Comedian Ernie Kovacs is known for the quote, “Television: A medium – so called because it is neither rare nor well done.” In most instances I tend to agree with Kovacs’ assessment except in the case of “Friday Night Lights,” (FNL) which has its series finale on NBC tomorrow night.
For five seasons, this little known, little watched, yet critically acclaimed drama set in rural west Texas has captured my heart and mind like no other program since the series “LOST.” While LOST and FNL are at polar opposites of the viewing spectrum, both were compelling viewing.
LOST was exceptionally good because it had ordinary people placed in extraordinary situations (e.g. time shifting, an island that moves, smoke monster fighting…etc.) while FNL was no less exceptional since it had extraordinary people in rather ordinary situations (e.g. high school, high school football, small town…etc.). Those tensions drive great drama.
Interestingly, the Friday Night Lights TV series was based on a movie and book by the same name that chronicled the real-life season of the Permian Panthers in 1988. In the book, written by H.G. Bissinger in a journalist style, none of the character names were changed creating an ironic instance where art mimics life.
At its core the FNL series focused on the relationship of a middle-class married couple, high school football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and guidance counselor Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) with a menagerie of sub-plots that ran around and sometimes tackled them.
Despite their personal failings, insecurities and circumstances the Taylors were always true to each other and their truth leaked out of their fictitious marriage enriching the lives of the characters in their town.
As silly as it sounds, some of their truth leaked into me as well – especially when I argue with my wife over some nonsensical thing.
I often find my inner dialogue saying, “Ouch Tor, that was a very hurtful thing to say to your better half! What’s wrong with you – coach Taylor would never say that to Tami.” Then following that split-second inner monologue, I’ll immediately apologize to my wife for being uncaring and insensitive – it’s a surreal real-world example of life mimicking art.
But isn’t that what art is supposed to do – to help us understand ourselves a bit better and enrich our lives a bit more? That’s what this inconsequential series did for me each week. It enriched me and I sense a sad diminishing within me at its ending.
There aren’t many network TV dramas that I recommend people watch – LOST is the only other one I can think of – but if you’ve never seen the series Friday Night Lights you should give season one a try on NetFlix or RedBox. It’s not stupid, dumb, violent or all about football – it’s about life. You won’t be disappointed.
Because contrary to Kovacs’ quoted assertion, Friday Night Lights is a rare and well done inspiring interpretation of life, marriage and family.
What television show, movie or book has enriched your life?