Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Best Show You're Not Watching

If you’re not familiar with Coach, Coach’s wife, Riggins, Street, Tyra or even a guy named Landry, then you’re not watching the best show on television.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Friday Night Lights is one of, if not the best, show that has hardly been watched by TV audiences for three struggling, confounding seasons. NBC had strong hopes for the series that is about football in a small Texas town. Critics have been lauding the show since it was first aired and it’s developed a core group of rabid viewers even when NBC shifted time slots and days.

But this was supposed to be the last season since DirecTV struck a deal with NBC. The show would air first on DirecTV and then NBC would run the episodes in January on (ironically) Friday nights. Never before had a series been aired like this and TV people were skeptical if this marriage between network and satellite would work.

Last week the announcement that NBC and DirecTV had hammered out a deal to keep the show on for two more seasons. Even Lazarus didn’t get this many shots at rising from the dead.

I am not going to apologize for the confusion of the title and the day the showed first aired not being congruous. So the show wasn’t on Friday nights, like the title suggested.

And I won’t apologize for understanding how high school football is like religion in Texas; where high school kids are lionized as conquering heroes when they win, and chastised as despicable and worthless when they lose.

Friday Night Lights is more than glorifying the high school gridiron. The show’s writers have carefully constructed characters and plot lines that make Gossip Girl and 90210 (both old school and the remake) look arrogant and insipid.

Maybe I love this show because I lived in a small town in Texas whereupon my first week in town I wasn’t asked where I was from, or what college I went to, but what church did I attend? Followed immediately by the second question “what football team do you follow?” I thought the correct answer would be the Texas Longhorns.


What the gentleman asked was what high school team did I follow? Was it Robinson, Hewitt, Midway or University High School? It was culture shock, to say the least.

When you live in a small town you soak up the culture, accept the foibles, extol the virtues and turn a blind eye to the scandals. But most of all, you learn and quickly accept who people are and what they stand for.

That’s why I love Friday Night Lights. It’s more than just a show about dumb jocks playing high school football. The show is written with a brutal honesty and subtle grittiness that steadfastly champions the underdog on and off the field without being saccharine or crass.

Friday Night Lights reflects what happens in many towns across America on Friday nights in the fall. It’s more than awkward teens transformed into gridiron gladiators, if only for four quarters. It’s about what makes a small town great, even if you’ve never lived in a small town.

If only you would watch.

Do yourself a favor and stop watching Lost; it’s so confusing that no one in Hollywood has a clue what’s going on, or how to end the show. ER is (finally) going away. Grey’s Anatomy jumped the shark when Meredith drowned and came back to life. Stop with the reality shows. Idol is fixed. The Biggest Loser isn’t about fat people losing weight. Get a copy of the book Friday Night Lights and read it. Or, rent the first two seasons of FNL and catch up on the episodes on NBC from this season.

By next fall, I am sure you’ll be watching anxiously waiting to see Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor) Connie Britton (Coach Taylor’s wife), Taylor Kitsch (Riggins), et. al., enter a new season with the Dillon Panthers.