I’ve been told for years that I would like Friday Night Lights– the television show about a small Texas town that worships football and the people who play and coach it. For some reason I never watched it and I’m not sure why. I loved Varsity Blues, which has a similar plot, and after watching Connie Britton in Nashville for several seasons why wouldn’t I like her as educator (and Coach’s wife) Tami Taylor? After several years of this show coming up in conversation I finally decided to watch it – especially because I realized that the show’s writer and producer, Jason Katims, was also responsible for two shows I really enjoyed: Parenthood and Rise. Clearly, I like his style.
So I sat down to the watch the pilot and wow was I hooked. From episode one it was clear that this show was going way beyond Varsity Blues (no offense) – in terms of writing, acting, and authenticity. It also became apparent early on that Katims sticks with actors he likes and uses them across several shows. Additionally, unlike a lot of high school shows, this one doesn’t find a contrived way to keep everyone in the same town after graduation. I love 90210 but that entire group of friends ending up at the same university was ridiculous. But I digress.
Since it’s a minor miracle that I watched this series 12 years after it started and didn’t have any spoilers, I’m going to try to not ruin this for anyone who starts watching the show OnDemand like I did. That being said, I want to discuss highlights and observations from each season so watch for minor spoilers. Here we go…
- Dillon, Texas is a place where everyone treats football players like royalty and are always looking ahead to their next state title. It’s also a place that high schoolers want to get out of as quickly as possible.
- Who knew an iconic phrase could be coined in a pilot – “Texas Forever.”
- This is clearly a look at a town that is desolate in a lot of ways. Like Rise, they need someone to lift spirits and Coach Eric Taylor does that with grace.
- Tim Riggins is the football version of My So-Called Life’s Jordan Catalano.
- The only students who seem to have parents are Julie Taylor, Jason Street, and Lyla Garrity. Otherwise it’s one guardian because someone is dead, in jail, or decided they no longer wanted to be a parent anymore.
- It’s incredibly heartbreaking to watch how a tragic accident affects so many people. It’s also an inspiring depiction of the strength they muster, how they learn to endure, and how life can be really short.
- In a world where so many high school shows depict the rich and glamorous, and the issues they face as a result of their privilege, it’s interesting to watch a series where teenagers have sisters who unapologetically work at strip clubs, grandmothers they have to care for because their parents are MIA, and older brothers who are supposedly their guardians but end up being the ones who need supervision.
- Everyone in town relies on Coach Taylor for something.
- Buddy Garrity is a piece of work. He’s like the Texas leaguer politician who’s really a booster and won’t shut up. Ever.
- Friday Night Lights’ inaugural season is arguably the best first season of a television show I’ve ever seen. The first season of The O.C. is a close second.
- I realized that other than Jason Street, I had no idea what grade anyone was in!
- Tyra Collette is funny even when she doesn’t mean to be. She can also be incredibly mean to the people who are the nicest to her.
- Smash Williams both embodies and, um, smashes stereotypes on a consistent basis which speaks to the superb acting capacity of Gaius Charles.
- I could not believe my eyes when a coach from an opposing team tackled Tim Riggins. It was absolutely insane.
- Everyone on this show knows how to say they are sorry. I appreciate that.
- Coach Taylor has an uncanny ability to exude both authority and kindness with a look and a few short sentences. It’s amazing.
- Smash’s mother is one of the best depictions of a parent I have ever seen.
- The friendship dynamic between Jason and Tim is one of my favorite parts of the season and the show in general. When the former announces he’s going to Mexico to meet with a “miracle worker” doctor there is no question Tim is going with him. This happens again later in the series as well.
- The Jason-Lyla-Tim triangle reminds me of Gossip Girl’s Nate-Blair-Chuck scenario.
- Although I always appreciate Matt Czuchry, his bible banger character is so boring.
- While bringing in Gracie Bell (the most southern name ever) was a plot twist I didn’t see coming, watching the Taylor parents deal with a new baby when their older daughter is a few years from being out the door is extremely realistic.
- Not that I care, but where did Santiago go? Wasn’t he living with Buddy?
- The arrival of JD McCoy was like a bad omen everyone should have seen coming and his dad is the epitome of what’s wrong with helicopter parents in terms of high school sports.
- Saying goodbye to Jason and Smash was well-done but sad. What was the show going to do without them?
- Tyra and Landry’s dynamic was fun even though it was a stretch.
- Lyla and Tim were a real high school couple! But of course, that wouldn’t last as they were headed off to college. (Age question answered!)
- Hallelujah to Matt’s mom reappearing and helping with his grandmother.
- Tami gets promoted from guidance counselor to principal!
- Buddy starts a fight at a strip club and we find out that he spent Lyla’s college money on an investment deal gone bad. Ugh. I can’t decide if he is the worst part of the season or if it was Tyra’s rodeo clown.
- Watching Tim say goodbye to Jason was heartbreaking but also amazing. Time moves on.
- Never have I ever seen a television series reboot itself like Friday Night Lights did in season four. New team, new district, new kids to mentor. Coach Taylor handled it.
- Shifting from Panther blue to Lion red was a great way to manage the characters’ graduation and introduce new ones.
- While I thought Michael B. Jordan, Matt Lauria, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell (who are all in Parenthood) were great as Vince, Luke, and Jess, it was definitely an adjustment getting to know new players and members of the community.
- Tim moving into an airstream that belonged to a one-night stand and her teenage daughter was ridiculous.
- It was interesting how all of the sudden West Dillon started looking like an affluent city when compared to East Dillon. As this show has taught us so many times, and in so many ways, it’s all about perspective.
- Tami getting blamed for helping a student deal with an unwanted pregnancy was so small town it practically made my eyes roll out of my head.
- The McCoy family is the worst. The worst.
- The unraveling of Tim as a post-high school football star was really tough to watch but also realistic. Back in season one Tami said treating high schoolers like idols would bite them in the ass and she was right.
- I was thrilled to see Matt finally get out town and finally not shouldering the responsibility of his grandmother.
- This was by far my least favorite season. While Friday Night Lights has always kept it real, I felt like so many of the storylines were too dismal.
- I’m still unsure about Becky’s purpose in this show.
- Vince’s dad returning from prison and causing problems was the least shocking thing that happened in five seasons.
- Tami trying to motivate the school’s teachers and pain in the ass students made me wonder if the storyline was meant to be the CliffsNotes version of Dangerous Minds.
- Demonstrating the impressive writing throughout the entirety of the series, Coach Taylor’s ability to revive the East Dillon team felt inspiring rather than contrived.
- I loved seeing the wrapped-up storylines of departed characters– especially Jason doing so well as a sports agent.
- Making Mindy a main character was not my favorite – she is not exciting and neither is her relationship with annoying Billy whose stupid desperate choices put my favorite character in dangerous situations too many times.
- Watching Coach Taylor follow Tami’s success for a change was refreshing and another nod to the realism this show has always depicted.
Friday Night Lights is definitely one of the best shows in television history. By unflinchingly showing what small-town life looks and feels like, and the imperfect people that try to survive that kind of environment, we were exposed to true-to-life situations and relationships. Give it a try OnDemand but also give yourself time because you’re not going to want to stop watching!
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