May 11th, 2007


Friday Night Lights? More Like Friday Night's Alright for Lighting!

I resisted, you guys. I resisted for a long time. I did not care about football, and I certainly did not care about small towns obsessed with football. But more and more of my friends became hooked, and they would not shut up about it, so I finally succumbed.

I watched the pilot and was intrigued.

After four episodes, I found myself slightly addicted.

After sixteen episodes, I finally admitted to loving the show.

After eighteen episodes, I wanted to draw little hearts around it.

This is where you get to say, "I told you so."

Everyone who tries to make you watch this show will tell you that it's not a show about football, but they are lying. It is a show about football. It is also, however, a show not about football. There is a lot of football. There is football practice. There are football games. There are pep rallies. There are celebrations. A significant portion of the show plays out like all your favorite sports movie clichés except somehow more palatable. But the football is just the stage, the nexus for the storytelling. The show is really about characters who are allowed to live and breathe and develop like real people, characters who grow through their experiences, characters who always act consistently even though you may not agree with their actions.

First, I thought the show was a sports movie. Then, I thought it was a gritty football soap opera. Then a teen melodrama. By the end, I think I settled on its being a family drama, but, really, it's all of them.

One of the major selling points of the show is the way it's made. It's shot in a documentary style, but they take the verité feel one step further. They film on location with natural lighting, and the actors don't rehearse, instead being encouraged to improv as needed. Two cameras focus on specific actors, and another camera sort of does its own thing, looking for interesting moments to capture. The dialogue is very naturalistic. It all feels real because it is, in some sense. It's as if the cameras are peeking in on these characters' lives.

There are certain scenes in this show that are just arresting. The kind that completely grab you and make you focus. They're so utterly visceral. I couldn't believe I was watching network television.

What I love about this show is that it doesn't have to try very hard to convey the gamut of human emotion. It just shows us what's happening in Dillon, with no frills. Maybe some accompanying Explosions in the Sky, but it's just a backdrop. Every episode is pretty tonally consistent in its objectivity, yet what transpires on the screen can elicit varied reactions. It'll make you smile two scenes before breaking your heart. It'll cause a knot in your gut right before making you laugh. It's not edited to the same beats as a regular television show; each episode often feels like a short story told in punctuated scenes. That's another one of its strengths, actually. While it has the continuing narrative of a serial drama, each episode very clearly revolves around a specific conflict that is introduced and resolved in the same episode, so at least you get some sort of closure every week. Of course, it also has a tendency to just stop the episode on rising action like Entourage, leaving you screaming for more. It has a way of getting to you, somehow.

I didn't know much about the characters when I started watching, so I don't feel the need to describe them heavily here, though I can in the comments if you ask. But I had a very similar reaction to them as daynr did: I didn't like most of them in the beginning, but by the end I found myself loving them all, unexpectedly enough. The show really lets you get to know these characters and see why they are the way they are. It lets you see them Making the Hard Choices and Finding Out Who They Are. Thank you, pet themes! You are always a comfort to me. Also, Coach and Mrs. Coach are the best married couple ever, Julie is adorable, Smash needs to never stop referring to himself in the third person, Saracen has a heart of gold, Riggins is just misunderstood, Street has a pretty fascinating character arc, Landry is better than I gave him credit for in the beginning, Tyra thinks the town's obsession with football is as dumb as I do, and Lyla is very pretty but usually annoying.

I believe I've said enough. The show is top-notch, and it has my blessing. Watch it for free on or wait till they start rerunning it on May 27. Give it about six episodes, and if you violently hate it, then it may not be for you, but if you find yourself quite liking it, continue on, and you'll feel the love, unless you're gymble. The show has been renewed for a full season, so you have a whole summer to jump on the bandwagon.

*draws little hearts around FNL*