Monday, May 3, 2010

Reasons to Watch Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights returns for its fourth season on NBC this Friday Night.   This season was already broadcast on DirecTV, and I've seen it and first three seasons via NetFlix.  It's one of the best shows ever in the 60 years of television.   In recent years, this means I put Friday Night Lights in the same league as The Shield, 24, Lost, The Wire, The Sopranos, Criminal Minds, Dexter, even though those shows have much more in common than with Friday Night Lights.  This is because Friday Night Lights is a show about high school football and even more so because Friday Night Lights is a show about much more than high school football.   I don't even care all that much for football - I'm a baseball fan - but I'd watch Friday Night Lights every night of the year if it was on television that often.   My wife feels the same way about the show.   And it was recommended to us by our 26-year old son.

Here are some of the reasons why Friday Night Lights is so exceptional -

  • Coach Eric (Kyle Chandler) and Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) are the best married couple I've ever seen on television.   They have about as equal a relationship as you could find - two strong characters who love each other, love their work, have a zest for life.   They have more than their share of problems - as parents, in their work, from the world at large - but the courage and energy with which they step up and combat the bruising world is, well, an inspiration.
  • Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) is a refreshing, authentic hero/anti-hero right up there with James Dean and Jeff Spicoli.  Among his memorable activities,  he freely dispenses sage advice to younger teammates Matt, Landry, and J.D.   My favorite line from Riggins: "I always skip Wednesdays," about why he's driving around in his pick-up truck rather than being in school.
  • Speaking of Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons), you have a triumph of cool reason and intelligence over almost every obstacle.  He even gets one of the two hottest chicks in the school, and you can believe it.   And he has a not half-bad Christian heavy metal rock band, Crucifictorious.
  • Realistic portrayal of racial issues is not unique to Friday Night Lights - The Wire still gets the prize for that - but Friday Nights Lights nonetheless has a perfect bead on the trials of African-Americans trying to break out of small towns via the vehicle of football.  Smash Williams (Gaius Charles) in the first two seasons and Vince Howard in the latest season (Michael B. Jordan - a Wire alum) have stories that you'll never forget.
  • Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) is superb in all the seasons.  But he has an hour in the latest (4th) season which, trust me, is a tour-de-force of acting easily worthy of an Emmy.   There won't be a dry eye in the house.
  • Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly - Derek Jeter's girlfriend in real life) and Tyra Collette (Adrianne Palicki) are gorgeous, but far more than eye candy.   They're tough, savvy, vulnerable.  Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden) holds her own, no easy job, sweet but strong, as Coach and Tami's daughter, and grows up beautifully before our eyes.
Friday Night Lights is Peter Berg's creation - based on the movie he made of the same name.  The movie was good, but it was only about football.  The television show is all-time great, because it is about life.  May be the best show ever on television - at least, that's how I feel on Fridays, and sometimes Wednesdays, too.

6-min podcast review of Friday Night Lights

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