by Jess Lynde
So I’m about to do something that might be considered sacrilege for a blog devoted to science fiction and cult television. I’m about to encourage you to watch a standard drama. A family drama, some would say. A show that is not remotely science fiction or likely to develop a cult following. In fact, the only thing “cult” about the show is the somewhat scary, cultish devotion one small Texas town has to its high school football team. Yes, folks. I’m asking you to give Friday Night Lights a chance.
I know that Heroes and Ugly Betty are the ratings darlings from this Fall’s batch of new shows, and they are certainly deserving. I look forward to them every week and enjoy them. And I know that Heroes is probably more to the taste of Billie’s regular readers, but I honestly think that the best new show of the fall is Friday Night Lights. So much so, that I really, really want to encourage more people to watch it.
If you think Friday Night Lights is just a show about football, you are wrong. Friday Night Lights is a realistic, moving drama about how an entire community behaves when high school football is the center of their universe. The heart and soul of the show are its characters, and more often than not, the show focuses on the effects of the town’s obsession with high school football, rather than the football itself.
At first, some of the characters and the scenarios might seem like stock material from a typical sports movie. Certainly, the pilot episode has some cliché aspects, complete with a “hail mary” ending. And some things that happen have that typical teen “soap” feel. But as you get deeper into the show, it doesn’t take long to get completely invested in these characters, the issues they face, and the choices they make.
At times it can be quite disturbing. I can’t tell you how many weeks my husband and I have yelled at the TV while watching some townie put hideous, insane pressure on these high school kids or make nasty remarks to the coach and his family because the team lost one game. It is maddening! I also can’t tell you how many times the show has moved me to tears or made me grin from ear to ear.
I give tremendous kudos to Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as Coach Taylor and his wife, Tami. They play the best, most realistic couple on TV. Every scene they have together shines, whether arguing or playfully teasing. Sometimes I’ll rewatch an episode just to enjoy their scenes again. I’m also very impressed with newcomers, Zach Guilford and Scott Porter. Guilford plays Matt Saracen—the new starting quarterback—a shy, likeable guy with a ton of responsibility in his home life and on the field (and a massive crush on the coach’s daughter). Porter plays Jason Street, the former starter who is paralyzed in the season opener and is now coping with his life-changing injury. Both actors truly inhabit their characters; sometimes it is easy to forget that Matt and Jason aren’t real people. All the actors are good, but these four really create characters you can’t help but care about and root for.
If you only like your television entertainment to be escapist and fast-paced (I know we sci-fi lovers enjoy our escapism), then Friday Night Lights probably isn’t for you. But if you occasionally enjoy a good drama that is thoughtful and engaging, a drama that is alternately amusing, uplifting, and heartbreaking, then give Friday Night Lights a chance. You won’t be disappointed. At least, I hope you won’t. Because I really want more people to enjoy this show while its around! Check it out Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) on NBC.
Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.