Like a classic book series, or your favorite film franchise, no television show is completely flawless. Long form storytelling offers a lot of narrative potential, but also creates more opportunities to royally screw up that potential, and one bad plotline can be all it takes to ruin a good show. A bad story or two hasn’t kept some of the all time best programs from being just that however, and in retrospect, many stumbles that initially appeared toxic, turned out to be relatively harmless overall.
That doesn’t mean those mistakes didn’t suck horribly in the moment though, and a show bouncing back from a bad turn should be remembered just as much as what caused the problem in the first place. So let’s take a pained look back at when our favorite shows were saddled with some of the very worst of story arcs, the likes of which include forced romances, agrarian vacations, and plenty of surprise murders.
Friday Night Lights: Landry Clark, the Unnatural Born Killer
The first season of Friday Night Lights ended with a bit of life imitating art, as the scrappy Dillon Panthers football team winning the big game against impossible odds was mirrored by the show eking out a second season from NBC, thanks to fan and critic support that offset the consistently low ratings. As heartwarming and inspiring as the show was in its portrayals of decent, relatable people overcoming adversity each week, it warmed the cockles to know a show this earnest and good wouldn’t leave us after just one year.
Then the second season premiere ended with loveable loser Landry Clarke accidently killing a guy while defending his dream girl from a rape, and suddenly small town Texas looked more like Orange County. Making matters worse was the subsequent hiding of the body, which set off a cover-up arc that stretched through much of season two’s troubled run (the ’07-’08 writers strike forced the show to abort many of the year’s stories by the time season three rolled around).
Conspiracy theorizing would make you think that NBC demanded the writers find a way to “sexy-up” the wholesome little football drama in a bid to improve ratings, but showrunner Jason Katims swears it was an idea that belonged to his creative team. While the incident was almost never acknowledged after season two, and wound up cementing one of the show’s more inspired pairings (even if the lesson could be read as “guy gets girl because murder”), a random act of violence seemed the absolute antithesis of a show as raw and honest as Friday Night Lights.
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