Late to the Party: Friday Night Lights

I’m really glad I didn’t grow up in a town where high-school sports were this big a deal. Who is it worse for — the kids whose entire present and future are wrapped up in football, or the ones who don’t care and have to glean whatever value they can from elsewhere?

I was in high school when Friday Night Lights started. Now, watching it for the first time at thirty-one, I find myself identifying completely with the adults and not at all with the kids. Maybe the wide-ranging, multigenerational point of view is one of the reasons the show had trouble finding a wide audience, but the core ensemble of characters and the actors who play them are definitely its compelling force. Even as I was sometimes frustrated with the writing (misplaced sitcommishness, contrived conflict, good storyline ideas dropped too soon while others outstayed their welcome) or the direction (endless shaky-cam and crosstalk), I always felt like the people I was watching were real to themselves and each other, and there was always an unexpectedly smart line or swerve back to reality to keep me engaged.

There’s too much going on in five seasons to get into much detail — I hope there’ll be conversation in the comments — but overall I’m sorry I missed this show the first time around, and yes, it did make me care about football. (I even absorbed some of the rules.) I’ll always be happy to see these actors wherever else they show up.