February 21, 2007 12:00:00 Posted at February 21, 2007 12:00:00
Thank Goddess it’s Wednesday. Wednesday – Friday Night Lights. If you’re tired of me harping about it…too bad. It’s the best show on television, it deserves as much press as it can get, and as you all saw from Grey’s Anatomy last Thursday, Dead Denny is NOTHING compared to Kyle Chandler’s Dead Dylan. New episode tonight and a new article in today’s Globe & Mail, Canada’s most distinguished newspaper, extolling the virtues of the show, comparing its excellence to that of The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. Deal or No Deal, Dancing with the Stars – idiot proof television generates massive ratings. Friday Night Lights – superbly written, beautifully acted, no one watches… WTF? People, try giving up complaining for Lent JOHN DOYLE From Wednesday"s Globe and Mail Friday Night Lights (NBC, 8 p.m.) is not a show I"ve written about before and I regret it. I should be doing penance for that. It is superb TV drama. Intelligent, subtle, moving and dramatically compelling, it"s a rare example of network drama with all the characteristics of those great cable shows such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. It"s about high-school football in a Texas town, a premise that made it unattractive to yours truly in the first place. But it turns out that Friday Night Lights (loosely derived from the acclaimed book and movie of the same title) is less about high school and jocks and cheerleaders than it is about the USA, and it"s a doozy of a show if you want to use American TV to read the American psyche. A grave, wintry drama, it features Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor, the Dillon Panthers" new coach, a man who is forced to marshal a group of boys — essentially children — and meet the town"s expectations for success. But it"s really about the community, not just the coach and his boys. There are many ways to read the show. On one level, it"s about a nation going to war — the team represents the U.S. armed forces, and the coach and local bigwigs represent the U.S. government. On that level, the show has a terrifying gloominess. It continually undercuts the idea of there being glory in being a warrior. It also continually undercuts the town and the team"s feelings of superiority. This is a show that is gravid with portents of doom. In the pilot episode, which was an outstanding, stand-alone drama, the team"s status as the best in Texas, and possibly the best in the United States, was established. Viewers were also made aware that a young star player was a fabulous athlete and meant for greatness. Then it all fell apart. In the voice-over near the end, the coach"s voice could be heard saying, “We will all fall, we will all face failure.” In an earlier scene, one football player looks at another, a guy waking up from a drunken sleep (the debauched, zonked guy is superbly played by Canadian Taylor Kitsch), and says, “This is life, not Maxim magazine.” Unlike any previous TV drama about school sports that I can recall, Friday Night Lights does not indulge in sentimentality. And, unusual for a network show that is largely about men, it features fully drawn, strong female characters. In particular, there is Coach Taylor"s wife Tami (Connie Britton), who is uneasy about the pressures put on her husband and family by the town and its football obsession. Friday Night Lights, made in the curious style of a documentary, with the camera acting as voyeur, is a chilling, state-of-America show, pointedly devoted to the question, “What is a meaningful life?” It"s unbelievably good. And a fine reason not to give up TV for Lent.