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HELP SAVE THIS SERIES! February 8, 2008 -- There is an extremely good chance that this evening's season finale (the decision not to make any more episodes for Season Two has apparently already been made) could be the last episode of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS forever. Unless fans get involved. There are things we can do to save this, which is still one of the two best series on network television (I have to include PUSHING DAISIES on the best of the best list -- the other greatest shows on TV are on cable, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, THE WIRE, and MAD MEN). Here on Amazon you can do either of two things. One, you can watch individual episodes of the show on Unbox. Two, you can buy Season One on DVD. Hey, it's only $18.99! That is the cost of a large pizza with three toppings! The other thing you can do is to go to any online FNL websites (either the official board on [...] or just about anywhere else -- Google it -- and find out about letter writing campaigns. Fans last year saved what is quite frankly a pretty average show, JERICHO, from cancellation. Surely the same can be done of one the most brilliant shows on TV. Although NBC president Ben Silverman seems intent on cancelling the show, there is a legitimate chance that it could reappear on another network (come on CW! it would instantly be your best show by a gigantic margin!). I'll revise this as developments occur.

Warning! Some spoilers are contained in the following review.

So many of my favorite shows seem afflicted with names that make nonviewers dismiss them without actually watching them. Based on the name alone or the most superficial knowledge of the show, they feel they known enough to ignore them. I've had a tremendous time convincing people that BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is not only not silly, but one of the most intelligent shows in the history of television. Likewise, I've struggled telling people who I know love quality television that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA has nothing in common with the old Lorne Greene/Dirk Benedict cheesefest and instead is a television masterpiece that even someone who hates Sci-fi would love. And so now I have, largely without success, tried my hardest to get my TV-savvy friends to grasp a very simple fact: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS really isn't about football. Yes, there is some football in it, but like BUFFY and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, this is a television series that utterly defies expectations. All three shows are more about people and the decisions they make. The vampires, the space ships, and the football are just window dressing.

With the possible exception of LOST (which is fully back on track after a shaky Season Three start), FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is the best series on network television (though I would add that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and THE WIRE are at least as good, but BSG is on the Sci-fi Channel and THE WIRE on HBO). It came terribly close to being cancelled due to absolutely horrible ratings but managed to survive for a very simple reason: it is a stunningly great show. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS represents television at its finest, a show as good as the very best that TV has produced in the past decade. It belongs alongside BUFFY, THE SOPRANOS, THE WEST WING, SIX FEET UNDER, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and other shows of that quality. There were other very good shows to debut in 2006-2007 such as UGLY BETTY, HEROES, DEXTER, and MEN IN TREES, but FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is easily the best of those shows. It received critical acclaim and accolades unusual for a network series with such dismal ratings and perhaps its lone chance of survival past Season Two lies in its performance at the Emmys. I could be wrong, but my gut tells me that this could be one of those shows that finally wins an audience by the awards it will win. I think there is an extremely good chance that FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS will win the Emmy for Best Dramatic Series and that perhaps two or three acting awards will be picked up by its actors. I would lay even money that Kyle Chandler will win Best Actor in a Dramatic Series while Connie Britton will certainly receive a Best Actress nomination and deserves to win. On the supporting actor and actress side, I wouldn't be surprised if three or four additional performers received nominations, especially Zach Gilford for his portrayal of sophomore quarterback Matt Saracen, Adrianne Palicki as sometimes bad girl Tyra Collette, and Minka Kelly for her remarkable, nuanced, and compelling job as Lyla Garrity. And to be fair, there are three or four others who should receive consideration. This is simply the most talented cast on television. There are many, many reasons to watch this show and the quality of the acting is one of those reasons.

If you have not seen FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS repeat the following mantra over and over until you come to believe it: "This show is not about football. This show is not about football. This show is not about football." To be honest, if this show was about football I wouldn't watch it. It is about people struggling to live their lives. Take Matt Saracen. As the sophomore backup to the team's star quarterback he didn't go into the season to play much if at all. But after Jason Street, the team's greatest star, goes down with a crippling injury, he has to assume a job he is not prepared to take on. Meanwhile, he has to continue to care for his grandmother who is suffering from mild dementia and requires a great deal of care. His father, who is serving in the army in Iraq, is able to provide little direct assistance. And if his life isn't complicated enough, he is deeply attracted to the coach's daughter Julie (with yet another marvelous acting job handed in by Aimee Teegarden). Meanwhile, Matt struggles to keep friendships alive as he finds football success, which creates tensions with his musically astute Christian nerd friend (and member of a Christian hardcore rock band). Yet another mark of the show's brilliance is that Landry Clarke, his friend, is not presented as in any way a simplistic character (and again, he is wonderfully played by Jesse Plemons). He isn't one of your stock nerds nor is he in any way a stereotyped Christian. He is literate, intelligent, socially awkward, and a really caring, compassionate friend. His awkward attempted courtship of the party girl Tyra is one of many wonderful wrinkles in the season.

There are so many things to praise about this show that one could almost not come to an end. But clearly at the heart of the show is the Taylor family. I find this the most believable and compelling television family that I have ever seen. Coach Taylor is not a perfect person, but he is a wise one, fully capable of admitting his mistakes. His wife Tami (I did mention how extraordinary Connie Britton is in this role, didn't I?) is fully his equal on every level. She is smart, insightful, empathetic, caring, and implacable. With their daughter Julie they form a family that feels so real that at times you truly don't feel that you are watching actors performing but magically eavesdropping on a real life family. There are many scenes between Coach Taylor, his wife, and Julie that left me agog and asking myself, "Was that really acting?"

Another pole around which the show is constructed concerns attempt of Jason Street and his girlfriend Lyla to come to terms with his serious spinal injury, which leaves him without the use of his legs. If there is one bit of unreality to the show it is the speed with which Jason adjusts to having suffered such a serious injury. I understand why they did this. It would have been tedious to stretch Jason's adjusting to being a paraplegic over a couple of seasons. Instead, they took a process that should have taken over a year and shrank it for dramatic purposes to two or three months. But the emotions and dilemmas that his injury creates for both Jason and Lyla make wonderful television.

I simply don't have room to mention all the wonderful characters on the show. Even mentioning only briefly characters like Lyla's father (and president of the booster club), Jason's best friend Tim Riggins, star running back Brian 'Smash' Williams, or the minister's intelligent but bipolar daughter Noannie Williams doesn't do justice to all the wonderful performers on this show.

Nor do I have time to do justice to how intelligently this show is written. Even though it takes up themes that a host of other shows have dealt with, it always manages to do so freshly and innovatively. The finest example is the episode that deals with the fallout from some crudely racist remarks made by an assistant coach. The controversy builds to the point where it appears that all the black players will quit the team unless the coach is fired. I won't spoil the resolution, but the episode ends with one of my favorite moments in the entire 2006-2007 season.

If there are two series currently running that I could make anyone and everyone watch, simply because they are so extraordinarily good, they are FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. There are so many similarities between the two shows. Both have huge and talented ensemble casts. Both are brilliantly written. Both are filmed using handheld cameras and have a gritty, documentary feel to them. And both defy all the expectations people have formed in thinking that they don't want to see them. Both these series represent television at its very best. Please do both yourself and this show a favor: watch it.

In closing, I have to point out that one of the problems the show had in its first season was that no one knew when it was on. The problem is the title. NBC didn't want to put it on Fridays because that night is considered the kiss of death. But the fact is that it is probably the only night they could ever schedule it. No matter what they do everyone is going to assume it broadcasts on a Friday. So, NBC surrendered to the inevitable and placed it on their Friday schedule. Tune in and watch it! And kudos to NBC! Without any serious competition NBC has emerged as the leading purveyor of quality entertainment on television. The irony is that they rank fourth in viewership. CBS, with absolutely no critically acclaimed shows, ranks first. With other networks willing to pull the plug on a show regardless of their critical acclaim (such as the CW killing their only critically acclaimed series, VERONICA MARS), I tremendously admire NBC for sticking with this and other excellent shows that may not get the greatest ratings. Let's just all pray that the outstanding series gets the viewership it so richly deserves.

NBC Universal seems to be doing their part to increase the popularity of the series. Many series retail for as much as $89.99 before discounting down to a lower figure, while the standard retail price for most series is around $59.95. But they are offering FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS initially at $29.99 and only $19.99 after Amazon's discount. No other show that I have ever heard of starts off at a price this low. It truly is unprecedented. To my mind they are making us an offer that we can't refuse.
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on July 7, 2007
I didn't even consider watching this show at the beginning of the 06/07 season. It was a show about football, enough said.

Then it was critically acclaimed and low-rated, which I find is a sign of great television, so I gave it a chance. I didn't love it immediately--it took me a couple of episodes to get into it--but by the time I loved it, I really loved it. I was so glad that NBC had posted aired episodes on-line so I was able to catch up.

It is well-acted. beautifully shot, and emotionally engaging. And the price of this set is unbeatable. I look forward to sharing it with friends, hoping against hope that for once there will be a ratings turnaround in favor of quality television.
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on April 16, 2008
I got into this show for 2 reasons. The first one is I love football. The second one is that I loved the movie.

Now I didn't think this show was going to be nearly as good as the movie, since it's not based on a true story and it's on a TV budget... not a movie budget. But I still wanted to give it a try. And man am I glad I did. Friday Night Lights is MUCH more than just some dumb football show. Yes it does have football and yes it's centered on football, but in all honesty, it feels like football is just a secondary to the great story that we have going on right before our eyes.

Coach Eric Taylor has taken the reigns as the new head coach of The Dillon Panthers football team. QB#1 Jason Street is the golden boy on the team. He's supposedly one of the best quarterbacks that's ever been seen (according to Notre Dame at least). A close second to Jason would be Brian `Smash' Williams. The star running back that can actually back up the big mouth he has. Smash is also a star player that WILL be going somewhere someday. The Panthers are littered with talent in other spots as well, but a curveball is thrown to them in their first game of the season and Jason Street has to leave the game only to be replaced by the somewhat shy Matthew Saracen. Can Saracen help lead the team and win them and Coach Taylor the first game of the season? Well, watch the show and find out...hehe.

Coach Taylor is played by Kyle Chandler. His wife Tami is played by Connie Britton. I seriously do not think they are even acting when you see these two together. I completely forget I'm watching actors. They meld together so seamlessly you would think they are actually married. You can see the love in their eyes when they talk to each other on just little things like grocery shopping. You can see the hurt in their eyes when one of them slips up with the wrong thing said. You can see the irritation in their actions of having to explain themselves to one another because they've been together for so long. And even though they have their faults... they have the type of relationship most of us look forward to having one day (hopefully). Julie Taylor, their daughter, is played by the ever so cute Aimee Teegarden. She is perfectly matched with her parents. Even though she acts a little to smart for britches (like my grandpa used to say), she is still a really good daughter... who Matthew Saracen has a secret crush on. It's great to watch this high school romance happen between the two. It seems almost real to me. Saracen always starts to talk, only to come out with half sentences before she walks off, because he can barely keep his head straight when she's around... lol... I love it. These two relationships on camera work so well that you really do just fall back into high school again as a teenager. Plus, and boy have I been there, the relationship between Coach Taylor and Matthew Saracen has to be some of the funniest stuff to watch. Poor Matt gets in from Coach on AND off the field.

That's only two things I love about this show with much more going on that I won't really go into great detail. But you have Tim Riggins who is the `misunderstood bad boy'. Sounds pretty cliché but it he pulls it off pretty darn well. Then you have Lyla Garrity, the beautiful (and oh is she ever) cheerleader/church girl that is going to marry Jason Street one day. She's slowly being pushed away by Jason because of what he's going through. Her life and future is changing drastically, and sadly, around her. Tyra Collete is, what I'm thinking at least, the school bad girl (drinking and sex of course). Her home living is a mess due to her mom and her school life is bad because she's always with Tim Riggins and she's just doesn't care about school. Or so we think. Another funny character is Landry Clarke, the best friend of Saracen. Just about every part he's in has me laughing.

Friday Night Lights deal with a lot of high school issues such as love, sex, family, drugs, and friendships. The one thing that I just did NOT care for AT ALL was the few episodes on racism. A friend of mine said the same exact thing to me the other day when he got done watching the show. That's the only thing I just did not like at all about this show. It seemed like it had no actual ground to be brought up. Like it was forced on us. And it was basically one coach vs. all the black kids (kids... not parents) on the team. It was completely idiotic and just seemed out of place. Ah well.

I thought the show was going to be cancelled after the second season, but thankfully it's still alive and made it into the third season. I just don't see how TV execs can cancel such a good show when they don't even have any idea of where to put it on TV. The first time was up against American Idol (I believe)... and the second time is on Friday Night. Um. Don't you think your main targeted audience would be OUT on Friday Night watching high school football games or going out and hanging out with friends? Hmmm... smart thinking TV execs.

As for this DVD set, it's got some good extras on it, according to my friend. Sorry I haven't gotten around to them yet. But for 20 bucks... this is a STEAL of a deal.

Support Friday Night Lights. Don't let another good TV show get cancelled again (I miss you Arrested Development!)
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on July 18, 2007
A few months ago I found myself sick on a Sunday afternoon with a few hours to kill on the couch. Sadly, there was nothing good in our Tivo and Sunday television can be pretty abysmal. I decided to surf the internet a little and wound up on a link to the NBC website where you can watch full episodes of most of their top shows. I decided to just watch the Pilot of Friday Night Lights. I keep hearing it's pretty awesome and since I liked the movie, and I like Kyle Chandler, I gave it a shot.

Cut to seven episodes later at two in the morning, eyes swollen from crying as I'm forcing myself to shut the computer down even though all I can think about is that I have to get through the other eleven before Wednesday.

I am going to make a bold statement here, I think this is the best show on network television. In the space of seven episodes I became hopelessly attached to Coach Taylor, his family, and his players. I watched the next 11 in record time and by the end of the season, I was practically ready to move to Texas.

The story centers around Coach Eric Taylor in his first season as Head Coach in the "football is everything" fictional small town of Dillon, Texas. His wife Tami is a guidance counselor at the school and his daughter Julie is a sophomore. The Taylors have the kind of marriage I daydream about. There is a scene where Coach is watching game tape in his office really late one night and Tami shows up with food and beer. She looks at his tired face and says, "the field's empty, wanna go make out?" There is a playful sexiness to this obviously well lived in relationship that thrills me to the tips of my hopeless romantic toes. They've been at this for years but it still seems fresh and alive. They definitely argue and disagree but it's the kind of confident fighting you can do when you know the other person isn't going anywhere. And they both have good relationships with their daughter. I like it when TV admits it's OK to like your parents.

And there is the football team. Instead of a parade of stereotypes, we have a bunch of high school boys who seem like real high school boys. Some of them are that teenage boy combination of overly cocky but really insecure, some are just legitimately cocky. The sophomore that gets pushed into the starting QB role when the senior gets injured has a crush on the Coach's daughter and it takes him almost six episodes to work up the nerve to say more than about two words to her. She's smart and a little bookish and he awkwardly drops it into a conversation that he likes Jackson Pollack-apparently trying to show her he's not just some dumb football player. She lightly calls him out for the strange reference but she's clearly delighted that he's trying so hard. Maybe I love their interactions so much because I was one of those smart girls in high school and boy attention was few and far between enough that those moments always felt like out of body experiences for me. I can still get butterflies thinking about the look on a boy's face when he's doing a terrible job of impressing you but the very act of trying is melting your heart.

The Coach loves football and he's out for the State Championship the town is fervently expecting, but from day one-it's these boys he loves more. Head Coach in a small Texas town isn't a job, it's a lifestyle. And because he ends up being a father figure to half the team, he has a scene with a kid in every single episode where I end up in tears, wishing somehow I could get on his team. I don't know how his pep talks manage to sound so sincere and inspiring when they could so easily up as empty cliches but I credit Kyle Chandler with inhabiting his character so completely that you believe he believes every word he says. Whether it's the injured QB who will never play again or the whole team after a hard fought win, he has the right simple words that you just really want to believe.

Anyway, what I really want to say is that this show is tightly written, beautifully shot, tremendously acted, and uses it's fabulous soundtrack to complement-not manipulate-the stories. It's not one bit preachy but there is a definite sense of right and wrong that has really resonated with me. It's careful to make the character three-dimensional enough though that you are just as quick to forgive them as you are to condemn some of their dumb decisions.

Please watch it. I'm a little embarrassed for all of us that Grey's Anatomy-which I fully admit to watching-and all it's melodrama and morally bankrupt storylines won the Emmy for Best Drama when this little bit of perfection was quietly strangled by it's time slot against American Idol. Buy it buy it!
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on July 6, 2007
And I mean like a tremendous book.

Like when you were a kid and you sat on your favorite couch under the stairs, stack of Oreos and a glass of milk at your side, and devoured the next "Black Stallion" book by Walter Farley. Or the next Spiderman/Thor/Fantastic Four (pick one) comic. Or, as you got older, the next "Horatio Hornblower" adventure or the next "Lord of the Rings" saga or the next "Harry Potter" drama.

Watching "Friday Night Lights" (the TV Series) is just like spending time with a beloved book.

You can't wait to find out what happens to the characters next. You can't believe what terrible thing happens next. You can't believe what awesomely wonderful thing happens next.

You don't know that time is passing. You're in that best summer-like "unscheduled time" mode -- totally immersed in a world. You are transported by the atmospheric music of "Explosions in the Sky" and the scary-big skies of Texas and the small-town kindnesses and the quirkily sweet citizens.

And it's like a book because you really do need to watch it from the beginning. Unless you're a wacko, you wouldn't start a beloved book from the last chapter, now would you?

I just stumbled across the show's first episode because I heard Kyle Chandler was in it and that Peter Berg produced it. I was totally unprepared for the 21 hours that came next. Something entirely fresh. Entirely different. Entirely unforgettable.

I haven't advocated so hard for a show to be watched or renewed since "Firefly." Those of you who watched that show's 14 hours will know what I mean. It was all about the cast. All about the family. All about the human connections and the little moments between people -- the laughter around the galley table, the orange knit hat with the pom-pom on top, the shared fear and hope and pain.

You'll see what I mean when you start watching "Friday Night Lights." This series didn't win a Peabody Award for nothing.

First, you gotta buy the DVD. No sweat, right? All together now - "clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!"
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on September 27, 2007
Friday Night Lights, Season One is without a doubt one of the best purchases I have ever made. This show is poignant, thought provoking and entertaining. The performances, most notably those of Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler are among the best I have ever seen. Each character touches you in some way.

This show is about more than football, it is a beautiful portrait of life in a small town and how we each have our own struggles that we deal with daily.

I would highly recommend this for anyone who is a fan of quality television - you won't regret it!
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on July 13, 2007
Family rifts, pigskin action, small town conflicts, and intriguing teen soap plotlines - on the level of the best teen soaps like "Dawson's Creek" - dominate NBC's sterling new series "Friday Night Lights". To borrow a phrase from TV Guide, it's the best show you're not watching.

Puzzlingly, the show manages to attract a mere seven million viewers each week. Given the success of football-themed theatricals at the box office - most of them lesser creative enterprises - this series should have been a slam dunk. Or a touchdown... Or whatever. The show is even based on a popular movie of the same name. If only things were so easy to predict in television.

Fortunately for viewers, cooler, more patient heads are prevailing at NBC these days, which has extended the show's order to a full season of 22 episodes.

True, some people are made dizzy by the show's signature shaky camera work, but the effect generally enhances the show's allure.

Kyle Chandler is turning in one of the most disarming performances in all of television as Coach Eric Taylor. As head of the Panthers, he is ultimately responsible for an entire town's reason for being; the identity the small community of Dillon, Texas, rides on this one man's shoulders. It seems no matter which way he turns, someone is nattering at him, offering unsolicited advice. Whether dealing with his family, the players or the townsfolk, Chandler is the show's true heavy, and he makes it easy to buy the coach's unmatched leadership and unfettered morality. That skill makes Connie Britton's ability to keep up as the his wife and the school's guidance counselor all the more impressive. Their conversations, even when they're bickering, are one of the show's most amusing pleasures.

After much contemplation (not to mention much viewer anticipation), their teenage daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden) finally agreed to go on a date with newly minted quarterback Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford). Saracen is of course not your typical football player. A backup quarterback thrust into the spotlight when the star of the team has a paralyzing mishap on the field, Saracen is sensitive and a little bit bumbling, but in a completely charming way - conveniently making it absolutely impossible not to root for him.

There are other dramas and many more characters to follow, running the gammut from the player whose life was changed by that tragic football injury to another who is an alcoholic involved in a traitorous love triangle, from a dimentia-afflicted grandma to a dad at war in Iraq. In recent episodes, the pressure on high school athletes to bulk-up through the use of steroids has been addressed in painful sequences, and one story strand featured an unemployed, washed up former football star desperately seeking a job.

"Friday Night Lights" handles all of these issues painfully, heartbreakingly well. The series may occasionally be hard to watch, but it offers a uniquely satisfying weekly glimpse of small town life. It's not even a contest. "Friday Night Lights" is a winner.

Grade: A
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on September 11, 2007
Or a fan of Texas, for that matter. WATCH THE SHOW ANYWAY. It's that good.

That being said, this is not a show about football. Like all of the most incredible tv, this show is about people - character-driven drama at it's absolute finest. The boring, boooorrring pilot episode shows us each character as a stereotype - who we might see them as if we were, say, outsiders who might not think too highly of the pampered Texas football stars and the locals who have nothing better to do on a Friday night than go watch a high school football game. And, frankly, you just won't give a darn. (Although I'm a tv addict, even I fell asleep during the pilot.)

But then, each character grows. And each character has such flaws. And such conviction. And you get to SEE them. Really see them, and what you find is depth and strength and courage and weakness. The show faces issues boldly without beating us over the head with them (race, gender, prejudice, rape, etc.), providing a forum to express the issues that Americans face everyday. And though some of these issues are heavy, the tone of the show is one of strength in overcoming adversity. Of challenges overcome and the power in forgiveness and in doing what is right rather than what is easy. The team motto says it all:" "Clear Eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose."
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on July 24, 2007
I was first introduced to FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS via the film starring Billy Bob Thornton which I loaned from a friend following his recommendation. I wasn't particularly bothered about watching it (not being a big fan of American Football) however one night I thought `what the heck' and put it on. I have to say I was completely surprised by the quality of the script and the acting. I was intrigued to learn that a TV show had been produced as well and was about to air on ITV4 here in the UK. I was interested to learn how they could turn the premise into a full length TV show, without it turning into the OC with football thrown in, so I thought I'd give it a go.

With the exception of both THE SHIELD and THE WIRE very few TV shows grip me from the first episode. I have to say that I can now add FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS to that list. The characters are well drawn and fleshed out, the cast are fantastic and all make you believe in the character they are portraying.

Both I and my friend have been strong advocates of this show, often mentioning it to work colleagues and friends alike in the same breath as THE SHIELD and THE WIRE.

Slowly, over the last few months, both critics and viewers in the UK have started to pick up on this little gem which is tucked away on Wednesday nights at 8pm here in the UK.

Without a doubt the best shows on TV are coming from the U.S. and this is certainly one of them. Well done to NBC for renewing it for a second season!
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on June 16, 2008
I am not a fan of 95% of what is put on TV today, but this show has me hooked. Not only is it based on charachters you could meet in any American town, but it also uses rural America as the backdrop. The absence of the glorification of big city life and rampant materialism is nothing short of refreshing. The personal life of the coach is the most accurate representation of marital life than I have ever seen on TV. The pride in a state (Texas Forever! ongoing dialogue between Street and Riggins) is admirable and more than I can say for the mess of a state I live in. The key word for this program is real. It seems like a real small town withreal people living with real problems. The complete first season at about $20 is a great value for hours of truly interesting and entertaining tv.
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