Why You Should Watch... Friday Night Lights

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Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor
Connie Britton as Tami Taylor
Gaius Charles as Brian 'Smash' Williams
Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen
Minka Kelly as Lyla Garity
Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggings
Aimee Teegarden as Julie Taylor
Adrianne Palicki as Tara Collette
Jesse Plemons Landry Clarke
and Scott Porter as Jason Street

"Clear Eyes, Full Hearts. Can't Lose"

In the small town of Dillon, Texas every day matters but only one night counts; Friday night, when the lights go up and the Dillon Panthers head on the football field.

Friday Night Lights is an award winning show adapted from the book (and in some way film) of the same name. It's based in the fictional Texas town of Dillon and revolves around the lives of their high school football team, new head coach, star quarterback and the people involved with them. It currently stands at two seasons (37 episodes) and is confirmed for a third one, which will return in the fall.

I'm afraid I'll have to slightly spoiler the pilot episode as it's the events in that episode which set up the entire series. So if you feel your experience of the show will be harmed in some way if you know what happens in the first 40 odd minutes then don't read any further.

The Dillon Panthers are at the top of their game at the start of the series, Coach Taylor has just been promoted to head coach for the team and Jason Street is their star quarterback. With him at the head of the team and backed by 'Smash' Williams and Tim Riggings they look set to win the state championship with relative ease.

But; as wise words once stated - when you're at the top, you only have one place to go - and indeed this is the case. In the season's opening match things take a dramatic turn for the worse; with events that will impact on the lives of everyone in the town, but especially the lives of Coach Taylor, Jason Street and reserve Quarterback Matt Saracen. During the match against Westerby Jason is hit hard during a tackle and ends up being taken to hospital. Leaving the untried and untested Matt Saracen the huge task of stepping up into the role of QB.

It's the ascension of Coach Taylor to Head Coach and the loss of Jason Street (to a spinal injury) that set events in motion for the entire season. What was going to be a relatively safe and easy states run for the Panthers becomes an uphill struggle, Coach Taylor faces pressure from just about every member of the community - all with opinions of their own to put forward - while Matt Saracen is suddenly thrust into the limelight and has to develop his skills both as a player and a leader rapidly. For the people of Dillon failure will not be tolerated from these two and they are held up to such an impossibly high standard that it seems impossible for them to match.

Jason Street himself has huge problems of his own, his life seemed to be mapped out for him. Football was his ticket through life, it would have provided for everything. But this has been taken away from him and now he needs to come to terms with the loss, as does his girlfriend Lyla (who doesn't seem to comprehend fully that their lives have totally changed) and best friend Tim (who has taken to drinking heavily out of guilt).

I really have very little common ground with Friday Night Lights, I've seen a grand total of one single (American) Football match, I've never been to Texas, I've never experienced life in America, let alone life in a small Texan town, I've never seen the fuss where team sports are concerned (I prefer individual ones like boxing, fencing and martial arts) and honestly I have no real background to appreciate this show from. But I absolutely love watching it, the show is incredibly accessible, even for someone who's so isolated from the life it represents as I am. I have no problem clicking with the show at all, I enjoy the conversations, I understand the importance of the team to the town, I even get enough of the matches to understand what's going on. In short, unbelievably enough I can relate.

This is because Friday Night Lights is not just a show about football, it's a show about being human and what's important to people. It's a show that cares about the little things and is willing to paint a realistic feeling picture, from the dialog and make up all the way to the camera work so much effort is put into making things feel authentic. At times you could be forgiven for thinking that FNL was a documentary, it's that realistic. From it's wonderful opening track (and some incidental music) scored by Explosions In the Sky to the sheer depth of the characters in the show FNL comes across as a show that really cares about it's subject. It cares about what it has to say; just like a sports fan it's loyal, passionate and real and truthful about it. It really is a thing of beauty and joy to watch, even when it's dealing with the really ugly things in life it's still amazing.

Now I do have a single complaint to give with regards to this show, much of the camera work is 'shaky cam' as if it was recorded with a home camera. I know this is done to highlight authenticity and add to the realism, but at times it's a little too much and I have to take the odd break because it makes me feel (slightly) unwell. But this is a minor personal gripe and despite it I will still happily sit down and watch this show again and again.

This is one not only for fans of football but for anyone who enjoys character driven drama with heart and balls. It's one that has won much critical acclaim but still hasn't been recognised by the general viewing public (just like The Wire's plight). But if you're a bit more cerebral than the average viewer and enjoy watching something that attempts to engage you while entertaining you well, Friday Night Lights might just be the show for you.

For previous entries in the Why You Should Watch range go here.


1 comment so far.

  1. adele 19 November 2008 at 09:37
    Finally there is a television show that teenagers and other young people can actually relate to. This show is more reality than any of the so called reality shows on television.This show depicts what high school is really like and shows what high school life is actually like now. Catch it Friday Night Lights Download here...

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