On Friday, January 16th, my favorite show on T.V. will be returning to NBC. Yes, Friday Night Lights is back. And it’s as good as ever. The third season, which has been airing on DirectTV for the last several months, is fantastic; as good as it’s critically acclaimed first season.
No show more powerfully and poignantly captures the trials, joys, failures and successes of real life. Yes, the show is centered around football, but only so much as the sport serves as a dramatic metaphor for what Houston Chronicle critic Andrew Dansby calls ” the highs and lows people endure when they make the decision to connect to one another. Some are dragged down; others struggle to the surface.”
Indeed, more than football, Friday Night Lights is a show about relationships, about being let down, letting others down, and surviving the accompanying disappointments; it’s about learning what it means to be a friend, a team mate, a spouse, a parent or a child. Its about dreaming and surviving and loving. Its about being passionate – its about being alive.
FNL takes place in the fictional small town of Dillon, Texas, where high school football is the greatest passion and where the mood of the town is determined by the outcomes of Autumn’s Friday nights. It should come as no surprise then that the town’s first family is that of the football coach, Eric Taylor. He and his wife, Tami – and their daughters Julie and infant Gracie – are either heroes or goats, town favorites or cast-offs. Texas – especially her smaller towns – is mad about football, and this is pretty much how it works in the Lone Star State. Even Coach Taylor would expect nothing less.
But Eric and Tami are more than a football family. They are also mentors and teachers, friends and, of course, spouses. Together they help the many younger characters of the show – some football players, others decidedly not – navigate the difficulties and tragedies of broken families, broken hearts and, often, broken bones.
However, the show does not paint the Taylors simply as Saviors. On the contrary, they too suffer broken hearts, they too fall from to time. After all, the show reminds us, we will all fall. But the show does paint them as strong people, strong in their marriage, strong in their faith, strong in their love, and completely dedicated to helping the young people of Dillon to become similarly strong. Played with grace and tenacity by veteran actors Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, Coach and Tami Taylor are among the best characters to ever appear on a TV show.
Unfortunately, despite a dedicated, albeit small (supposedly around 6 million viewers, many of which are from more affluent demographics), group of passionate fans and widespread critical acclaim, the show has struggled to garner the ratings the network desires, and so it is under the constant, threatening eye of NBC’s higher-ups. So, I hope you will consider watching it when it appears this spring on NBC – you can even watch it on their website once the episodes have aired. If you want to check out the first two fantastic seasons, head over to Hulu.
But no worries, as this third season begins, the show catches you up on what has happened in previous seasons and helps you get to know the characters, all while jumping right into the action of new story arcs.
Friday Night Lights features the best acting, writing, and production in television right now. Not to mention a fantastic soundtrack featuring the ambient tunes of Texas band Explosions in the Sky.
Give it a look. You won’t be disappointed. And hopefully, we’ll get a fourth season.
Shearwater performed live in a “Tiny Desk Concert” in the office of All Things Considered host, Bob Boilen.
The production is simple and stripped down and thus enhances the emotional impact of this great band’s stripped down music. Highly recommend checking it out.
Also, be sure to check out NPR’s exclusive, free preview of Andrew Bird’s album Noble Beast, now streaming on their website.
Thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet for linking to the news that new, never before published work from J.R.R. Tolkien will soon be hitting bookstores: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, edited by Tolkien’s son, Christopher.
Like the TV on the Radio album, it’s clearly born of a specific time and place, but where David Sitek and Co. addressed trying times with headlong ferocity, Panda and Tare take the very opposite approach, retreating from economic and global turmoil with a set of songs that are striking in their domestic focus. These songs are, bizarrely, rather sentimental, their warmth often seeming at odds with the cold production– which either makes the album that much more bewitching or perplexing, depending on who you are.