Thursday, October 05, 2006

Friday Night Lights: The Television Show

No more White Sox games and a playoff rain delay made for finding Wednesday night alternative programming, and I just so happened upon the season premier on NBC of Friday Night Lights which curiously was broadcast on a Wednesday. (I wonder how many people will tune in on a Friday looking for this show?)

Take a slice Remember the Titans, add a dash of Varsity Blues and toss them into the greater batch of Friday Night Lights the movie, and you've got Friday Night Lights the television show. I've seen all three of these movies and they range from the maudlin (Remember the Titans), to the melodramatic (Friday Night Lights) to down right moronic (Varsity Blues), although Varsity Blues gets a small nod for the whipped cream bikini scene. The t.v. show is as sacchrine as the movie is unbelieveable. Now maybe my recollection of high school football is cloudy, but the starting QB didn't rule the school because he had the number 3 on the back of his jersey. Of course the football team my senior year went winless if I remember correctly. No, wait, that was the basketball team.

In any event, if the show reflects life at all then west Texas football must be the end-all, be-all of the majority of people's lives. For example, during one scene at a city (no, not high school, but c-i-t-y) rally for the season opener, all the former players in the crowd are cajoled into raising their football rings in the air, and the ensuing madness rivaled only that of a mosh pit. Also in that scene the mayor of fictional Dixon, Texas, a female for whatever that's worth, reprimands the starting QB for being too polite. She implores him to rip out the hearts of his opponents and that being too polite will cost him, his team and ultimately the city some mythic higher order of standing. For some reason, west Texas civic pride rests in the strength of teenagers. There's something I can get behind.

All your standard football cliche characters are present: the golden boy, straight-laced starting QB and his squeaky clean cheerleader girlfriend; the long haired, boozing bad boy who plays football just so he can hit people; the brashy flashy black RB with the mouth that don't stop and the game that don't flop; the quiet and shy sophomore backup QB who doesn't know how good he is until he's thrown into the fire; and of course there's the fresh-faced yet tortured head coach with every tom, dick and harry imparting their football knowledge his way. There's also secondary characters such as the hot, whoring bad girl, the bookworm coach's daughter, the strong yet nagging coach's wife and the backup QB's wise but dorky buddy. Add to this as formulaic a plot as golden boy gets hurt, back-up leads team to victory, entire town shows up to the hospital to mourn golden boy and you've got all the fixin's for as pedestrian a television show as possible.

There's one problem with all that I've said so far. You see, I actually liked Friday Night Lights as a television show. I liked the Shield inspired cinametography, and I thought the acting was pretty darn good. The backup QB's deer-in-the-head-lights look was priceless as was the head coach's as he watched the his starting RB (a black kid) incite 300 corn-bred white men to do the running man. The football scenes were choreographed pretty well too. If I knew anything about or had any dealings with slimey recruiters, their portrayal is how I would imagine them, although I didn't like the Notre Dame guy saying that the golden boy was the best he'd ever seen. (Come on, has the guy ever heard of Joe Montana? Please.)

All in all espisode one felt like an edited version of the movie which might be just what writer/ director Peter Berg had intended all along. (He also wrote and directed the movie.) For me the next few episodes will tell the tale of how the series will go on. Not sticking to the script is paramount to keeping the show fresh even though most people like their sports movies/ t.v. shows to follow the tried-and-true game plan of protagonist overcoming adversity to reach great heights. Then again that sounds like the formula for every great success story ever written. A brewing fued between the bad boy and the black RB with the whore-twist is an interesting racial aspect to be explored, and maybe the scocioeconomical aspect of town's unimaginable infatuation with the team itself is worth a closer look.

Formulaic, sure. Melodramatic, you bet. Worth a second look, definitely. And if the producers can build upon opening buzz, they just might have a repeat viewer in me even if it looks nothing like the high school football I grew up with.


Blogger Jeeves said...

I really hope they don't make it a sappy ending with them winning the state title. I also hope they show a lot of the racial tensions of Texas.

The two things I took away from the book (which we had to read Jr. Year) was the ending and just the amazing amounts of prejudice and separation between different races. What I loved about the ending was that the Permian Panthers actually lost in the state semi-finals (the movie changed it to the finals) and they were well on their way to winning the game, but Jessie Armstead (yes, the pro bowler) made an amazing diving pass break up.

3:26 PM, October 05, 2006  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

As I was watching the premiere, I couldn't imagine what all the positive hype was about until the last 15 minutes ... Predictable, sure, but it was very well-staged and kept me wrapt .. I've managed to see the second episode at work, and while not as high-octane, it's also well worth worthing

5:13 PM, October 05, 2006  
Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

I've gotta change one thought: The end was predictable after it happened. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had a doubt about the outcome, but credit that to the "well-staged" production.

Thanks for the heads up about the second episode, reel fanatic. If it's good, I'm thinking of doing a FNL episode recap here at F&F.

5:22 PM, October 05, 2006  

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