In the last couple of days, I’ve watched the final three episodes of the current Friday Night Lights season and each one blew my mind. Friday Night Lights is, in my opinion, the best show on television. Even though the third season has ended (for those with DirecTV or who watch the show via the internet), you can nonetheless start watching the third season right now on NBC, where they’re airing it from the beginning. I would recommend doing that.
Trust me, you do not need to know anything about football or to be a fan of the game to fall in love with this show. I know enough to follow the plays, but I otherwise have absolutely ZERO interest in the sport. Yet, every single episode of this show has me on the edge of my seat, knuckles white, as I watch the team play. That being said, it’s not about football. Friday Night Lights is (as are all good shows) about people.
This show has some of the best, most richly developed, most fascinating characters of any show that’s currently on television.
Though it’s really an ensemble cast, Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is the center of the show. He is typically excellent.
Coach and his wife, Tami (played by the wonderful Connie Britton, whom I have loved since she was on Spin City ages ago) together create more than twice the amount of awesomeness that Coach alone has. They are greater than the sum of their parts! Seriously, though, this is the most real couple on television. The way they argue, negotiate, and support each other is incredible to watch. I love them and, if I’m being embarrassingly honest, am inspired by them.
Their daughter, Julie (Aimee Teegarden), has the tendency to annoy, but only in the way that all fifteen year old girls have the tendency to annoy. Come on, you know you did, too.
Matt Saracen. Oh, Matt Saracen. Watching the changes his character (played by Zach Gilford), a Bob-Dylan-listening artist and QB, has undergone over the years has been great. He’s one of those characters I love and want the best for as if he were my own relative.
Landry (Jesse Plemmons), the super-Christian math and science dork, belies his nerdly exterior with his hidden coolness. The name of the Christian Heavy Metal band he’s in, if this will convince you, is CRUCIFICTORIOUS. Oh yeah.
And then of course there is my boyfriend Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) – he who wears the cowboy boots and comes to practice hungover and disappears to Mexico for a week when his best friend needs help. His accent is so impeccable, by the way, you would never know this actor is from the faraway land of Canadia!
Oh, Tim Riggins.
But back to why this show is so great:
The writing never fails to connect with me emotionally: I go from laughter to tears to anticipation to joy and then usually to tears again in practically every episode. More than that, this is the only show I can think of that manages to depict life in the South without even a hint of condescension. (Just compare it to True Blood, for example.) There’s no weird pseudo-southern-gothic exoticization of freakiness, no hackish or clumsy accents, no careful distancing of the audience from the lives they’re observing as if small-town southerners are animals in a zoo. It’s not only extremely adept Realism; it’s also emotionally compelling. The audience winds up doing more than just watching the characters and stories unfold — rather, we begin to feel as if we’re participating in their lives.
Friday Night Lights is always surprising me. They don’t often tell the easy, predictable stories. Just when you think they’re going to give you one thing, they snatch it away — or vice versa, in fact. The jaded television viewer may be surprised at the moments of success or satisfaction the stories allow, just when they’re least expected. Because it’s a high school show, the cast changes by degrees with every season, old favorite characters being sent off in simultaneously gut-wrenching and heart-warming ways, new characters sneaking in and slowly developing into people we care about just as much a those who’ve moved on.
I can’t wait to see how the changes suggested in the Season 3 finale will develop in Season 4 (hoping, hoping, hoping there will be a Season 4), but I think for now I’ll be satisfied to watch Season 3 again as it airs on NBC. Like I said, you should, too. If it does well enough on NBC, maybe they can manage to bring it back again next year. If not, I will blame you. I will hunt you down, people, and BLAME YOU. Let’s not have this happen, shall we?
If you’ve never seen the show, you can watch it all of it for free (FREE!) on hulu.com. Why, as a matter of fact, here’s the pilot episode to get you started. Please admire and enjoy the almost painfully gorgeous cinematography.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!