they make for a good laugh, add to the enthusiasm and atmosphere of the game, and hey, the best can take whatever heat is dealt. Like Reilly said about coach-slamming signs, “Who, exactly, is Virginia protecting here? Groh? The man can handle himself. After all, he was once the head coach of the New York Jets.” Right on, Mr. Reilly.

The whole controversy is downright disturbing. UVA was founded by Thomas Jefferson. That’s right, the very man who penned the Declaration of Independence, our nation’s third president, and so fervently stood for rights like free speech. Good ol’ TJ (or Teej as I liked to refer to him back in the day) would roll over in his grave if he knew what was going down at The University these days. As Reilly said, it’s un-American, and where is the line drawn? Does this mean that in the coming years the Lawn won’t have free speech either? No organizations intercepting unsuspecting students in an effort to get them to join their organization/show up to their meetings/donate money/buy their baked goods/rally behind their cause? As annoying as I found those soliciting tables (I’d walk the 2 or 3 minutes out of the way to avoid them), I 100% support their right to be there. Maybe it’s time the UVA athletics department took the same stand.


Filed under ACC, basketball, college football, ESPN, free speech, journalism, politics, sports, UVA

Dr J, Dr P

Y’all catch the Dr. J Dr Pepper commercial yet? I get the vibe it’s been around for a little while, but I’ve been seeing it a lot lately.

Well I must say I’m a fan. Why exactly? Because it is so perfectly corny in every way. Check it out:

It has all the “nos” of creative advertising wrapped into one beautiful, hilarious, so-bad-it’s-good package.

How, you ask?

Does it have a ridiculous celebrity spokesman for the product?
Check, Dr. J, obviously a candidate who’d know lots about… soda. And Dr. J, Dr Pepper, very funny, we get it easily.

Oh, so an athlete is the spokesperson. Is there a cheesy slo-mo sports play in the commercial?
Check, oh you know it.

Ah yes, and for Dr. Pepper. Clever. How many times is that pun approached?
At least 3 times (Dr. J name is a pun in every mention, so there’s at least a pun in introduction, when he mentions being a doctor, and tagline at end).

Is a cheesy over-the-top sports feat accomplished (an impossible goal or shot, slam dunking on the moon, etc.) to a play-by-play soundtrack or equally silly song?
Oh yeah, Dr. J hits the glass with his ice cube from 10 feet away. In slow motion. Gotta love the music during the shot though. It was my favorite part of the commercial.

How about a cringe-when-you-hear it line from the script?
“Trust me. I’m a doctor.”

And a pun-tastic tagline to seal the commercial?
Check. Dr’s orders. Doesn’t get any better than that!

Apparently we can expect more where that came from from Deutsch/LA, where similar ads will feature another doctor with expertise, Dr. Frasier Crane. The boundless corniness of this installation will certainly be tough to top.

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Filed under advertising, agencies, basketball, commercials, sports

What’s up in Mad Men, by Gossip Girl

What’s King D hiding?

Spotted. King D snuggling up to a mystery femme. Uh-oh. Looks like D is getting sloppy this season. He might be polished in the conference room, but how much longer will his extracurricular exploits remain hidden from view? Will his canoodling with all the ladies of Manhattan finally catch up with him?

Looks like Queen B’s talking to a shrink and may be on to D’s games. But has B taken a liking to the engaged man at the equestrian center? Or is it the other way around for Ms. Profoundly Sad? What does D think? Careful D, the perfect pitch might not get you out of this one.

Caught. P nuzzling with an unnamed model from a SC casting call. P might not be able to have children with T, but how many will he father outside his marriage before getting busted? Poor, sweet T. Little do you know you married a conniving, selfish slimeball.

Speaking of extramarital activities, how is our favorite mother, Lil P? With child and a shiny new copywriting job, but without allies, it appears Lil P might have gotten the big break, but has won no sympathies. Just because your motherhood is under wraps doesn’t mean you aren’t still a little girl in a man’s world.

And what’s that sparkle around the SC office? Why that’s the shiny Harry Winston on J’s hand; she and the doctor are finally engaged. What does R have to say about that? Guess everything isn’t sterling in the office after all.

Gossip Girl


(King) D = Don Draper, SC creative director
(Queen) B = Betty/Bets Draper, housewife, married to D
P = Pete Campbell, SC junior account executive
T = Trudy Campbell, housewife, married to P
Lil P = Peggy Olsen, SC secretary turned junior copywriter
J = Joan Holloway, SC office manager and queen of the secretarial staff
R = Roger Sterling, SC partner
SC = Sterling Cooper, ad agency

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Filed under Gossip Girl, Mad Men, TV