Friday Night Tykes: Pee-Wee’s Play Hard

The San Antonio Outlaws on Friday Night Tykes
Friday Night Tykes (Photo: Walter Iooss / Esquire Network)

Friday Night Tykes, Esquire’s sobering documentary series about Texas pee-wee football, started its second season a couple weeks ago. You’re watching this, right?

Friday Night Tykes, Esquire’s sobering documentary series about Texas pee-wee football, started its second season a couple weeks ago. When I checked in at last season’s finale, one of the concerns was how this show would be able to produce a second season if it didn’t change locations or get bogged down in controversy. The premiere sort of addressed this, mentioning the coaches getting suspended, but the show was able to find different narratives from the previous year. These new narratives have been effective at keeping the show familiar while exploring new territory.

One narrative involves Zoe, a young woman battling childhood obesity by playing football. This particular story is intriguing based on how it is being told. The narrative isn’t about her being the only girl on the team, but rather the challenges of developing the killer instinct necessary in someone whose goals are not directly aligned with the rest of the team. One of the difficulties with this narrative is a problem that was highlighted in the last season: the children are golems. Zoe is almost silent whenever she is on-screen, so we see the story progressing as she seems to absorb whatever the coaches try to impart. None of this is abusive or Raising Asia-ish, but Zoe has the flattest of affects.

The other noteworthy narrative involves the Lobos, a team that is new to the cast this season. Two issues are at play with this team. One: star quarterback Justice Hurt1 is the son of one of the coaches for the team. Nepotism never plays well, especially on days when Justice does not play well, as was the case in last week’s episode. However, the problem intensifies due to the, um, “leadership” of head coach Richard Lopez. Here is how the show’s website describes Lopez:

…head coach Richard Lopez, a gentler presence vying to be heard above the roar of his partner, provide the team’s leadership.

Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with being cool, calm and collected as a coach. We can’t (and shouldn’t) all be Bobby Knight, especially in an environment that is both instructional and competitive. However, Lopez’s obsession with trying to be heard and make the right decision is painful to watch. First, he solicits input from everybody. Then, after much hemming and hawing, manages to make a decision that ignores every piece of input received. It is the polar opposite of “synthesis.” This also leads to pep talks filled with caveats, ifs, and howevers. You know what doesn’t work in effective communication with 6-9 year-olds? Convoluted conditional statements. After a spectacular loss in last week’s episode, this was said during Lopez’s post-game talk to the team:

“There are 26 letters in the alphabet, right? If plan A doesn’t work, you still have 25 other options.”

WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! The fact that this post was written a week after the episode aired and my brain still has an allergic reaction to this statement should give you an idea of the absurdity happening on the pee-wee gridiron.

But that absurdity is what makes Friday Night Tykes so dang compelling. The production values are still top-notch, and the stories are relatable even if you are not directly interested in football.2 As long as you aren’t overly squeamish about the occasional dislocated arm3, please add this show to your DVR.

Friday Night Tykes airs new episodes at 9pm Tuesdays on the Esquire Network. The fourth episode of Season 2 airs tonight.

  1. As far as I know, this is not a pseudonym for a future TV movie version of this show.  
  2. *Smiles politely*  
  3. THAT HAPPENED  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles

Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it “TV Camp.” After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv