Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Only Way to Enjoy 'Friday Night Lights' is to Own it on DVD

By HAWKE FRACASSA for TVStoreOnline.com

The plug has been pulled on the great "Friday Night Lights" TV drama that portrays in documentary style the travails of two fictional Texas high schools, their football teams and dreams, their players and their parents.
Tim RigginsImage via Wikipedia

NBC, in making one of the dumbest decisions ever made in the history of man, has fumbled the ball by kicking "Friday Night Lights" to the curb. The show's shelf life could have gone on for years with fresh faces.


"Friday Night Lights," which survived for a half-decade on merit despite a lousy time slot, a writers strike and a whimsical network that didn't know what to do with it, is not alone in being thrown away. Thirty other programs that air in prime time on American television also have been killed. But ... um ... all of those shows, except for the critically acclaimed "Brothers & Sisters" and "Detroit 1-8-7" on ABC, and "Outsourced" of NBC, deserved to be shown the door.


"Friday Night Lights" still has legs. What started out as a book in 1990 and a 2004 Universal Pictures movie about the rabid love for football in the rural Texas town of Odessa turned into a compelling TV series in fictional "Dillon," Texas, that has won respect and applause from critics, intense loyalty from fans and apathy from the ostriches at NBC who have undervalued how good of a franchise "Friday Night Lights" could have been to the network had it been promoted and showcased properly instead of being used as an afterthought filler on a bad schedule.


The show aired exclusively for its first two seasons on NBC, and for its next three seasons toiled in the obscurity of DirecTV's 101 Network (no wonder NBC says nobody watched) before being rebroadcast on NBC when the network felt the whim. There have been 76 episodes, all of them great.


"Friday Night Lights" was filmed entirely in Austin and Pflugerville, Texas. It has a cult-like following because of its commitment to authenticity. True fans can't wait to watch to see what the cast is going to do next. The problem isn't finding people to watch "Friday Night Lights." The problem has been finding when the show is actually on. Reruns have been on Bravo and ABC Family, but has anyone actually seen them?


People value the show when they are privileged enough to find it on because the actors are relatable and the storylines, believable, without being maudlin or overdramatic. It's always a full hour of quality entertainment.


There is angst of black players mixing with white players, boy vs. girl troubles and parents and principals wheedling information out of their kids. There is conflict on and off the field, inside and outside of the classroom and the home, episodes that build and question loyalty and the impact of what happens when loyalty is betrayed.


Much is made during "Friday Night Lights" of a popular but outspoken head coach being put in his place. Then, when he is displaced in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? situation, the coach responds by going crosstown from the mighty Panthers to the rag-tag Lions, an under-funded start-up team from the poor side of town with no following and no boosters.

"Friday Night Lights" from go has been about more than high school football in "Dillon." It is about interaction of everyday people and families exploring the human condition, from unexpected pregnancy and what to do about it, to competitive spirit, petty politics and how scary it is to be on the short end of the stick in life.


There are ethnical dilemmas, like whether to rob and steal to pay for a mother's psychiatric care, and whether to accept a brother's request to make boatloads of cash by fencing stolen car parts and disposing of them, because economic times are tough. Sometimes the decisions are right, sometimes they're wrong. "Friday Night Lights" is poignant in its telling of real-world truths. It allows us to revel in the joys of triumph and forces us to experience the foibles and flaws of people who are easy to like and hard to be mad at. Besides that, the show has been an engaging primer on how to be a good parent, bad parent, good son, good daughter.


The actors have always been amazing. They aren't the reason for the demise of "Friday Night Lights," whose fifth-season finale aired in February on DirecTV. The last few episodes started being replayed on NBC in April. Kyle Chandler, the "Early Edition" star who plays fiery Coach Eric Taylor on "Lights," is forging ahead as a movie star. Former Abercrombie & Fitch model Taylor Kitsch performs his role of drunken hunk Tim Riggins with acumen. Tim Riggins, who goes by "Tim Riggins" to everyone instead of "Tim" or "Riggins," is a charismatic football star who usually uses a wrong moral compass, but is likable anyway. Life after football is one punch to the face after the other.


My favorite character is Julie Taylor, the coach's sweet little daughter, played by Aimee Teegarden of "Scream 4" and other film credits. She is cute as a button and just plain nice as the star quarterback's girlfriend. Her passion in the role is infectious. The point is that "Friday Night Lights" is cast well and makes viewers care about the people and the hurdles they face. Every episode is incredibly interesting.


Sadly, the only way we as fans are going to be able to watch "Friday Night Lights" whenever we want, with any consistency, is to get each season for our own personal DVD collections from places like TVStoreOnline.com. If you love the show, that's the road to take if you want to experience and enjoy it when it's convenient for you.