Monday, September 24, 2007

Friday Night Lights

Last Thursday night, I'd just read the great Bill Simmons ranting about the fact that Friday Night Lights is about to be cancelled. All the fuss about this show reminded me of the buzz around Battlestar Galactica and Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- seemingly lame television shows that are smarter than what they appear to be on the surface. Still, the word-of-mouth buzz wasn't enough to get me to watch Buffy since I watch too much television as it is. I would have kept my distance from Friday Night Lights as well, only all the Season 1 episodes are available on the web. Right here. So I thought I'd watch an episode or two online to see if it was worth renting the DVDs. And here's the thing. I couldn't stop watching the show. In three days, I watched all 22 episodes. I watched the season finale Sunday morning around 2:30 am. Not only did this make me tired all weekend, but Wendy wanted to watch the show with me because she's heard similar raves. Too late, babe. No way I could drag out 22 episodes over a month or two.

And while I'm telling you things, here's another thing. I've never liked shows about high school kids, which are all melodramatic, and I rarely like shows (or movies for that matter) about sports. Unrealistic sports shows drive me nuts. In fact, the sports scenes in Friday Night Lights aren't realistic, and they're sometimes painful. The actors are decent athletes, so you don't get ridiculous problems like Gary Cooper swinging like a sissy or Leonardo DiCaprio dribbling a basketball like a 6-year-old with an inhaler. Friday Night Lights has too many dramatic finishes, especially when you watch all the episodes in 3 days, and the editing is way off when it comes to down and distance. Fortunately, the sports scenes end quickly enough and don't do lasting damage.

So why watch the show? The actors are talented and likeable and the writing is sharp. The arguments between the coach and his wife are charming and realistic, complete with overlapping dialogue. Mrs. Coach is a dang good actress, as she shows here. But the showstopper for me is the kid named Landry. He steals every scene he's in. Like this one:

There are a couple more Landy scenes here and here.

I'm not saying the Friday Night Lights is the best show on television. That honor belongs to The Wire. But it's up there. I'm a convert. Give it a try. It starts out a little rough, but it hits its stride after a few episodes.