As the blazing dog days of summer approach and you seek an escape from the heat of the great outdoors, check out the brilliantly written and acted television series “Friday Night Lights”.
This tremendous series (2006-2011) was a fictional take on the non-fictional book and the “based on a true story” film by the same name. The series takes place in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas and centers around the people involved in the local high school football program.
A great misconception about “Friday Night Lights” is that it was a show about football. It was, to a certain extent, but it was also so much more. It was about the lives of the people involved in football in this small town. The distinction sounds small but it is important.
Football merely serves as a backdrop, along with the small town angst, to tell the story of the bigger picture of the numerous lives of the coaches and players in Dillon. The show derives most of its drama, especially after the first season, from the lives and travails of its deep and wonderful characters.
The show centers mainly around Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), his wife Tami (Connie Britton), and in the later seasons, their daughter, Julie (Aimee Teegarden). The story lines intertwine around the lives of the Taylors and lives of the players, mainly their stories away from the gridiron.
“Friday Night Lights” isn’t so much about football as it is about life. It tackles topics like teen pregnancy, steroids, class room struggles, injuries, infidelity, and the sense of hopelessness for some who can’t play the game of football. The crazy world of Texas high school football provides a common thread that ties the characters together.
“FNL” is a personal all-time favorite television show because of the raw realism and emotion prevalent in each episode. The show has 76 total episodes and in all of those, there are only two story arcs that are not strong. Both times, the writers realized they were going in the wrong direction and quickly got back on track.
The realism is stark and true. Eric Taylor and his wife portray one of the most realistic television couples of all time. Chandler and Britton have incredible chemistry that make you believe they are really going through their lives together. Teegarden’s Julie fits right in to form a believable dynamic anyone can feel familiar with. Viewers will believe they are a family, dealing with the same issues everyone goes through.
The acting is magnificent. Not only are Chandler, Britton, and Teegarden terrific but actors such as Taylor Kitsch (Tim Riggins) and Adrianne Palicki (Tyra) are especially good at portraying the hopelessness of being stuck in a dead end world with few prospects at improvement and their separate battles to overcome their perceived fates.
Other tremendous performances include Michael B. Jordon (Vince Howard), Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen), Gaius Charles (“Smash” Williams), Dora Madison Burge (Becky Sproles), Matt Lauria (Luke Cafferty), Scott Porter (Jason Street), Minka Kelly (Lila Garrity), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Jess Merriweather), and Derek Phillips (Billy Riggins). This list could go on.
The characters these actors weave are unforgettable in their portrayal of realistic emotions – joy, pain, angst, hope, hopelessness – emotions everyone has felt at one time or another. They enter your homes via your televisions and become characters you want to see more of.
If you love television drama, this is TV at its absolute best. If you have never watched “Friday Night Lights”, do yourself a favor and check it out. If you have watched it before, it is even better the second time, or in some cases, the third time.