When I first heard about Clear Eyes, Full Shelves from Sarah and Laura, the Friday Night Lights reference flew right over my head. They exchanged glances, cackled giggled, and laughingly explained the name of their blog. I responded with a big fat “Huh?”
But my ignorance continued unabated until I was invited to review books for them. My default response to the offer of books to read is—and always will be—a resounding HELL YES.
Thus, in order to do justice to the FNL Character Rating, in the name of research I decided I should actually watch some of this TV show.
Let me begin by saying I grew up in small towns all around Arizona. For eighteen years I lived in towns where the only bookstore was the Christian bookstore. Where at least a quarter of the students were Hispanic and the division between them and the gringos was stark. Where disagreeing with the government was considered unpatriotic. For a shy, spanish-speaking white girl who loved books, you would have a hard time finding a more alien environment—an environment that managed to be simultaneously hostile and home.
And while the experience has given me an interesting perspective, I have to say I love living in Portland, Oregon now. So you can understand why I might be reluctant to plunge back into this world again.
But FNL is special.
It isn’t simply a show about football. It’s a show that captures the emotional life of a small Texas town without losing the perspective that comes from some distance. We see the negative effects of football upon the town, the fanatical, single-minded attention that leads to the neglect of other culture, other values.
We see the god-like status these athletes are given and the misuses teenage boys make of that power. And we also see how much football means to them. It makes a team out of individuals who could easily fracture without it. Football makes warriors out of teenagers and unites a town desperately in need of hope. Every viewpoint is given its due and presented, without bias, to the audience. Every issue is explored from all the angles.
This evenhandedness gives the characters a remarkable depth.
Every character has a story. Every character has real motivations for their actions. Every character is relatable, whether or not they’re likable (cough*Lyla Garrity*cough). They are all so real, so three dimensional, I’ve occasionally had difficulty separating an FNL character from someone in my own life of whom they remind me. I know that, for example, I dislike Lyla in part because her unshakeable belief that things will work out for her reminds me of myself when I was younger.
This close a link between fact and fiction just proves FNL incredibly deft.
The most touching drama contains a strong element of emotional believability, no matter how fantastical the situation. Just as there is a place in this world for drama, there is definitely a place in this world for fantasy. The two aren’t always good when combined, however. In this, Friday Night Lights stands out from the majority of programming.
Okay, maybe Dylan is a bit more happening than your average Texas town, but not by much. The drama comes from everyday struggles: small victories, even smaller defeats. There’s no need to stray into soap opera territory when real life offers such rich fodder. Of course, it takes incredibly skilled writing and acting to capture these nuanced interactions, which is why it is rare indeed to see them reflected so accurately.
So yeah, I like the show. I’ve just started the second season, so no spoilers please, but what do you think? Is there a particular trait that makes FNL your favorite? How about the characters? Do you identify with or dislike any in particular? Bo, the cutest kid alive or what? Finally: If FNL is a religion, does that make Tim Riggins Jesus?