Friday Night Lights - The First Season

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Friday Night Lights Season 1 - Coach Taylor, QB1, And The Dillon Panthers

Mar 17, 2008 (Updated Mar 17, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great dialogue, camera work, perfect actors for the lead roles

Cons:Too many Hollywood endings, but I'm even reaching with that one

The Bottom Line: Pick up Friday Night Lights, like yesterday already.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Friday Night Lights was one of those shows that I knew I should've been watching, but for some reason missed out on. I was told that as a sports fan, this was must see because it not only was a good show, hitting on all cylinders, but also got the sports stuff right, which almost never happens. Since there aren't many sports TV shows, you need to look at sports movies and see what attention to sports details can do for a movie. Your best sports movies are ones like Bull Durham and Field Of Dreams, where the realness of sports was evident from the start. From what every sports fan was saying, Friday Night Lights had it down pat.

Well, they were right. The show is adapted from H.G. Bissinger's book of the same name. That book was then turned into a movie with the same name. And now, the show, of course, with the same name. Peter Berg directed the movie and now helms the show as well. The show follows the Dillon Panthers and their quest for a Texas state championship. It is a very detailed portrayal of the highs and lows of high school athletics and really runs the gamut in topics for season one. You have steroids, teenage sex, teenage drinking, corrupt boosters, recruiting violations, and my favorite, adult woman/teenage boy romance. But the main season long storyline has to do with new head coach Eric Taylor and how he has to juggle putting a winning team on the football field with his own family issues, the pressure from a small town who lives and breathes high school football, and the possibility of a new career in the college ranks. Kyle Chandler is perfect in his role as Coach Taylor. There have been many great coaches in movie roles, but Chandler's portrayal of the rough on the outside coach is brilliant. What actually helps his role is the perfect mate in Tami Taylor, played by Connie Britton. Mrs. Taylor, or Mrs. Coach, as Matt Saracen likes to call her, might be the best character of the bunch. She gives the character the uncomfortable newbie small town wife feel. She also played the coach's wife in the actual movie Friday Night Lights.

The writing is strong, but the thing that separates the show from the pack is the strong camera work. I know that some will be turned off by the bouncing hand held camera work, but it does get better later on. What is the true value in all of it though is the in your face style of following the action, especially in the dialogue scenes. The dialogue is really good, but the camera work enhances it. You never feel as if you wish the camera was positioned in a certain way because you missed something or wanted to see something more clearly. Even in the scenes where there are just two people talking, the cameras are working to get as close to the action as possible, accentuating the dialogue in every way. It does take a little while to get used to, but also, there aren't many sets and much of the show looks to be shot in regular Texas areas of what is the fictitious town of Dillon.

Like any teenage drama, there is going to be a hook for nearly every episode. And since it's only season one, Coach Taylor isn't driving motorcycles because of a mid-aged crisis. Yet. But the teenage drama stuff is done very well. The Taylors as a family are the most real TV family I've seen in some time, right down to their sixteen year old daughter Julie, played by Aimee Teegarden, having her first real boyfriend. Part of the reason the cast works so well is because the characters aren't all given the same importance early on. Star quarterback and Notre Dame hopeful Jason Street who becomes injured during the pilot, played by Scott Porter, is one of the main characters of the show, but his story lines are in and out the entire season. This allows other smaller story lines to become part of the focus, and you get to be tied into different plot lines. With an hour long show, and 20 plus episodes, the story lines are strong enough to where it doesn't drag on. Sure, some of the stories are dropped early on and some don't seem to get as much attention, but if you think of the show as a ball of yarn, they get very close to the core in unraveling it.

The cast of high schoolers is played by mostly 20-something actors. Zach Gilford plays the lovable stutterer Matt Saracen, who becomes the starting quarterback (QB1) after Street goes down. Though he looks to be only about 5'8 and 150 pounds soaking wet, his character is so likable that you forgive the fact that no high powered Texas school would go forth with a quarterback that small. Teegarden is the only teenager playing a teenager and her moody, yet loving relationship with her dad is spot on. Jesse Plemons plays Landry Clarke, who is also Saracen's best friend and has the biggest crush on the flirty Tyra Collette, played by Adrianne Palicki. Collette's boyfriend early on is the moody and rebellious Tim Riggins. Riggins is probably the character with the most dimensions and you'll love him, hate him, feel sorry for him, and ultimately root for him, but he never loses his bad boy image. They try very hard to keep him on the fine so that his bad boy never truly becomes a goody two shoes. Gaius Charles plays Smash Williams, a superstar running back whose main goal is to play for Mack Brown and the University of Texas. He's the closest thing you get to a Terrell Owens like character, but he has depth as well, unlike the real TO. Minka Kelly plays the pretty cheerleader Lyla Garrity, who is the high school sweetheart of Jason Street and their relationship goes through many turns based on Street's injury. Brad Leland, who was also in the movie, plays school booster and Lyla's father, Buddy Garrity. His relationship with Coach Taylor is intense and it plays out very well.

There are a few things that I could point out, if I was being picky, that I don't like about the show. But there aren't many. There are way too many come from behind, Hail Mary, "Oh my gosh!", type of plays, but it is TV and that's expected. Only Saracen, Smash, and Riggins, ever get into the end zone, leaving you to wonder, who the rest of the eight guys are on the offensive unit. Smash and Riggins play in the backfield, but every big pass play has either guy making the big catch. Don't they have wide receivers? Lastly, this isn't really fair, but soon, these guys are going to be too old to play high schoolers. They aren't in Beverly Hills, 90210 territory yet, where those trying to play teenagers are balding and have wrinkles, but in a few years, that could be the case.

The show isn't doing too hotly in the ratings, but it's surviving and we may even get a season three. Season two will be on DVD next month and I'm getting that on the first day.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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