I didn’t always call myself a fan of Friday Night Lights, but to be clear, that was only because I hadn’t watched the first two seasons when they aired.
That was my mistake.
After hearing almost nonstop praising from the likes of Cory Graham and The Drake (one of whom usually has excellent taste in pop culture, and while I’ll leave it to you to decide which one that is, I should note that The Drake owns Ghost Rider on DVD), I bought the first two seasons on DVD, knowing that even if the show stunk, I’d only invested about $25 since they were on sale.
Any thoughts of not liking the show got immediately erased after the first episode.
Friday Night LIghts got labeled as a show about football, but that pilot showed that it was to be so much more than that. Sure, football was a catalyst for the action, but FNL was more concerned with things like friendship, relationships, marriages, parenting, race, religion and education. Each episode thereafter further highlighted those themes, bringing to life a handful of characters (most of whom were high school students) who reached far beyond general television stereotypes and made us care about them as though they were really in our lives.
Since that first season, the show has struggled to reach that level, but to be fair, nothing else really has either. I eventually came to realize that it was unfair to continually compare it to that pitch-perfect first season, which ranks as one of the finest television achievements I’ve ever seen. By accepting that Friday Night Lights would never surpass (or even equal) that, I allowed myself to relax and enjoy it for what it really is: still one of the best dramas currently on TV.
For those of you who have never seen the show, perhaps thinking you don’t like football or maybe didn’t want to watch a show about high school, I urge you to give the first season a chance. For my Powell County friends (and others who grew up in a small town), you will no doubt see echoes to our own past,. The first episode ends with one of the series’ best speeches from Coach Taylor, and if you sit through it and don’t want to see what happens next, I’m not sure you have a heart. Or soul. Or brain.
The series has some of the finest individual moments I’ve seen on TV and stands as a testament to its writing, acting and directing. It has been woefully ignored at the Emmys, having garnered just two acting nominations and zero wins, but its fans know that awards aren’t really the heart of it all. Throughout the series, we’ve heard variations of dealing with what life brings you, and so too did the show’s crew, knowing that its true rewards rested with the love from the fans.
Tonight, we say goodbye to Friday Night Lights as it calls it quits after five seasons (which will air on NBC starting April 15). I have intentionally left this blog spoiler-free in hopes that some of you might take a chance and rent the first season. For those of you who share my taste in TV, I think you will fall immediately in love with Friday Night Lights. I hope you do.
Then, when you’re finished watching, we can all look back and appreciate the show.
Clear eyes, full hearts …