Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why DanielleTBD Should Be Watching: 'Friday Night Lights' Edition...

I'll admit it: when Friday Night Lights was first announced as being a new television series, I rolled my eyes. The movie was fine because it was a small dose, was my opinion, but a weekly hour about football? Too much!

And I'll also be the first to admit that I was wrong. Because Friday Night Lights isn't just about football but also families, friends, relationships, and growing up-- both literally for the teenagers but also for the adults that surround them and have to come to terms with their own outstanding issues. And really, I shouldn't have been so quick to judge it by its gimmick because like the players on Dillon's team, there is much more than meets the eye.

Friday Night Lights is in a rare position: it's airing episodes on DirecTV that will not be available to other cable customers until next year, which means that many fans have had to avoid the bread and butter of their fandom (internet message boards, fan sites, Twitter, and Facebook pages) in order to avoid spoilers. But it's a show that has gradually picked up speed and caught the eye of everyone from TV critics who were fighting for Emmy nominations for some of its key cast to other showrunners who actually advertise this (in some cases, potential rival) show to actors who have appeared on the show and others who just wish they could get a gig as good.

Wesley Ambrecht, another entertainment journalist, put it best when he said that he loves
Friday Night Lights because "the cast assembled...has been one of the decade's finest. The husband and wife relationship between Coach and Tami is one of the more honest portrayals in television history. They complete one another. Yes, they squabble but doesn't every couple?"

Additionally, Jaime Smith, another entertainment blogger, wanted to be sure to point out Zach Gilford's portrayal of slightly insecure quarterback Matt Saracen as one of the major draws of the show: "I've often said that no one can break my heart the way Matt Saracen can, and that's not because what he does hurts. It's because he is the heart; he is the soul; and watching what this kid had to shoulder, the responsibility not only at home but on the field, made me want to hug him."

That, in a nutshell, is the appeal of the show. The characters (including "Tim Riggins-- the male equivalent of the hooker with the heart of gold," according to Eric, a fan from Virginia) are each written to be strong, smart, and three-dimensional to the point where viewers will inevitably identify with at least one of them at any given moment in the series. But more than that, for those who are from Texas, the show is extremely authentic in themes and in "inside" details, adding to its believability, as well. Eric, who was living in Texas at the time the show premiered, explained that "the Dillon (now West Dillon) Panthers' uniform is based on that of Pflugerville, a town north of Austin. [And] the stadium is named after a local coach..."

Sure, there are fights and issues that take place on the field, and some may initially tune in to see beautifully filmed tracking shots and atmospheric and detailed yet fast-paced action sequences. However, they stick around for the universal, even if somewhat sophomoric (depending on where you are in life when you first pop in the pilot) themes and topics of being unsure of one's self and one's future or feeling inadequate for one's surroundings or loved ones. It's a coming-of-age story if there ever was one!

"Not being athletic or interested in high school sports, I didn't relate to that aspect of anyone's struggles on the show," Smith admitted. "But I loved Tyra's journey from seeing herself as trash to working hard to get into college, as well as her surprising friendship with Julie and even more surprisingly relationship with Landry. I loved watching Tim go from dumb, hot jock to thoughtful, responsible adult. I loved all of Jason Street's storylines as he struggled to figure out who he was after he couldn't play football anymore. And I can never get enough of Coach and Mrs. Coach!"

Every fan
My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture polled talked about the heart of the show, and most of them pointed to Coach and Tami as being that warm center (and moral compass). They are the couple you aspire to be and to whom you go to for advixe in the meantime. But more than just them, Tim's struggles and Jason's success were go-to story lines for fans who wanted to showcase the hopefulness of the show. Tim's quest to clean up his act but his inability to resist falling back into old, bad patterns and habits was handled with care; it was not just some soapy, melodramatic storyline but instead one that mirrored what many know someone in their own lives going through. Similarly, Jason could have been treated like the flip side of the cliche, but the show is smarter than that. "

The exit arc that was written for Scott Porter in season three...sticks out in my mind," said Ambrecht. "As a viewer I was able to smile at Jason Street's possible success without feeling like it was a product of TV falsehoods."

Eric elaborated: "You can't help but smile while watching, cheer for the team, get goosebumps when you hear the halftime speech, watch the player make the catch/the kick/the run. You want to hang out with these characters. Or maybe it's just me, ha."

Judging by the number of fans who switched to DirecTV when it was announced that this show was airing their new episodes there first, though, it most certainly is
not just him! Friday Night Lights is an adrenaline rush in many ways other than just on the field!

If you haven't yet checked out Friday Night Lights, the early seasons are, of course, available on DVD, but ABC Family will start running the series from the pilot episode on in early September. Check your local listings!

1 comment:

Jaime said...

Actually, the final season hasn't aired on DirecTV or NBC yet. I think it starts on DirecTV in September or October, and the rest of us will get it next year.