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Friday Night Lights? More Like Friday Night's Alright for Lighting! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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May 11th, 2007


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01:32 am - 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 NBC.com 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*
Current Mood: mellowclear eyes, full hearts
Current Music: Rose Polenzani - In the Middle

(51 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:wee_warrior
Date:May 11th, 2007 11:43 am (UTC)
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It's also been renewed for a second season!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:May 11th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)
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It sure has!
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From:cofax7
Date:May 11th, 2007 12:03 pm (UTC)
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RENEWED? They got the renewal for sure?

YAY!!!!!

I shall use my gleeful Smash icon! YAY!

(And I shall not say "I told you so.")
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From:spectralbovine
Date:May 11th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC)
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Yep! It just leaked yesterday!
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From:inigo
Date:May 11th, 2007 12:23 pm (UTC)
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I did try, but I couldn't get into it at all. I think it is the football, which I hate. I acknowledge that it isn't just about that, but the problem for me is that football informs everything else - motivations, background, relationships. Not for me.
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:May 11th, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
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Now, when are you going to check out Life on Mars?
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From:daynr
Date:May 11th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
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Trust, try, do. If you like getting to know people, then I think you'll enjoy it. Some people are into other things from their shows.
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From:therealjae
Date:May 11th, 2007 01:31 pm (UTC)
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See, I really do think it's not actually about football. It's about people who love football. There's a subtle but real difference, there, and that's what makes the football stuff not just palatable for me, but actually kind of interesting. I mean, I hate sports patriotism of all sorts and don't even understand how the game of football is played (even after watching the entire season twice!), and yet the football never bothered me because it's not about what *I* think. It's about what the residents of Dillon think, and the show did a bang-up job making me care about *them*.

You've really hit on something with the "slow reveal" of the characters--it's definitely one of the show's strengths. Like you, only a few of the characters really interested me at the beginning, but the show is *so* adept at hinting at something relevant about a character one moment, then exploring it in depth the next, then backing off and going back to the subtlety, at which point you have an all new understanding of the character's motivations. It's a remarkable storytelling technique, and I am totally in awe.

You're also right that the lack of pure scriptedness is a large part of what makes it work. It makes the show seem real in a way no other show quite has to me. I think it's spoiled me for ordinary, purely scripted television as well, at least for a while.

You're a damn good pimp, by the way! I hope you draw some people in.

-J
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From:spectralbovine
Date:May 11th, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! You should check out my previous efforts to see if anything suits your fancy. I think my Avatar post has been the most successful.

I think the show is about football in as much as it plays enough of a role in the story to still turn people off (see above). I really loved moments, however, when Coach Taylor reminded both the characters and us that it was just a game. It was times like that the obsession became somewhat sane.

The way they develop characters is very different, yeah. I mean, looking back, I can't even believe the way we're introduced to Tyra. And she became one of my favorites.
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From:iheartbridges
Date:May 11th, 2007 01:35 pm (UTC)
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Also, Coach and Mrs. Coach are the best married couple ever
OMG I WANT TO BE THEM WHEN I GROW UP.

The show has been renewed for a full season
REALLY?!!! YAY!!!

I had not heard that. That is so awesome!
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From:afrocurl
Date:May 11th, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)
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Aww, P-C has seen the error of his ways and loves this show. This makes me happy.

Glad that you enjoyed it so much.

I'd love to know more of what you thought on individual episodes, but I think that can happen later.
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From:magnolia888
Date:May 11th, 2007 03:56 pm (UTC)
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Yes.

I want to hate NBC for screwing up The Office last night and going overtime(*shakes fist*), but I can't hate them because they renewed FNL.

This show is so wonderful. And I HATE football. But I love FNL.
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From:shamoogity
Date:May 11th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
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I'm a new viewer as well and I didn't know about the partial improvisation. That explains a lot about how they make it so naturalistic. Plus, it makes me really respect the actors. They must know their characters backwards and forwards.
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From:shamoogity
Date:May 11th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
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Oh yeah, and keep pimping shows you like! I love reading your thoughts and you've often pushed me over the edge on shows I had been resisting. I was turned off by the incest in the Supernatural fandom too, but once I read your review I realized it might be a good show aside from all the apparent brother-loving subtext. And then I had been meaning to watch FNL for awhile and you reminded me. And shows you pimp are always good!
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From:bigboobedcanuck
Date:May 11th, 2007 05:13 pm (UTC)
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Glad you've seen the Lights! *rimshot*

I never thought I'd love this show as much as I do, but I just love it with every bit of me. Every character is so nuanced and well acted. LOVE.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:May 11th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC)
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Glad you've seen the Lights! *rimshot*
Ha!

I never thought I'd love this show as much as I do
Me neither!
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From:mycenae
Date:May 11th, 2007 05:20 pm (UTC)
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I think Friday Night Lights is a show about football in the way that Battlestar Galactica is a show about space travel. It's central to the show, it's the backdrop, what brings all the characters together, the basis for many plot developments. But it's not the focus of the show. The Panthers getting to State is less important than what it takes for them to get there, individually. Galactica finding Earth is secondary to what it costs to get there, the price the characters have to pay for survival and endurance. Both have great ensemble casts and defy the expectations of their genre in order to potray great human drama. (Plus about halfway through the season I realized Coach & Mrs. Coach kinda reminded me of Adama and Roslin. Just a little.)

Um, sorry. Got a bit caught up in show love there. But yes, everyone who likes television should at least try this show.
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From:gymble
Date:May 11th, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC)
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I'm stubborn.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:May 11th, 2007 05:31 pm (UTC)
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So am I!
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From:meghatron
Date:May 11th, 2007 05:33 pm (UTC)
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Damn you. DAMN YOU.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:May 11th, 2007 05:39 pm (UTC)
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DO IT.
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From:daynr
Date:May 11th, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)
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Yay!
It's seriously all about the characters and loving them. If you love character shows, then it's divine.

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