Why Aren't You Watching 'Friday Night Lights'?
One of the best dramas currently on television is entering its final season and, statistically speaking, you are almost certainly not watching it. The show is Friday Night Lights, and, like The Wire before it, it's entering its fifth and final season with critical acclaim and a slavishly devoted fan base, but is still mostly ignored by the general public. Eventually word of mouth and a relentless nagging campaign by its fans brought The Wire into the mainstream, and by all rights Friday Night Lights should follow the same path. Friday Night Lights, while maybe not as good as The Wire, is still pretty damn good, and you should be made to feel just as bad for not watching it. And why the hell aren't you watching it? Is it one of these reasons?
Reasons you aren't watching Friday Night Lights:
It's about football
It's not about football. I mean it is, but the football's not the important part. You don't have to like the game or even understand the rules to appreciate the show. Honestly, the football scenes in Friday Night Lights bear about as much relation to the actual game as Star Wars does to the Apollo space program anyway. Trust me, it's not important.
It's a teen soap
Again, technically true, but ridiculously reductive. Yes, it's about teenagers. And yes, like any show where the protagonists aren't cops or criminals the sources of drama will be similar to what you find in soap operas. But it's not the story you're telling, it's how you tell it. Friday Night Lights approaches potentially soapy story lines with a level of subtlety and nuance that puts it in a whole different universe from One Tree Hill and the like.
You've already seen the film
Forget the film. If you hated the film, it's nothing like the film. If you liked the film, everything the film does well the show does better. It's like comparing apples and much better apples.
You're a big city elitist, maybe?
Not to point any fingers, but there's probably at least one or two scarf-wearing, complicated coffee-ordering trust-fund types who won't even consider watching a show about poor hicks in Texas. The show will demolish those kinds of prejudices very quickly. The show presents a world you don't often see on television, and the atmosphere and sense of place it creates are one of its strongest elements. Once you've spent some time in Dillon, Texas, you'll want to return every week.
Reasons you should watch Friday Night Lights:
It's the best acted show on television
That's not hyperbole, it's true. Most of the other big dramas are anchored by one or two outstanding lead actors, but Friday Night Lights has a huge cast of mostly unknowns, and every single one of them gives a perfect performance. Time and again the show takes set ups that could come across as lame and cliché and makes them feel totally real. One weak link and the whole thing would crumble, but somehow they managed to find a cast seemingly incapable of being hammy or fake for even a moment.
It's the only quality drama on television about decent people
We're living in the age of the TV anti-hero, with shows constantly pushing back the limits of how morally repulsive a protagonist can be before we'll stop rooting for them. This is great, and there's obviously an endless amount of drama to mined the deeds of the worst of the worst. But at this rate, future civilizations are gonna look back on the TV we watched and come to the conclusion that we all must have been awful. Reluctantly murdering your best friend isn't something most people do, but judging from TV dramas you'd think it was a universal human experience. The characters in Friday Night Lights aren't saints, but they are for the most part good people. The drama of the show comes from people facing tough decisions, and making the right choice, rather than the selfish one. It's weird that that's refreshing, but it is.
It's unapologetically tear-jerking
There aren't many shows out there that aim straight for the heart. It's risky, there's always the possibility that you'll end up getting bad laughs, and as a mood misery has more artistic credibility than melancholy. Friday Night Lights is fearless in this regard, it goes for the tear-jerker moments, and it trusts that you care enough about the characters to not find them cheesy. In this regard, it almost always succeeds.
It'll make you a better person
Okay, it probably won't actually make you a better person. But it is full of philosophy and life lessons to take to heart, and if any show is going to make you a better person, it'll be this one. There's much to learn from the trials of Matt Saracen, who holds on to his "aw, shucks" everyman demeanor through a unending series of misfortunes (if Hollywood is looking for a new Jimmy Stewart, and they should be, they can look no further than Zach Gilford), or the almost Buddhist character arc of Tim Riggins, who from season 1 to season 4 goes from having everything and being miserable to being happy with nothing. And then there's Coach Taylor, the wisest man in the whole world. Someday they'll make a computer program that generates a Coach pep talk for every challenge anyone could face, but until then the next best thing is 40 minutes a week of watching him give great advice and mould boys into men. And of course, “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose” — that's a mantra to live your life by.
The new season of Friday Night Lights is showing first only on DirecTV, but the first 4 seasons are streaming on Netflix Instant Watch. You could be watching them right now. What are you doing right now that's so important? Reading this article? This is valuable time you could be spending watching Friday Night Lights. Come on, get your priorities in order.