There is a show on t.v. that nobody is watching- and it just might be the best show out there. In fact, some have called it one of the best t.v. shows ever. Winner of multiple awards and critically acclaimed, “Friday Night Light’s” is the kind of show American t.v. has need for a while now. It’s not exactly escapist entertainement; it’s no crime drama or “24,” there isn’t much mystery like in “Lost”, and it’s not comedy like in “30 Rock” or the “Office.” Instead it’s about people, a place, and incredible passion.
Set in the football mad state of Texas, the show, currently airing on NBC and premiering tonight at 9 p.m., is about the people of the small town of Dillon, where the only thing more important than high school football is…well, nothing is more important than Friday nights in the fall.
But lest you think it fits into some stereotypical, melodramatic, mold of the typical sports movie or show* be assured that the show is rife with some of the most complex, real, and interesting character’s available anywhere on any network. The script is intelligent without being demeaning, clever without being overbearing, and emotionally impacting without being, as I inferred, melodramatic. The music is always excellent and includes the talents of “Drive By Truckers,” “Spoon,” “Explosions in the Sky” (who everyone should go check out!), and the great “Iron and Wine.” The editing, lighting, and direction are first rate and there is a meandering, moody, element to the show- something that just fits the Texas locale, a subtlety about it that is unqiuely American.
And last, but absolutely, certainly, not least, the acting is stunningly good. Led by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, who play Dillon High School’s coach Eric Taylor and his loyal wife, the entire cast, week in-week out, give the best performances on t.v. (as evidenced by an Emmy Nomination for the show’s casting director).
Yet, what really sets the show apart is the way it depicts real people and the struggles that they face everyday. These people are not super-heroes (the team doesn’t even win every game), and they are not immune to the common dilemmas of everyday, American life. Football drama (of which there is plenty), high school drama, and family drama are all depicted in careful and realistic terms. There are characters from broken homes, characters who make mistakes, characters who are weak, characters who are afraid, characters who are in love, and characters who love football. And all the characters, whether the team’s quarterback or the town’s biggest businessman, pay consequences for their actions, something rare in today’s network television.
There is a fairly rare morality about the show as well, a religious and faith-based consciousness about the show; an understanding that there is a God looking down over us, that He is in control, and that it is our duty to follow him. The characters are certainly not perfect, and their faith and/or church going does little to alter this. But two of the key themes to the show are forgiveness and redemption.
In re-watching the first season, which is now on dvd,** I was, once again, completely caught up into the world of Dillon, Texas. The characters are so believable and the moments so….real…that at times i found myself rooting for characters to play well, or hoping that they will make the right decision, or even feeling sad when they don’t, even though I already knew what was going to happen. Friday Night Lights has incredible lasting power and hopefully it will last on the network.
Despite the incredible critical acclaim the show is receiving, t.v. watchers don’t seem to be too interested. Ratings were more or less poor (though the show, like an indie film, has an great cult following) last season and now, with the show on Friday night’s, that may not be likely to change. Friends, check out Friday Night Lights and you’ll see what the hype is all about. Get past any preconceived notions you may have about the show, or even about the game of football, and enter into the world of Dillon Texas, their people, and their hopes, dreams, and fears, and you just may encounter a rewarding aesthetic and entertainment experience you won’t soon forget.
As Brett McCracken wrote in his blog, at least turn your television set on, tuned to NBC, so the rest of us can keep watching all the way until May.
Also, over at his blog McCracken has compiled a list of various reviews and critical acclaim, including from the American Film Institute, NY Post, ESPN, Chicago Tribune, and others.
And for Relevant Magazine, Brett has written an excellent review of the show.
*Though for those of us who love the game and have some knowledge of it, having played it and/or spent our lives watching it on t.v. FNL portrays the game and its various nuances more realistically then any show or film I’ve ever seen. From the play calls, to the practices, from the sounds of the sidelines, to action of the game, it’s the best.
** The DVD set, now on sale for a ridiculous price of 19.99 at most retailers, including Target, comes with a bit of a caveat. If you don’t like the show, NBC promises to refund all of your money!