10 Reasons To Watch ‘Friday Night Lights’
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I have now officially joined the ranks of the thousands of Friday Night Lights fans who binge-watched this show in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, this happened for me years after the show went off the air, and I’m bummed that I wasn’t able to contribute to the ratings the show struggled to receive when they were needed. But 76 episodes, 2 months, and countless cheers and tears shed later, I have to admit…
I love Friday Night Lights.
I love the writing. I love the actors. I love Dillon, TX. I love the big risks the show took. I love the nuances and subtlety. I love all the ways it fights for love. I love the ways it honors pain. I love that it’s all about the game. I love that it’s not. I love the theme song. And I really love Coach Taylor.
But I would not have been introduced to Friday Night Lights had it not been for a few good friends who finally twisted my arm into watching that very first episode. It’s no secret that I’m not a big football fan, and was also not a huge fan of the first Friday Night Lights movie back in high school. So for years, all of my friends’ gushing about Coach Taylor and their pleas to watch an episode admittedly went in one ear and out the other.
However, the summer slump on television has a pretty good track record for introducing me to quality shows on Netflix. So this summer, I decided to take my friends’ advice and finally give Friday Night Lights a try. And while I have consequently missed a ton of sleep staying up to watch “just one more episode” night after night, it was completely worth it as I completely fell in love with the show.
So for those of you who are still holding out, here’s me being a good friend to you and
twisting your arm offering 10 reasons to watch Friday Night Lights.
You can thank me later. :)
(And if you really want to thank me, someone can fly me out to meet Tim Riggins or Coach Taylor in person. In an admiring-fan-non-stalkerish kind of way, that is now officially on my bucket list.)
10. It’s about football. But it’s not about football.
I’m sure you have heard a million people say this about the show. And I totally understand your skepticism, but it’s true.
The hook of this show is clearly football, but the actual games make up a tiny percentage of the show’s airtime. Rather, Friday Night Lights is all about the people in the small football-centered town of Dillon, Texas. It’s about their relationships, their struggle to survive and grow beyond the cards they’ve been dealt in life, the zillion nuanced joys and challenges of living in a small town, and their love for this game which somehow brings them all together. It’s about so much more than just football.
But that said, it’s also about the football. And for those of you like me who may not be huge fans of the game, let me tell you, you will literally be on the edge of your seat rooting when the Dillon Panthers (and East Dillon Lions) take the field. And you will be hanging on to Coach’s every last word during pep talks. And sweating during practices in that hot Texas sun. And contemplating the fascinating ways that football (for better and worse) plays such a large role in small town, school, family, economic, social politics in a small town. And, um, enjoying the cast of gorgeous men in the locker room.
Trust me, you’ll love the times when it’s about the football, and when it’s not.
9. The men.
Yeah. I’m pretty sure that at one point or another I developed a major crush on every male character throughout the season.
First (and always) it was Coach Taylor. Then Jason Street. Then Tim Riggins. Then Saracen. Then Coach Taylor. Then Landry. Then Tim Riggins. Then Vince. Then Coach Taylor. And on and on…
Basically, the men on this show are all VERY attractive. And the amazing cast of actors play their characters with well-directed thoughtfulness, subtlety, and confidence. But more than anything, I love this show because they allow the male characters to be men. Yes, nearly all of the guys on the show are athletic and really love football, but beyond that they are all wildly different. Some are total “guy’s guys”, some are artistic, some are talkative, some are not, some are amazing boyfriends and husbands, some are terrible in relationships, some learn from their mistakes, some do not.
But at the end of the day, I love that none of them (even Coach Taylor) were written to be perfect or even close to it. Nor are the characters asked to compromise their guy-ish-ness to be something they’re not. They’re all men from small-town Texas trying to live life and win football games as best they know how. And we get to catch a few glimpses into what that’s really like.
So get ready for some handsome glimpses (have I mentioned these actors are attractive?!), and be prepared to fall in love and root for these guys like you never would have expected.
8. The women.
If you’re expecting a show with the stereotype of submissive Southern women, I’m happy to say you will be happily disappointed. Because let me tell you — the women in Friday Night Lights are strong.
And in my opinion, they steal the show. :)
The women face an entirely different set of opportunities and challenges living life (with the exception of Jess) off the football field. And at times, some of the classic limitations they face in a small Texas town can be infuriating. But most of the time, I love that the show’s writers don’t let bigger societal issues define these women. Rather, it’s all about how they find their strength, and confidence, and sense of self-worth and beauty as a woman in the context of individual relationships. Just like the guys, they make a bunch of mistakes — often due to falling head over heels for a guy (which started to get a little old towards the end, but probably more realistic than I cared to admit). But I was inspired and (even at the risk of sounding cliche) learned a lot from the ways that they learned to find their voice and earn the respect of both the men and women in their lives. And holy cow — I found myself rooting along the way for Tyra, Tami, Julie, Becky, Mindy, Corrina, Lyla, and even Grandma like you wouldn’t believe.
These women, and the amazing actresses who play them, are to be admired.
7. Texas forever.
Sexy Southern accents. The Alamo Freeze. Baptist churches. Small town politics. Rodeos. And everything revolving around football.
Let’s just say that this show will make you fall in love with the great state of Texas.
6. They let characters graduate and move on.
Ok ok, the show does follow a handful of characters after graduation. But as opposed to just about every other high school show, Friday Night Lights actually lets characters graduate and move on. What a concept!!
Perhaps more than that, I admire the show because they boldly let go of some of the character lines that had run their course or just weren’t quite working. And then they somehow accomplished the feat of bringing on an entirely new cast of character in the fourth season, and developing them into strong characters. I won’t ruin this with any spoilers. But I’m proud of the writers for taking the brave step to keep things fresh and moving along. Well done.
5. The football game scenes are actually decent.
Maybe it’s just me, but I get really annoyed when large scale scenes on television shows are under-produced (and likely under-budgeted). But fear not! Game time under those Friday night lights is one of the highlights of the show. All of the football games are all fast-paced, well-filmed, pumped full of adrenaline, underscored with a fantastic soundtrack, and as exciting as they deserve to be.
I dare you not to cheer when the team scores a victory!
4. It’s (very loosely) based on a true story.
I actually didn’t find this out until after I finished watching the tv show. But the movie and the book were inspired by a true story about the Permian Panthers, the “winningest high-school football team in Texas history.”
As the summary to the book says, Odessa was “not known to be a town big on dreams, but the Panthers help keep the hopes and dreams of this small, dusty town going. Socially and racially divided, its fragile economy follows the treacherous boom-bust path of the oil business. In bad times, the unemployment rate barrels out of control; in good times, its murder rate skyrockets. But every Friday night from September to December, when the Permian High School Panthers play football, this West Texas town becomes a place where dreams can come true.”
All the better.
3. The soundtrack.
I have to admit that my heart skips a beat when I hear those familiar first notes of the theme song. And then when it swells into those driving guitar chords (with the twinkling little high notes on top)….I’m sold.
Explosions In The Sky, well done performing that theme song by W.G. Snuffy Walden.
2. The Taylor marriage.
I know this is a big statement. But if you watch this show for no other reason, watch it to see the relationship between Coach Eric and his wife, Tami.
These two are now without a doubt my favorite married couple on television, quite simply because they stick it out even though they are not the “perfect” married couple. But while they may fight, and disagree, and misread each other, and neglect each other, and even flat-out want to call it quits at times, they somehow stick it out. And more than anything, they respect each other.
I remember once reading (I think in Blink?) about how one researcher/therapist concluded that he could predict which couples would get divorced by one thing — if they looked at one another with “contempt”. That idea has stuck with me many years since. And I know that a tv couple may be a silly case study. But even in the moments when Coach and Tami would be at their worst, I couldn’t help but notice that they still looked at one another with determination and with this deep kind of respect. As hard as things might be, they demonstrated time and again what it’s like to push through and work together to make things better.
And then of course, there were the countless other cute moments when they would support, and adore, and honor, and laugh with each other. I loved when Coach, a man of few words, would say just the perfect thing to be there for his wife when she needed him. And the times when Tami knew when to give him space, or when to encourage, or when to hold him close. All of those moments together added up to one of the most real, most vulnerable, most awesome marriage I’ve seen portrayed on prime time television. They’re not perfect — and I must point out that there were a handful of episodes when Tami was too passive for me — but their marriage is still one of my absolute favorite parts of the show.
Cheers to the Taylors!
1. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
More than anything, I love this show because it errs on the side of hope.
No matter how bleak things get, no matter the mistakes that are made, no matter how many games are lost, I appreciated that the writers (usually) didn’t try to wrap things up in perfect endings — but they did make a case for hope. They argued that lives can change for the better. That people can rise above the expectations that have been placed upon them. That the worst things in life are never the last things. And that even a losing football team and a divided community can come together and win some stellar football games.
I know that happy endings generally yield better tv ratings, and I’m sure there was plenty of pressure upon FNL to wrap up each episode with a tidy bow. And sometimes they succumbed to that temptation. But more often than not, they took the risk of letting the characters respond to challenges in messy, authentic ways. Yet somehow at the end of the day, at the end of each episode, you can’t help but come away from each episode feeling like the characters are learning and taking baby steps forward into becoming the people they want to be.
Which makes me want to do the same in my life.
Don’t get me wrong — I really like tidy bows. And wish for them a little too often. But life is usually a little more complex and chaotic and messy and out of our control. But as Coach Taylor so famously and eloquently sums up, there is another perspective where we can find our confidence and our hope. It’s simple.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
Be sure to also check out my post on Friday Night Lights Trivia — articles, interviews, and updates on all things FNL!