I love football. It's odd that with as much as I love football, I never once attended a high school football game in my youth. Of course, I didn't grow up in Texas, where small town life apparently revolves exclusively around God and football. Based on the book and the film of the same name, Friday Night Lights (premieres Tuesday October 3rd, 8/7c) digs deeper into the lives of those who play on the field and those around them.
The story starts at the beginning of the new season. The kids get up at the crack of dawn and drag themselves to football practice. Coach Taylor, played by Kyle Chandler ('Early Edition'), is the new head coach of one of the great football dynasties in the state of Texas. The town of Dillon, Texas eats, sleeps and breathes football. The Mayor gives advice to the quarterback. Practically everyone tells Taylor how important it is that this team win. The expectations are high.
Shot in a grainy, gritty style, the pilot episode feels like a documentary. In fact, there's a TV crew following the team around as they prepare for their first game. These guys are celebrities. Of course, many of these kids have demons hinted at and revealed. The star running back Smash lost a brother and won't allow anyone to talk about it. The slacker fullback Riggins hates Smash(and not because he's black -- he'd hate him no matter his race, he tells a reporter). The star quarterback Jason Street is told he could be better than Peyton Manning. The backup quarterback Matt has never taken a game snap. He lives under the radar as the starters soak up all the glory.
Taylor and his wife, Tami (played by Connie Britton, last seen on '24') attempt to cope with the stress the entire town puts on them as well as dealing with their daughter, Julie, who seems to despise the football team, refusing to eat even with the bench sitters.
If you've seen the film version, you've got a good idea about what happens in the pilot episode. What struck me was how much more there is to see. I didn't expect to get caught up in this show, but Peter Berg has adapated the story well for the small screen, especially since he's already worked with this material once. The game sequences are thrilling and involving. There's plenty of story here to keep viewers involved week after week. The question will be does it get repetitive? Will mock football games every week stand up to the real deal which can be seen through the fall and winter?
There isn't much on TV right now like Friday Night Lights. It is an engaging family drama. That doesn't mean it's sappy -- far from it. But if you are looking for insight into a part of America that doesn't live in New York or Los Angeles, this may be the show for you.