About Last Night: Friday Night Lights Keep Flickering

Friday Night Lights had enough episodes in the can when the strike took effect that it has been able to run almost without interruption except during the holidays, but now even FNL is running low. There is still more going on here than on the average show so it seems churlish to complain, but the diehards who labored to get this series a second season have mostly been unhappy, and all the changes (deemphasizing football and ramping up "typical" teen drama) haven't worked to get the show a larger audience. NBC's 2007-08 season amounts to two little-watched first-year shows (Chuck and Life) and American Gladiators. Grim.

On Friday's episode, Jason and Herc had a fight over a major repair on the truck Jason bought. When Jason told Buddy that he couldn't afford such a repair, Buddy asked him if he had ever considered selling cars. Tim's old friend the meth dealer dropped in and after pretending to make nice, ordered him to give back the $3000 he stole by the end of the week, or else get his knees shot off. Smash was arrested for the fight at the movie theater. Eric tried to talk Tami into taking over as girls' volleyball coach for the end of the season, and got called by Smash at the police station. The sales staff at Buddy's wasn't happy at the new competition from Jason, a former football hero who now had a sympathy factor going for him. Smash's lawyer suggested that a plea deal might be in his best interest, something he agreed to consider when Taylor and his mother also told him he should consider it. Smash read a statement of apology before the media. Tim came to see Lyla when she was at a revival meeting, and told her he was beaten up because of the money he had stolen.

Landry was getting attention from a girl in school who seemed to share his alternative interests, which made Tyra a bit jealous. Lyla came by the Riggins place to see Tim as she had promised, and was taken aback when she believed he had a seduction scene planned. She admitted to her new radio friend that she had two-timed Jason with Tim in the past. The jerks who bothered Smash and his sister at the theater continued to run their mouths in the media, and one of them places a harassing phone call to Noanie.

Tami saw Tyra as a possible strong addition to the otherwise hopeless volleyball team. Smash gave an interview to the media where he came across as less than contrite, leading to his three-game suspension from the Panthers (the rest of the regular season). Jason proved to have untapped sales skills, as he made a critical sale to a tough customer. Lyla came up with $3000 for Tim (presumably from Buddy), and then told him it was over between them for good. Tyra led the volleyball team to its first win. Tim and Billy gave the meth guy the money, and just barely got away before getting shot. [Diane Craver]

Miss America Reality Check:

Some of the girls dished about great talents they had seen in other pageants they had done, including a girl who changed oil in an engine. Michael Urie told the ladies they were about to be judged on talent -- not so much the vocal ability, but knowing words to songs. He would recite a lyric and point to a contestant, who would then have to sing the next line. The first song was the national anthem. Miss Washington said it wasn't her fault for not knowing the anthem's second verse; it was America's for not teaching it to her. Miss Utah, the National Guard veteran, did push ups in lieu of knowing lyrics. Some grumbled about Miss Maryland showing off her operatic vocals instead of just getting on with it. Women dropped out one by one, and in the end Miss South Dakota won it for the red team. Some of the contestants talked about the theme of the changing image of Miss America, and how they were supposed to attract attention now.

The last chance to impress the advisory board and America came with a red carpet challenge. The ladies were introduced to designers and got to try on high fashion. Some picked what they liked right away, and others like Miss Indiana were indecisive. The contestants were urged to play up their sexiness and pose. Everyone got made up for their stroll on the carpet. Miss Illinois and Miss Virginia were cognizant of not being mistaken for each other. The advisory board members posed as red carpet reporters and asked tough questions. Miss Rhode Island was asked the stereotypical question of who her designer was, and the name slipped her mind. Miss Florida said she learned through the process that she could be beautiful without heavy makeup. Everyone seemed to think Miss Minnesota looked great. Miss Alaska said that her quirkiness ought to be an asset. Miss Washington said she not only favored gay marriage, but had a father in a gay relationship.

With the challenge over, the advisory board met to choose the last top three (no bottom three this time). The girls mused about who would be the honorees, and everyone had an opinion. Miss Washington was sure she wouldn't be in the mix, since she had been in the bottom three the only other time she was noticed. The advisory board was pleased with the progress all the girls had made. Miss Michigan, who we hadn't seen at all before now, was suddenly getting positive notices (this would take on added significance in about 23 hours). Miss New Mexico was also being praised for moving up from the pack. Finally, Michael said it was time to select the three women who had best embraced the notion of a new Miss America.

He asked ten women to come forward: Indiana, South Carolina, Illinois, Virginia, New Mexico, Florida, Alaska, Washington, D.C., and Minnesota. The first winner of the $10,000 scholarship and a big time shopping spree: Miss Washington. She thought there had to be a mistake somewhere. She was told she improved after being put in the bottom three, and let everyone see her personality. The second winner was Miss Indiana, who was told she embraced inner beauty as well as outer. She said she believed in herself now. The last winner was Miss New Mexico, who was praised for making the biggest changes of all. She said she would use the cash to get her doctorate. Michael said he was positive the winner at the pageant would reinvent Miss America. [Ellonarah]

The Miss America Pageant:

So how well did the pageant do with the whole "reinventing ourselves" thing? There were a few differences between this pageant and some of its predecessors, the most obvious one being that the 52 contestants were introduced wearing jeans, along with tops that represented the colors of their teams on . There was some banter after the eliminations, which was no doubt a mixed blessing for the ladies; and the strut down the catwalk during the swimsuit competition was a frank departure from the stiff walks of past decades.

Other than that, it was a standard Miss America, with a telecast badly marred by the utter incompetence of host Mark Steines. If you're going to brag about creating America's new "It Girl," you need a host who wouldn't be over-matched calling Little Miss Sunshine. Steines even confused Miss Wisconsin, who reached the second round, with Miss Wyoming, who hadn't.

As for the contestants who became familiar from Reality Check, their fates were as follows: Misses Pennsylvania, Alaska, Vermont, District of Columbia, New Mexico, and Rhode Island did not make it to the final sixteen. The 16th semifinalist, voted in by the audience, was Miss Utah, to no one's surprise (her ovations and the ones for Miss Washington were audibly the loudest all night). But Utah was knocked out after an uncomfortable swimsuit competition (she did several push-ups after being told she was out), as was Miss South Carolina. Miss Florida and Miss Iowa were out after the evening gowns and before the final eight did talent, depriving us of seeing Iowa's full baton routine. The fourth, third, and second place finishers were all familiar faces: Miss Virginia, Miss Washington, and Miss Indiana. But the winner, Kirsten Haglund of Michigan, was a virtual nonentity during Reality Check, so while her victory may have been merited, it didn't give viewers the sense that they had watched her grow into the role. And for all the talk of "the new Miss America," Haglund's talent was the biggest cliche in all of pageantdom, "Somewhere over the Rainbow." Not to mention she was the one woman in the field who bore the closest resemblance to the 2007 Miss America. The bottom line: I don't think the people that still care about Miss America want it reinvented, and nothing they try will make anyone else care again.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards:

Yes, it was actually star studded, thanks to the union's support for the Writers Guild of America. Not everyone was there, but enough winners made it and the presenters were of such quality that the only way you would have known there was a strike on was through the occasional mentions of it in acceptance speeches. The big television winners were The Sopranos, which swept the drama awards (male lead James Gandolfini, female lead Edie Falco, and the cast); and 30 Rock, whose stars Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin took home the trophies that are apparently called Actors. With the sense growing that an end to the WGA strike is not far away, there seemed to be a little bounce in everyone's step. Check back on Film.com for more on the SAG Awards later in the day. [Film Gecko]

Rock of Love 2:

All the "ladies" were called to the living room. Bret's message made a vague mention of a physical challenge ahead; Megan was concerned about a challenge that would test "athleticness." The women were taken to a roller derby rink. Bret said he was looking for a "mother bear." They would be divided into three teams of four, and the girls would have to get a baby doll in a carriage around the rink three times. Trying to stop them by any means necessary would be a team of roller goons led by Lacey from the first season. The "baby" would register trauma, and whichever team had the least amount of trauma would go on a date with Bret.

Catherine was worried about trying to bond with her teammates Megan, Daisy, and Destiney, but then said it came naturally. Their team went up first, and Daisy crashed right away on her own. Lacey caught up with the carriage and started literally hitting the baby. After the first lap, the stroller was barely still in shape to push. On the next team, Peyton did a better job of staying away until the second lap. A piece of the baby was literally pulled off. The next team (Angelique, Kristy Joe, Inna, and Aubry) got through over two laps before the roller derby girls chased them down. The first team's baby was all but killed and the second team's baby lost a limb, making it an easy win for the third team. Kristy Joe, as the lead skater, was going to get a personal date. Roxy was upset about how the challenge worked out, and now figured she would have to use the VIP pass sooner rather than later.

Bret took the three winning girls minus Kristy Joe to a burlesque club that had been closed down just for them. Aubrey said it was the perfect place for her, since she had danced since she was seven. A dancer entertained the party, and Angelique said she wasn't sure it was her kind of thing since the dancer got totally naked. Inna ("my Ukranian love tank") then got to strut her stuff, although Bret didn't care for her attempt. Aubrey was a good deal better. Angelique then went and got totally naked. Inna felt Angelique looked like a clown, and even Bret wondered if she had a screw loose. The club wasn't thrilled about the nudity. Kristy Joe was confronted over her criticism of the teams that had not done well in the challenge, and the perception that she was gossiping and trying to turn teammates against each other.

When the other three came back from the date, Aubrey found Kristy Joe crying about the attacks on her. The following morning, Kristy Joe prepared for the date she had planned, a simple barbecue. Destiney and Daisy planned to use their VIP passes in the middle of Bret's date with Kristy Joe; Roxy thought that was spiteful and said she wouldn't do that. Kristy Joe let it slip that she not only has had two marriages, but the most recent marriage was still technically in force. Bret was concerned. At that moment, Destiney popped in and said she wanted to use the VIP pass. Kristy Joe had to walk away. Destiney also mentioned an earlier marriage; she said she was willing to do whatever it took now to show her interest.

Not long after Destiney left, Daisy came out to interrupt the date again. Bret asked her if it was only strategy to ruin his date, and gently said this wasn't really the right time to use the pass, so Daisy backed away. Kristy Joe admitted this whole situation was overwhelming. She said she wasn't a major fighter, and Bret said she would have to get tougher or she'd be sent home. After the date, Bret sought out Daisy to make amends for having kicked her out earlier. Aubry was worried that Kristy Joe might be getting eliminated, but as the ceremony approached, most of the others were looking forward to Kristy Joe going. Destiney's use of the VIP pass paid off as she got a pass to next week, as did Daisy. Roxy was now worried she had passed up her chance. Inna, Aubry, Peyton, Catherine, Ambre, Megan, and Jessica got passes, and then the last pass went to...Kristy Joe.

Bret told Roxy she hadn't made enough of an effort to use the VIP pass; and he told Angelique she was being sent home because she was way too similar to a bad experience of the recent past--not because she looks like what Hugh Hefner would have come up with had he gone into genetic engineering. Kristy Joe said she felt she still had a lot to prove, especially with all the other girls against her. I was surprised just from a "good TV' standpoint that Bret unloaded freak show Angelique in only the third week. [Entertainment Base]

Breaking Bad:

Skyler was concerned about Walter's health, still not realizing he has lung cancer. After a coughing fit in bed, he fell asleep in the bathroom. Walter and Jesse had the RV towed out of its crash position. Walter said the two of them still had to "clean up" -- that is, get rid of the bodies inside the RV -- but told Jesse they wouldn't associate after this.

They both discovered one of the men was still alive inside the RV, with labored breathing. Walter's gas mask was left behind in the scrub. Jesse placed a phone call to the White House and pretended to be a telemarketer when Skyler picked up, but Walter later grabbed the phone and Jesse got frantic about the still-alive guy. After Walter left, a suspicious Skyler called up the last number to dial and got Jesse's weird voicemail. Walter continued to struggle in class. Jesse went out to the RV to find the guy now missing; Walter noticed him stumbling down the road, and when the guy saw him he panicked and knocked himself out running into a tree.

Jesse explained the hierarchy of the meth trade to Walter. Jesse used a bike lock to keep his new prisoner immobilized in the basement. Walter told Jesse the best way to deal with the guys was "chemical dis-incorporation," which Jesse though was "messed up." They flipped a coin to resolve the issue of which would use chemicals to dissolve the one body and which would kill the other guy. Jesse called from the housewares store to get advice on what supplies to buy, at which time Walter had to admit the killing still hadn't happened.

Skyler had an ultrasound appointment; after that she asked Walter about Jesse: why did he have a relationship with some druggie barely out of his teens? Walter said Jesse sold him pot, and when Skyler objected (reminding Walter who her brother is), Walter told her to leave him alone. Jesse finally dragged the dead guy out of the RV just as Skyler showed up at his house. She says Walter "told me everything," but Jesse was relieved to hear she just meant about the pot. Skyler warned him that her brother was a DEA agent and told Jesse he couldn't sell pot to Walter.

Jesse dragged the corpse upstairs and began to mention the DEA agent, but then said he can't sell pot to her husband. Jesse dragged the corpse upstairs into the tub, grimacing and grumbling as he began to dissolve the body. Walter came by and Jesse confronted him about the DEA agent in the family, saying Skyler had almost caught him. Walter was shocked to hear the corpse was being dissolved in the tub, because hydrochloric acid can cut through things like tubs...as the men then discover when the ceiling collapses and what's left of the tub and the body comes flooding down. YUCK. Some kids playing soccer found the gas mask. [Lamentations on Chemistry]

The Wire:

The kids on the block pranked Colicchio, who took his anger out on an innocent motorist. Lester and Sydnor believed they found a silver bullet to take down Clay Davis, involving short-term loans from his mother. Daniels told Burrell that he was innocent of the charge of trying to undermine him, as (falsely) reported by Templeton. He told Burrell he would decline the job if offered, but Burrell had a mute response.

Gutierrez, now the senior police reporter after all the firings at the Sun, looked into a rumor that Burrell was getting fired that day. McNulty began to examine all the homeless men found dead in the city in recent years. Prop Joe said this was not the time to go after Marlo, and that he himself would be getting lost for fear Omar would come after him. Marlo visited Vondas and the Greek; Vondas seemed reluctant to consider changes in the current arrangement, while the Greek suggested that if Joe wasn't around, things might be different. Lester and Ronnie presented the anti-Davis evidence to Bond who was opposed to kicking the crime over to the federal side.

Templeton interviewed at the Washington Post, but was told he needed a little more experience. Carcetti attempted to sell the coming Burrell firing to community leaders, and did plenty of horse-trading in the process. Burrell threatened to use the leverage he had against Daniels to keep his job, but Campbell told him he would be taken care of if he went quietly.

Lester and McNulty advanced the serial killer plot, as Lester asked an old friend on the beat to let him know if any dead homeless guys turned up. Carver said he would write Colicchio up for the attack on the motorist. Omar was back in town, quickly learning that Marlo was behind the hit on Butchie. Prop Joe dealt with the usual issues at the co-op meeting; Marlo asked Joe for a meeting alone the following day. Burrell left the job with complaints about how the police commissioner's job was to be a whipping boy for the mayor's office, and prone to interference.

In the newsroom, Gus translated the mayor's insincere comments upon the "'retirement" of Burrell; the editor told Gus his profanity was out of hand. Kima took an interest in Elijah, and the boy seemed happy to see her. McNulty actually came home for once, and Beadie wondered if he even wanted to be there anymore. Marlo let Cheese know he needed to get on board with the new powerhouse by giving up Hungry Man. McNulty got called to the site of a homeless death, and he began defacing the body with Lester's help. Marlo came by as Joe was preparing to skip town. Marlo told him the Greeks were OK with Joe going down, and Joe's last proposition, to just disappear, was turned down. Chris shot him in the back of the head. As packed as these episodes continue to be, we're making obvious progress towards a series finale with only six hours left. [