Recaps

Get With the Program: Friday Night Lights, Seasons 1 – 3

Photo Credit: NBC

OK, here’s the thing. Friday Night Lights is a show I should have started watching when it first hit NBC’s airwaves back in 2006. It was right up my alley. I loved the movie; I loved football even more; I was a fan of the creator, Peter Berg, and it was a continuing drama, which are the kinds of shows I dig most. But, for some reason or another, I never watched a single episode. Eventually, I started regretting that decision. All I’ve heard from friends, coworkers and read in various forms on the internet, is how good this show was. I even interviewed Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton for my day job and totally fell in love with them. Plus, this show has constantly been in underdog mode, always on the verge of NBC canceling it. Then the network pulls off a deal where Direct TV airs new episodes first; and NBC airs these shortened-seasons some time after its satellite TV run. I love underdogs. Yet, I still didn’t tune in. Probably because I was so behind, catching up seemed daunting. Last summer, however, I decided this Friday Night Lights-less existence I’d been leading had to stop. I’m proud to say I finally decided to Get With the Program.

Season One:  This season was so good. I loved getting to know the residents of Dillon. My favorite characters right off the bat: Coach Eric Taylor, his wife Tami, Jason Street and Tyra Colette. I loved to hate Buddy Garrity big time. And I was astonished to learn how football so clearly ruled everything. The Dillon Panthers were celebrities, the rock stars of the town. The stories were compelling like Jason having to deal with his tragic injury or Matt Saracen, assuming the role of QB, having to man up and step up to take the lead of the team. This shy, unassuming guy, suddenly had this immense pressure on his shoulders. At times, I thought he was going to break under the pressure.

Smash and Lila were characters that took a while for me to like. I also loved Tim Riggins, although he was such a mess. I really understood why people who weren’t even fans of football were fans of this show, because FNL was so much more than the game. I quickly got caught up in Coach Taylor’s mantra: “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t lose” and all the drama that surrounded it. Watching the Panthers win State at the end of the season was just brilliant TV.

Season Two:  As much as I liked Season Two, I had some major issues with it as well. Landry and Tyra were an unlikely couple that I really rooted for, but unfortunately, they were saddled with a murder. Landry killing the guy that tried to rape Tyra was a bit of a chore to watch. Same with Lila’s religious phase. I thought it was an interesting concept, but ultimately, not that interesting a storyline. Creating conflict between couples is essential, especially when dealing with high school relationships, so I get why they broke up Julie and Matt. The problem is, I really only like Julie when she’s with Matt, so just consider me Team Matt post-break-up. As for the thing he had with his grandmother’s caretaker, Carlotta, I just pretend that never happened.

Thankfully, there are so many other characters on this show, I never felt like this season was lacking. I love the FNL cast so much, they could recite the Yellow Pages, and I’d be on board. There were so many other Season Two storylines I could follow and love. I thought Coach Taylor quitting the Dillon Panthers and accepting the job at TMU was a pretty realistic thing to portray. And the fact it didn’t get resolved in one episode was even better. The hardcore Dillon Panther fans never got over his quitting. This show continually makes me feel so much. I have truly become invested in all of them. When they sabotage themselves like they like to do so much (I’m talking about you, Riggins brothers), it’s difficult to see them make these mistakes, but I also want to see them dig their way out of trouble.  And seriously, Eric and Tami Taylor are one of the most realistic couples on television.

 

Season Three: This was a frustrating season, in a good way. To watch how some of the townspeople of Dillon manipulated everything in the name of football was beyond frustrating, but at the same time, it was such great drama. I couldn’t believe the boosters held such power they could replace Coach Taylor and make life hell for his wife, the newly crowned Principal of the high school, Tami Taylor. And all over a Jumbo Tron! There was a transition going on with the boosters, too. Buddy was on the outs; a new sheriff was in town. D.W. Moffett joined the show as the ultimate stage dad, Joe McCoy. He was the father of the new QB sensation on the football team, this 15-year-old with a great arm, J.D. McCoy. Isn’t J.D. McCoy a great football name, by the way? It’s not quite college phenom Colt McCoy, the former Texas QB, but it’s close.

The way the boosters started to squeeze out Coach Taylor was fascinating and frustrating (I keep going back to that word, but it’s true). They made it hard for him to keep Matt Saracen as QB. Eric tried to be fair, but he realized that he couldn’t. You could see a transition happening this season. One year, the Taylors are the toast of the town, the next, they’re old news. A Texas coach is only as good as long as he’s winning State. No team can win State every year so it was pretty much a lose-lose situation for Coach. The tentative Taylor-McCoy “friendship” quickly turned into a case worthy of the Hatfields versus the McCoys (there’s that McCoy name again). It all culminated with the Board playing football gods. They fired Eric and replaced him with J.D.’s quarterback coach, who was more amenable to building the team around Joe’s son. As Joe McCoy, D.W. Moffett did an excellent job becoming the villainous face of the Dillon boosters. He thought his money could buy everything. And it did for a while.

Two events really affected me:

Photo Credit: NBC

1) Smash leaving. Smash was never my favorite character. The show did a great job making him that cocky running back, and even though he had the talent to back up his brashness, I don’t respond well to that type of behavior. But slowly, he began to grow on me. So, after he graduated and screwed up his chances of a scholarship, I really didn’t want to see him disappear into oblivion. I wanted to see him get into college and do something with his life even though it may not have to do anything with football. However, I really loved the fact Coach never gave up on Smash. He helped train him, get him back in shape, after his surgery. Even when Brian gave up on himself, Coach stood by him. His teammates stood by him. And when he finally achieved his dream, it was an emotional moment for me. Thanking his Coach and his teammates driving him to college really got to me. Losing Gaius Charles and his larger-than-life character of Smash Williams was unexpectedly difficult.

Photo Credit: Bill Records/NBC

2) Jason Street leaving. Things got so bad for Jason, I wondered if anything good would ever happen for him. He had ended up getting a girl pregnant, someone he did have a connection with, but you could see the life he wanted slipping out of his fingers. He took it upon himself to right so many of the wrongs with his life. And all the schemes to get money to support his family went out the window; he went to New York, and with a little determination and inspiration, he ended up getting a job with a sports agent. And with this new job, he was able to be with the woman he loved and their child, which is all that he really wanted. His best friend, Tim Riggins, was by his side the entire time. Those two had been through so much. And not a lot of it had been good (recently, anyway). In the end, they were best buds, who wanted each other to be happy. Seeing Tim have to let go and let his friend start his new life was a tears-inducing moment, for sure, but teammates graduating and going off to make their own lives is what happens every day. Scott Porter (Jason Street) was a favorite of mine, so it was hard for me to let go too.
For me, Season Three is when Friday Night Lights went from a TV series I liked to a TV series I adored. It wasn’t until Season Four that it became a TV series I worshiped.

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