Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Friday Night Lights Completes Another Winning Season

TV Show Spotlight

Friday Night Lights

I've come to accept that it's probably a character defect that I have never been captivated by Mad Men or almost any of the other television shows that friends and critics seem to rave about (although I do enjoy Burn Notice).

On the other hand, I'm somewhat proud of myself for never succumbing to shows like Jersey Shore, the Real Housewives of anywhere or any reality TV fare for that matter, including American Idol or Survivor. So I guess while I don't appreciate the most supposedly brilliant of television shows, I also don't get into the most tawdry.

But the show that I have found phenomenal ever since it debuted in 2006, and which I consider the best show on TV, is Friday Night Lights.

While FNL has long garnered critical support--the Tribune's Maureen Ryan has been an especially avid supporter--the show has never been much of a success in terms of viewership. In its third and fourth seasons, and up-and-coming fifth and final one, the drama has been relegated not only to 13-episode seasons but has aired exclusively on DirecTV in the fall, with NBC presenting it beginning in January in 2009 and May this year. Not being a DirecTV subscriber, it has been frustrating to have to wait so long to see new episodes, but the show is so well done that a delayed-season is better than none at all.

Although I imagine some people stay away from Friday Night Lights due to its football theme, you need not be anymore of a football fanatic to enjoy the show's deeply compelling human stories than one likely needs to be an advertising expert in order to enjoy Mad Men.

Take for instance one of this season's most moving episodes in which Matt Saracen (played by Evanston's Zach Gilford) had to deal with the death of his father in Iraq and grieve for a man he barely knew. As you can see from the clip below, this doesn't have anything to do with football, just life.

In Season 4, which concluded on NBC last Friday, Saracen and Tim Riggins (played by Taylor Kitsch) were holdovers from the show's first three seasons after graduating from the fictional Dillon Panthers last season. But other than that, the show has done a nice job this season of not stringing along stories of high school students into their college years (as many a teen drama has struggled to do effectively). Instead, several new characters and storylines were introduced as former Dillon coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) had to deal with starting up the football program at East Dillon High, a school that had fallen on very rough times.

In dealing with these issues like gang violence and teenage pregnancy, Friday Night Lights never feels false or comes off as preachy; rather it depicts people dealing with difficulties in a very real manner (even if they sometimes get resolved a bit too cleanly). And even the football scenarios are so well done that I truly couldn't guess which way the season finale would end, and was quite moved by the way it did.

It might seem strange for me to be hyping a show after it has left the air for awhile, but with video available On-Demand and at, full seasons streaming on Netflix, syndication showings starting soon on ABC Family and the 4th Season DVD being released next Tuesday, there are plenty of ways for you to get into Friday Night Lights if you haven't already. And truth be told, I was planning on writing a post around the NBC premiere back in May, but as I imagine is the case with many fine shows that I haven't "gotten into," a single episode wasn't likely to win your devotion.

With only 63 episodes of Friday Night Lights yet aired, the show won't take you long to catch up on. So kickoff with the still much-praised pilot episode and discover why this has been the best show on TV. Even if you hate football.

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