Not quite a sports drama, not quite a teen drama, Friday Night Lights provides the perfect balance of both genres, making it one of the most watchable television dramas. Having recently discovered the show I have quickly devoured the show’s entire first season in just over a fortnight in between reading for the thesis.
In the small town of Dillon, Texas, one night matters: Friday Night. Eric Taylor has recently been hired as the head football coach for the Dillon High School Panthers, the town's pride and joy. Friday Night Lights displays the stress that the town gives the high school players to win, and the hope that the team gives to a small town, and how a team has its low points, its high points, and how they come together as a team on their way to victory. The plot is identical to the movie of the same name, but reinforces my opinion that television is a far superior medium to cinema. The first season of the television series is basically identical to that of the movie, but the series allows for 18 hours of character and plot of development over the course of 22 episodes, as opposed to the two hour self contained movie.
One story that particularly attracted me was the journey of star quarterback Jason Street. After being struck down by a ferocious tackle in the first game of the Panthers' season he is subsequently left paralysed. The show pulls no punches in addressing society’s attitudes towards disability and the issues associated with it. Matters as varied as Jason’s integration back into school, self esteem, grief associated with the loss of his abilities, and of course sex are addressed during the course of the season in a realistic manner without resorting to melodrama. After seeing similar storylines tackled in a variety of different shows I have to say that this is most credible storyline regarding disability issues that I have seen.
It is the writing that brings the show up to such a high standard, particularly in such a tight ensemble drama. The way in which the writers manage to interweave the storylines of the varied characters allows the show to adopt many different tones. It can play out as a standard high school drama akin to One Tree Hill with the shows many love triangles, a family drama following the trials and tribulations of the Taylor clan attracts the more discerning viewers, and a typical sports drama that follows an entire football year interests the sports nuts.
Apparently the show has teetered on the edge of cancellation since it premiered in the US during 2007. This is a great pity because its rare that a television series is able to maintain a high standard of quality, whilst providing a visceral response. Friday Night Lights is tender, exciting, intelligent, engrossing, thrilling and most of all entertaining.