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When you think about this season of Breaking Bad, one thought springs to mind that isn’t entirely spoilerish: Who would have thought that Jesse Plemons would have been the one Friday Nights Lights actor to get it right in the show’s aftermath?
Oh, okay; we can probably give a pass to Coach Taylor himself – Kyle Chandler’s turn in Super 8 was pretty great in a 1980s Spielberg movie kind of a way, after all, and other than that, he’s kept a low profile – but Plemons aside, almost every other lead actor from the NBC show has managed to turn what seemed like star potential into what seems like a series of appallingly bad decisions.
Taylor Kitsch is, of course, the poster boy for this trend. After five years as the troubled Tim Riggins – a role he brought a surprising amount of subtlety and sensitivity to – he found himself the unintentional punching bag for Summer 2012 as both John Carter and Battleship bombed in a spectacular fashion, and Savages pretty much sunk without trace. Kitsch, it seems, isn’t the leading man that Hollywood desperately wanted him to be, and it’s a shame; I suspect that the movies failed him as much if not moreso than he failed the movies, and I hope that he’ll find a nice niche somewhere that’s ultimately more kind to him (Really, he needs to come back to television; anyone want to sign him up as the lead for some kind of updated Rockford Files? That’d be great).
Right behind him, though, is Adrianne Palicki, whose big summer 2012 movie didn’t even get released. Sure, GI Joe: Retaliation may end up being a great movie that will make her name in the industry when it eventually gets released next year, but for now, it looks like a second strike after the much-hyped, never-screened David E. Kelley Wonder Woman pilot. Then again, considering Minka Kelly’s unfortunate Charlie’s Angels reboot, perhaps it was a good thing that WW stayed on NBC’s shelf. Minka, you really should’ve stayed with Jason Katims on Parenthood, let’s be honest.
And so it goes: Smash and Street – Gaius Charles and Scott Porter – found themselves relatively safe havens on Necessary Roughness and Hart of Dixie respectively, but they were the lucky ones; lovelorn Julie and Matt (Aimee Teegarden and Zach Gilford) have been suffering through minor roles in movies like In Our Nature or Scream 4, and Connie Britton… Well, American Horror Story was something that none of us are likely to forget anytime soon.
What’s so frustrating about all of this is that Friday Night Lights showed us what these people could do when given good material to work with. All of the actors above did great work on that show, and made us fall in love with their characters – Yes, even Jason Street, as insufferably self-loathing as he could be at times – which just underscores how wasted all of them seem in their current positions. Perhaps the problem was that they believed their own hype and wanted to try and be “stars” – Kitsch and Palicki, in particular, seem to have made choices that took them out of their acting comfort zone and into awkward places in the apparent aim of trying to be more mainstream – but, ultimately, ended up rejected by the mass audiences whose approval they sought. So was it the material? The timing? That we can’t look at them and not see the characters that they used to embody, seemingly effortlessly?
Maybe they’re all just cursed. Friday Night Lights was the kind of show that sticks with you after you’re finished, for the viewer as well as those who made it. Perhaps its good luck and critical success has hexed everyone involved for some time afterwards.
Well, except Jesse Plemons, of course. But we all know that he just kills people to offer them as blood sacrifices to whatever entertainment gods are watching.