Saturday, May 21, 2011

Can't Lose: The Friday Night Lights Review

Just be warned: I'm going to mark out for a while here.

FNL wrapped its fifth season up recently, and I just spun the final DVD from my Netflix subscription. The first four seasons are available on instant, and I suspect this will be soon, so the ease in getting this in your mind is just silly. So is the quality of the show.

For the uninitiated, FNL is an NBC drama, focused on the on and off-the-field story of football in Dillon, Texas, a small Western town that cares too much about football, just like everyone who reads this blog, really. I'm not going to give too much of it away, because I really do want as many people to see this thing as possible, but here's what you get...

1) The most realistic and best marriage on television. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are the backbone of the show as the coach and his wife, and the writing for them is amazing, as well as the performances. FNL is a mildly ad libbed show, in that the actors go off scripts but also have a little room to breathe, and the way that these two actors work together is just airtight. They bicker like married people, they work things out, the squabble and support and catch and release. It's downright inspirational, honestly, and they do all kinds of stuff together that's just outstanding. Emotionally charged fight as comedy? Sure. Small moments with a baby to get them to agree with one parent over the other? Yeah, we've all been there, but you've never seen it on television, for reasons that I can't quite fathom. FNL is just more honest than other shows, really, and the marriage is at the core of all of it.

2) Some truly hot women. Minka Kelly was good enough for the Charlie's Angels reboot and Derek Jeter; she's all kinds of useful, if you catch my drift. Adrienne Palicki got NBC to redesign a Wonder Woman costume to show off her legs; they were not wrong to do so. Aimee Teegarden grows up on the show into something fine, though as the underaged daughter of the coach, you might not feel that way. Jurnee Smolett is a whipsmart woman that shows they know how to cast hot sisters, too. And so on, and so on.

3) Rock solid acting from people who will have long, long careers. Michael Jordan was great on "The Wire", and he's terrific in the last two seasons of this. Jesse Plemons does great comedy in such a dry and understated way, you know he'll be working for decades. Zach Gilford can make you feel every ounce of his burden as the undersized back-up quarterback, and the unspeakable awkwardness that he has when he develops feelings for the coach's daughter. And so on, and so on. It's legitimately hard to find an actor, and a character, that you don't want to spend more time with on this show.

4) It's secretly for women, and might -- just might -- get them interested in football. The Shooter Wife hates football, has a mild fondness for basketball, and can tolerate baseball if she's at the stadium and eating junk food; I am lucky to get her to watch the Super Bowl. There's a great throwaway line in Season 5, when the coach is trying to get a basketball player to join his football team and give him a WR with size and hops; "He loves football. He just doesn't know it yet." If and when I ever get her to watch this show, maybe I can get her to watch football, too. Assuming that football ever exists again, of course.

5) It's complete. Like "The Wire." there's planning and thought all the way through, and it's going to a place that's satisfying and makes sense. So many shows lose their way or run out of gas, or keep making more to get to syndication or some other artificial reason. FNL is more like a novel; it goes where it should, it ends where it should, and the only problem is that life would be better if there were more things that were this good.

6) You can be progressive while enjoying violence and poon. FNL earns good points on the politics of what life is like in Texas without just rolling over, and they film the football scenes nearly well enough to help you forget that most of the actors are smurfs, or not possessing breakaway speed or size. Short of a few too many last-second game outcomes (well, it *is* a TV show), it just works.

7) It moves you. I realize that, as a father, I'm just a big pile of goo waiting to happen now, and playing my emotions is really not hard. FNL does this, but in ways that feel like art and craft, rather than manipulation. Actors move on, as children becoming adults will do, and you miss them; they return for smaller moments, and equivalent or better characters take their place. It all works.

Anyway, give it a spin, especially now that live sports are starting to wind down, and everything is ready for you in a convenient place. It's worth it, on every level.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule