A show to watch

I was going to write a review of Friday Night Lights but, somehow, never got around to it. My bottom line would have been: Watch It! Fortunately, S.T. Karnick, writing at National Review Online, has written the review I thought about, if only I could write so well. Karnick’s bottom line is the same as mine: Watch It! (And, through the miracles of the internet, you can even watch the pilot online.)

Showing Tuesdays at 8 P.M. EDT on NBC, and based on the popular movie of the same name (which itself was based on a book of the same name), Friday Night Lights tells the story of a small Texas town’s high-school football team as it makes a run for the state championship.

In the two episodes shown so far, the team begins a new season with a new coach facing the town’s expectation that they will win the state championship; narrowly wins its first game; suffers a huge loss as their star player is injured severely on the field; copes with that loss and the realization that it clearly dashes their hopes of winning the championship; undergoes internal dissension as the heightened pressure causes players to react badly; and prepares for game two while the townsfolk express their unaltered expectations for a championship and their doubts that the team can accomplish it, and threaten social ostracism of the players and coaches if the team falters as expected.

The show’s ostensible subject matter, high-school football, might seem to limit its appeal, but as the foregoing description suggests, the producers use this context to tell stories that are about much more than sports. The central interest of the show is what each character sees as his or her purpose in life and how they pursue it. We are invited to judge the characters on their view of what their purpose is: glory, pleasure, honor, service, etc.; and on how they go after it — by hard work, chicanery, manipulation, planning, intuition, etc. The show gives realistic looks at the obstacles the characters must overcome and the disappointments they endure.

You can read the rest of the review here.

What struck me about the show, aside from what a good show it is (something even the New York Times acknowledged, in a rave review), is how respectful it is of religion. Unlike the fairly despicable Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which sees Aaron Sorkin playing out his Freudian Fear of Christians, FNL shows how religion is an integral part of town life — not as a negative force, but as a binding force. It’s where people turn in time of tragedy, and it informs many of their decisions. The show doesn’t shy away from greed, hypocrisy, arrogance, teenage sexuality (which is presented as sleazy, not exciting), etc., but it doesn’t try to tie those vices to religion, either.

Sadly, this good show is tanking in the ratings war. I urge you to watch it, both because it may go away soon, which would be a shame, and because any increase in the audience might prevent it from going away soon, which would be a good thing.

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  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    You may have heard about the common man rave reviews concerning Firefly, or even watched the series and the movie as I have. I never really heard about that show, until I had read about a review on a blog. Word of mouth, it spread by, instead of mass advertisements for some reason.

    A lot of these series and shows that depict humanity as it is, with positive as well as negative flavors, are prey to the dangers of the network canceling them. Which makes no sense to me, since there is such a large audience out there that demands for such shows as Firefly and other entertainment that is about the Real Deal. If they advertised it more, then the ratings would climb steadily. The networks are just looking at the short term goals. And unlike the political organizations and funded fronts like Sunset and Air America, the producers of these common man shows don’t have deep pocket books, favors they may call from Congress, or other “connections” in the elite society and aristocracy. So if the network decides that they aren’t producing in their first season, there is no reason they won’t ax it, given how such decisions are made. No Congressman is going to call in on the CEO and say “give it another season bob, please, as a personal favor”. And no George Soros is going to lay down any money for anyone that is producing or helping to produce such shows as Firefly and their ilk.

    I think the bottom line for me is not “Watch it” but “Watch out for it”.

    Fox News would probably have been still born if the M guy didn’t have so much reserve cash and other businesses in the first place.

    This isn’t a complaint against the market place. The market wants such shows as Firefly and other pieces on human drama and reality, as with Battlestar Galactica. The difference as I see it, is that SciFi went to great lengths to publicize BG, while the other networks don’t even bother. So when their new series fails, they are like “oh well, we tried”.

    No, they didn’t.