Monday, February 6, 2012

Give Me Up All Your Friday Night Lights

Today I watched the Super Bowl for the first time. It was interesting experience that came about through Madonna obsession and five seasons of Friday Night Lights over only a few months. Did I enjoy the game? Well, the first and fourth quarters were fun, but the rest was all a bit of a wash, really. Are NFL games always that low scoring? It reminded me of (and apologies for using this word) soccer in that regard and I kind of wished one of the teams would "CONVERT!" (did I use that term correctly?) a bit more often. I guess that's what being an Aussie Rules supporter does to you. If the teams couldn't convert plays into scores, then at least Tom Brady could convert some of those clothes into no clothes. Given the camp nature of the entire enterprise, right on down to the microphones used by Kelly Clarkson and Miranda Lambert, I doubt it would have looked too out of place.

Of course the very literal centrepiece of the whole heavily-padded event was Madonna's half time concert, which was appropriately amazing and incredible and I loved it. Entering the stadium like Cleopatra by way of KLF's Mu Mu Land with giant golden drapes and wings on either side as a parade of extras of Tarsem Singh's Immortals preceded her to the slinky sounds of Dick Tracy hit, "Vogue", it was a stark contrast to the likes of previous snoozey shows by the likes of Paul McCartney. I can't remember who tweeted it, but are we sure this extravaganza wasn't one of the last projects of legendary, and recently deceased, costume designer/art director Eiko Ishioka? Such a jolt of bold, bright, kitschy energy that it was bound to separate the lovers from the haters almost immediately. Some instantly reacted against the decadence of her entry - somebody joked "what recession?" as if their fave male rockers aren't out there spending up big (I guess they just do it in the privacy of their own mansion?) - while others took to her lip syncing as if it wasn't a common thing at the Super Bowl (I may not have watched any of the matches, but I've seen enough half time entertainment packages to know Madonna isn't alone in that regard). Basically, Madonna doesn't sing the sort of music that is associated with Super Bowl watchers, so she was doomed to fail in the eyes of many, but at least I found her joyful, affirming performance to be top notch stuff. That she seemed to be cribbing a bit from Kylie Minogue meant nothing to a good 99% of viewers, I'm sure. I personally would have thought she'd go with the more broadly appreciated "Ray of Light" over "Music", but it still worked a treat.

That Madonna wouldn't have been able to do anything to win over those who don't like her - whether it's because of valid reasons like her music or for moronic and hypocritical reasons like her age or her gender - surely didn't go over the 53-year-old woman's head and rather than try to please them, she merely tried to do as her job title suggests as an "entertainer" and simply entertain. The aforementioned "Vogue" and "Music" began the concert and both featured some nifty choreography that naturally lead to people clucking about her one missed dance move. We should all be so lucky as to not be as much of a boring ol' fuddy duddy at her age that her detractors think she should be now. If I can be that energetic in my 50s then I'll be ecstatic. Her new song, the zesty ear worm "Give Me All Your Luvin'" featured an appropriate cheerleader motif to go alongside it's surfer twang that recalls both her Austin Powers hit "Beautiful Stranger", Hard Candy stormer "Give It 2 Me", as well as her more innocent early pop moments like "Dress You Up" and "Physical Attraction". She even managed to make the bridge between "Music" and "GMAYL" featuring the atrocious LMFAO into a bona fide awesome moment. Trust Madonna to turn even the most vile waste into funky gold. That M.I.A. has courted controversy with a ridiculously tame act of flipping the bird shows, I think, how desperate people were for something to happen and make news. Maybe some were hoping for a career nosedive like what happened to Janet Jackson after the ridiculous "nipplegate" fiasco (Justin Timberlake, meanwhile, has avoided a similar fallout by simply refusing to record music altogether!) That the censors seemingly didn't have a performance by Madonna on delay reeks of them wanting something newsworthy, but I have a feeling this silliness with M.I.A.'s inappropriate hand gesture will blow over the moment everyone realises M.I.A. doesn't give a shit.

Her closing number of "Like a Prayer" (with a bit of "Open Your Heart" thrown in for good measure) with another surprise guest, Cee Lo Green, was the sort of wonderful spectacle we expect from a closing Madonna number. That she chose the song that was used on a Pepsi Cola Super Bowl ad that got banned just added to the deliciousness of it all. With she and Green decked out in the latest fall fashions from The Liza Minnelli Range of Stage Wear surrounded by a seemingly ever-expanding choir, "Like a Prayer" was a perfect, spine-tingling finale to twelve minutes of Madgetastic bliss. If we can't have Madonna's God-like equal Bruce Springsteen every year (a man who genuinely appeals to men, women, straight, gays, rock and pop, indie and mainstream), then I appreciate the Superbowl for trying to be less about what will appeal to the people who were already going to be watching, but about trying to get others like me (and many, MANY others I know in real life and across Twitter) who otherwise wouldn't have thought twice about it. Hey, it worked.

Can we talk about Friday Night Lights though? Talk about being converted! Arriving to this show some five years late because I never thought a series about American football could hold much interest, I spun myself through all five seasons in just a few months and it's the sort of miraculous television that gives me goosebumps. The first season from 2006 had, by the time I started, grown into some mythical being of must see television and once I started I couldn't stop. Divine television it was that somehow made a game like NFL palatable to somebody like me who has never understood, nor liked the game. It helps that games were conveniently slimmed down into brief montages that still allowed for easy following - having watched the Super Bowl, I thought the 15-minute quarters meant it was a quick game, but never let it be said that the NFL can't stretch a dime into a dollar for those were the longest 15 minutes I've ever witnessed in sport! - but I still found myself getting caught up in the Dillon Panthers, hoping for a win every Friday night on the field. And, of course, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton making one perfect TV couple. Love them together, didn't you?

The troubles that plagued the second season, not least of all a diminished season due to the writer's strike (basically every season of a show made in 2007 that I've watched appears to suffer from it in some way), were nearly all wiped away in season three, but planted seeds of a different curiosity. By essentially rebooting the series for the third season they thankfully eradicated many of the dodgy plots (I'm looking at you Santiago!) but the series had a peculiar quirk where it never even mentioned them ever again. Lyla's christianity? The McCoy's vanishing during series five without a peep? Lyla and Tami's never speaking again? Matt's mother? They'd been such vital elements to their respective seasons and yet they were seemingly done away with felt really perplexing. Still, what the show did with season 4 and 5 was so far beyond what I could have ever imagined and turned into the one of my favourite shows of all time. I can't lie, I'd hoped today's Super Bowl had ended like that first Dillon Panthers v East Dillon Lions match, I really do. And that season finale? Tears all over my face. Beautiful stuff.

Plus, of course...

Zach Gildord as Matt Carasen was the show's secret weapon, wasn't he? Such a good actor when given the right material like the storyline involving his father... how he and everyone else on this show didn't garner Emmy attention is beyond my comprehension skills.

I'd hoped some - some - of what I'd picked up from Friday Night Lights would have transferred into watching the Super Bowl and while it certainly helped to kinda get a handle on things, I was still mightily confused here and there. I guess I can't be expected to understand every rule with only a related television show under my viewing belt, but while I'm not a definite convert just yet, I may be willing to try.

Now, back to L-U-V Madonna please!

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