Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Light: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose!

I'm a late comer as far as the show Friday Night Lights go. My husband and I recently discovered it on the instant stream option on Netflix and have soured through Seasons 1 and 2 in record time and are now making our way through Season 3. Here's the little background: Friday Night Lights is an American sports drama television series adapted by Peter Berg, Brian Grazer and David Nevins from a book and film of the same name. The series details events surrounding a high school football team based in fictional Dillon, Texas, with particular focus given to team coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his family. The show uses this small town backdrop to address many issues facing contemporary American culture, including school funding, racism, drugs, abortion, and lack of economic opportunities.

I LOVE this show. It's always been critically acclaimed though never quite mainstream and sadly, and ironically, it was cancelled this past spring only to come home on Sunday with two Emmys. "Best Writing in a Drama" and "Best Actor in a Drama."

Here's Kyle Chandler (aka Coach Taylor) celebrating his win:

The writing and characters have everything I love about a great show and a great contemporary YA fiction novel for that matter. First and foremost there are believable characters. They're flawed and insecure in their own ways. Riggins because of his broken family life and because he self sabotages himself over and over again. Lyla because she has such a strong idea of who she should be instead of sometimes just being who she is. Matt has his abandonment issues. Tyra doesn't know a healthy relationship if it walked right past her, and so on.

Under the microcosm of a small football obsessed town and, of course, all attending high school together (even Eric Taylor the football coach and Tami Taylor as the guidance counselor) are all there, allowing ample opportunity for drama to brew.

Like many of the television shows of the 1990s, Friday Night Lights allows larger issues to bubble to the surface or play in the background, both as an examination of American culture and more issue oriented topics such as abortion, rape, cheating, and so on. Nothing feels preached even the very prominent scenes and discussions about God. I believe this is because no one side is amenable to all parties. If one person is religious then another hates God. If one person wants to keep the baby, the other is weighing the alternate options. In short, it feels like life with all the messiness that goes along with it but unfolding in such seamless and effortless acting and prose.

The believable characters isn't just the acting, it's how they interact with each other. This is critical and apparently something the writers allowed the actors to help dictate: If a scene or dialogue felt out of character, the actors were encouraged to speak up and offer alternatives. LOVE IT! There's nothing worse than developing a strong sense of character only to have that entire foundation jeopardized based on one "out of character" action.

There's rising action in the series, each episode ending right in the midst of it and leaving you wanting more. There's sexual tension and big macro level decisions our characters must make like where do I go to college and micro level decisions like do I want to keep dating this person.

It's refreshing to watch a drama that has such refined roles for the parents. Coach Taylor and his wife have ups and downs but, ultimately, are the healthiest family relationship on the show and still have chemistry. They're involvement in the kids' lives as coach and counselor unveils far more about the underbelly of Dillon, Texas than we would have known otherwise and is a fabulous vehicle to do so. Nothing feels forced. It also reminds me of how important adults are in teen lives even if teens seemingly want nothing to do with them.

The involvement and prominence of football allows the players in the show to enjoy a kind of otherworldly or royal status. So often we've only seen characters propel into high school gods because of financial status so this is an interesting twist, one I found strange at first given the entire town's obsession too but which helps to draw out characters from every neck of the woods in Dillon, Texas to one shared passion. There is no question where the town of Dillon's loyalty lies: with the Dillon Panthers.

There's something in here for everyone: romance, sports, drama, character development, examination of issues, and writing that is second to none.

If you haven't checked it out, I suggest you do. If you have, what do you love most about it?

No comments:

Post a Comment