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81 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely brilliant show that apparently is going to be renewed!, February 29, 2008
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This review is from: Friday Night Lights: Season 2 (DVD)
Update: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS has been saved!!! I promised to keep posting updates on FNL and I finally have an exciting one. Multiple sources are now reporting that FNL will be renewed for a 3rd Season! According to Mike Ausiello, a deal with DirectTV is in place, but not signed. To their credit, NBC, although they knew they would no longer broadcast the series exclusively, went out and sought a partner to keep the series alive. It isn't clear yet how the deal will work, but most likely DirectTV will pay NBC for the rights to broadcast new episodes first and then NBC will rebroadcast them a few days later. I personally hope that DirectTV will show it earlier in the week and NBC on Friday evening. It just seems appropriate. So, if this story is true, FNL truly has been saved. I'll come back later an reedite my review as a whole, excising completely the memory that we very nearly lost this brilliant show.

I write this only a few minutes after the final episode of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was broadcast on NBC. This past week Ben Silverman, who took over as the head of NBC this past summer, threw ice water in the faces of all those who hoped that this extraordinary series might have a future on NBC. For years NBC has been my favorite network, just as FOX, which has killed shows at the drop of a hat, was my least favorite. The irony is that the former head of NBC, who was responsible for keeping such critically acclaimed shows (but ratings challenged) like FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, THE OFFICE, and 30 ROCK is now one of the powers that be at FOX, while my formerly favorite network is threatening to pull the plug on this absolutely brilliant series.

Here is the situation as we know it: although 22 episodes were contracted for the 2007-2008 season, only the 15 episodes that were completed before the strike will be broadcast and no new episodes will be made this spring. Tonight's episode is the end of Season Two for certain. And given Ben Silverman's gruesome statements (in essence he was asked repeatedly and pointedly about FNL, but each time deflected the question instead talking about how great 30 ROCK is -- other NBC insiders say FNL is dead at NBC).

Before I write about Season Two it is fair to ask, is there any hope for FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS? According to Mike Ausiello at TV Guide, many people inside the industry still believe in FNL. There is a chance that it could resurface on another network. Surely the CW could use a teen-oriented show this extraordinary. It would instantly become the best show on the CW by a gigantic margin. Heck, it would immediately become the best show on Showtime or HBO if they were to pick it up.

In the meantime, what can we do? One thing we all can do is buy these DVDs! Right now multiple sources are reporting that the DVDs will be released in April 2008. That is not very far into the future. If you haven't bought Season One, do so immediately. Right now it costs only $18.99 on Amazon. That is dirt cheap for one of the very best shows on TV! The other thing you can do is hit the FNL boards and see what kind of fan organized Save FNL efforts are taking place. If a show like JERICHO, which is 20% as good as FNL, can be saved, surely a show as splendid as this one can as well.

Last year I told everyone I knew that this was the best show on network TV. A couple of shows on cable -- BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and THE WIRE -- were as good or better, but nothing else on ABC, NBC, CBS, or FOX could top it (though LOST at its best could come close). This year I feel that it was one of the two best shows, along with the utterly extraordinary PUSHING DAISIES. To be honest, Season Two is not quite as good as Season One. There were a couple of missteps, but they were not fatal (well, one of them within the context of the show was literally fatal, since it concerned an instance of accidental murder) to the show. Most of the things that made the show so brilliant in Season One either continued at the outset of Season Two or returned within a few episodes of the start.

In brief, the situation at the start of Season Two was this: Coach Taylor has left Dillon High School to become an assistant coach at TMU (Texas Methodist University) in Austin. His wife Tami has given birth to Little Gracie as she is called. The state champ Dillon Panthers are not flourishing under their new head coach. Finally, the utterly unpredictable romance between Landry (who has adopted as his personal philosophy the principle of WWRD, or "What would Riggins do?") seems to be evolving in unexpected ways when her stalker/attempted rapist from Season Two reappears while she is waiting for Landry outside a convenience store. Landry grabs a pipe and smashes his head in, killing him instantly. This plotline is in the opinion of most the weakest aspect of Season Two. The other is the way that Coach Taylor's job at TMU keeps him away from home for the first few episodes. But Buddy Garrity brokers a deal to fire the current coach and bring the increasingly discontent Taylor back to Dillon. And so on. The truth is that Season Two has a host of small story arcs, most of them brilliant, a couple of them amiss. But all in all this is a stunning season.

If you want a scene that demonstrates just how great this show could be at its best, there is no finer moment than the next to last episode. Saracen, who has been going through some really bad emotional times, has in an attempt to deal with his grief (his grandmother's live in nurse, with whom Matt has had an affair, has left the country) gotten profoundly drunk at a strip club with Riggins. When he is summoned to go to the hospital to get his grandmother, he is physically incapable of doing so. Coach Taylor gets them both home and then explodes in the direction of Matt, grabbing him, yelling at him, and throwing him in the shower, which he turns on him. Then Matt, sobbing, asks Coach Taylor why everyone he loves leaves him, asking if he is worthless. Taylor, completely stunned, tells him, "No, you're not worthless." It is an extraordinary scene, as Coach Taylor suddenly becomes aware of the unbearable amount of pain that Matt is experiencing.

My favorite part of Season Two might have been the ongoing, improbable, but mutually empowering relationship between school beauty/hot girl Tyra Collette and brainy Christian nice but ugly guy Landry Clarke. This is one of those relationships that makes a lot of unexpected sense. When the series started Tyra was basically one of the school sluts, a smart but underachieving girl dating teen drunkard Tim Riggins. But after Tami Taylor becomes the school counselor, she convinces Tyra that she can be more. Though her mother is an aging party girl and her sister a stripper, Tyra is motivated by Tami's confidence in her and goes to Landry for some tutoring. There is a fascinating divergence between Tyra and Riggins in the show. While Tim continues to struggle with drinking and other forms of irresponsibility, Tyra begins to do well in school and forms a healthy friendship with Landry, who idolizes her. Eventually they are thrown together by the stress of her stalker/attempted rapist, but it is still obvious that Landry is really, really good for her. But the brute fact is that Tyra is stunningly attractive while Landry is just not a good-looking guy. And she is from a bad family while Landry's dad is a sheriff. Still, you can tell that Tyra and Landry are really good for each other. One of my favorite moments of Season Two is when Landry's Dad asks Tyra, who is obviously way hotter than any woman than Landry should end up with, what she sees in him. She talks about his intelligence, his decency, his sense of humor. She helps his esteem while he provides her with a relationship better than any she has ever experienced. But two things intervene. First, Landry's Dad, concerned with the quality of Tyra's family, asks Tyra to stay out Landry's life. In one of the most heartbreaking moments of the season, Tyra tells Landry that it is absurd to think that they could be together and orders him to look in a mirror to know why. Meanwhile, she goes back to her car and begins sobbing hysterically. In the end, love conquers all. Some speculate that if the series had continued that Tyra wouldn't have stayed with Landry. But I see the central theme in her character the possibility of redemption. Just as I think she would continue to be serious about her studies, I think she would have stuck with Landry. In an earlier episode, just before Landry declared that anything between them was over, she told him she needed time, that she had never been in a real relationship before. When confronted with the possibility of losing Landry, she finally makes a commitment, even to the point of holding hands with him at school. Tyra is the great redemption story on FNL.

This show suffers from an embarrassment of riches. There are an almost endless number of tremendous storylines on the show. There is Smash Williams and the blows to his dreams. There is Buddy Garrity, who started off as a minor supporting character and grew to become one of the most appealing characters on the show. There is Lyla Garrity's discovery of Christianity (and her involvement with new boyfriend Chris, played by THE GILMORE GIRLS's Matt Czuchry) and Tim Riggins's ongoing pursuit of her. More to mention than there is room to mention.

If this show is dead, it releases a staggering amount of talent for other shows. Kyle Chandler should have won an Emmy last year for Best Actor in a Drama, just as Connie Britton should have won Best Actress. Canadian actor Taylor Kitch not only made a convincing Texan as Tim Riggins but also displayed wonderful acting talent as well as impossible good looks (my female friends all gush when they talk about Riggins, though they also want to give him a shampoo). Adrianne Palicki managed to communicate both incredible sexiness as Tyra and some vulnerability as she came to depend emotionally on Landry. It is so hard to portray strong and needy at the same time, but she pulled it off. I could go on, but it would entail naming every member of the cast.

BTW, series creator Peter Berg shows up in the series finale as Tami's former high school sweetheart. He is the guy Coach Taylor has a fight with near the end of the episode. A huge THANK YOU to him for developing this astonishing show. And a big THANK YOU to executive producer Jason Katims for doing such a magnificent job on this show. I worry sometimes about American TV. In the series finale there were constant gestures toward mediocrity. There was a persistent ad during FNL about a new NBC garbage show entitled MY DAD IS BETTER THAN YOUR DAD. And at the very end, after the last shot of Jason Street brought the series to a close, there were ads for ONE VERSUS ONE HUNDRED and AMERICAN GLADIATORS. What is wrong with America? What it is that makes trash like those three shows possible while a masterpiece like FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is left without a home? And what is wrong with NBC? As I mentioned above, this was formerly my favorite network. But now it seems driven to become as mediocre as CBS. Though in the end perhaps the problem is the American TV viewer. We get garbage on TV because Americans turn out en masses to watch garbage. Television is poised to give us some of the greatest popular works of art ever seen, but our culture won't sustain it because of our fascination with junk. We watch shows like VEGAS and TWO AND A HALF MEN and OCTOBER ROADS and let truly great shows die. In the end, maybe FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was too good for us. Maybe we deserve the endless CSI and LAW AND ORDER spin offs. If we were worthy, we would have embraced FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. Maybe. Though NBC shares equal blame for not promoting this gem of a show by putting it in good time slots and promoting the heck out of it. Either way, the best show that NBC has is no more. Or at least is no longer on NBC.

I hope to god that this is not the end of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. I hope that the CW scrambles to pick it up. Or perhaps one of cable networks will try to make a home for it. All I know is this: FNL deserves a chance to tell more stories. We need to find out what happens to all these wonderful characters. American television needs to make a space for shows this good.
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Showing 1-10 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 1, 2008, 4:14:22 AM PST
Mr. Moore, I couldn't agree with you more.. no pun. ;) This is the BEST quality show in every essence and the jazzy garbage that continues to get chances and even worse.. vieweres makes me truly disgusted and honestly I lose hope in people. The way things are today it feels like shows that cause you to *feel* anything decent, honest and with integrity wither away. I wish the powers that be would listen with their hearts and not their wallets. People will follow quality. Maybe they shouldn't focus on making a profit.. but making a difference. To me the best and most positive one is to continue to believe in this show. To believe in something that is love, happniess, life and hope materilized like Friday Night Lights. I'm ordering my set today! Anyone that follows will *not* be sorry. I promise. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose.

Posted on Mar 1, 2008, 9:38:42 AM PST
I. Deswert says:
Dear Mr. Moore, Thanks for your lengthy and very interesting views on the show. I'm a European, living in Belgium who has been pointed out to the series by TMQ on the ESPn page 2 site. I have ordered the first season a couple of months ago without knowing what to expect. After all I was sure that a show on American Football and life in small town Texas would not air on a Belgian network, so why wait? From the start it was clear that series were extremely well written and held some superb acting.

Although my Belgian upbringing does not immediately provide for a framework in which I am able to fully grasp all of high school football and its mystique, I was immeditaley submerged in the storylines and the world they progressed. I must admit that I have read HG Bissinger's book and had seen the FNL movie, which both had their merrits, I believe it to be very remarkable that a TV series spin off knows how to capture the high school football culture and everything that's surrounding it.

In my opinion, FNL is a monument in American TV (together with "The Wire", which is available here on region 2 and with French, Dutch and German subtitles) but will unfortunately never receive the attention it deserves. One of my theories on this is that although US domesitic reviewers do not always realize it, with the still increasing sales of US TV shows on DVD, maybe networks want to focus on shows that have a much wider potential than just the US. The Sopranos e.g. is a hit everywhere, since Italo-American gangsters are part of the general cultural understanding. Maybe FNL, which is buitl around football (for which there is very little interest over here at any level) taking its time for developing characters and normal storylines is too hard of a sell overseas.

And although I regret the writer's strike has ended the series in a rather abrupt manner, I have pre-order this second series right after I have read your and Mr. Freeze's posts.

Here's hoping FNL will continue, from a Belgian fan,

Best regards

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2008, 9:39:27 AM PST
Robert Moore says:
Thanks for the kind words and I agree completely that anyone giving this a chance will almost certainly love it. I unhappily disagree about people following quality. I'm currently on the outs with the American TV viewer. FNL has low ratings, but they watch AMERICAN GLADIATOR on the same network in depressingly huge numbers. There is just something seriously out of kilter with a nation of viewers that will choose to watch AMERICA GLADIATOR -- or for that matter AMERICAN IDLE -- over FNL. Over the years most of the shows that I've watched most ardently have on the one hand been stupendously successful on a critical level, but lightly watched. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is a masterpiece, but some episode barely get two million viewers. For all its fame and influence (perhaps the most influential TV show of the past 15 years) BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER rarely got more than five million viewers. I dearly loved VERONICA MARS, but it never had anything other than terrible ratings. The only show of recent years that I both I and the viewing public at large have loved is LOST. I don't have an explanation for what is going on here. Are we Americans as a whole just stupid where good TV is concerned? How can we support an entire cadre of CSI and LAW AND ORDER series, all of which are average at best, and fail to support something as brilliant as FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS? How can we give a mediocrity like TWO AND A HALF MEN huge ratings while turning into ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT or 30 ROCK in only anemic numbers. What gives? But I think we can all agree that if the world were the way it ought to be, where quality tops everything else, then FNL would be a megahit.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2008, 9:45:54 AM PST
Robert Moore says:
I. Deswert, that is a fascinating post. Thank you! I'm delighted that someone from Belgium finds this as interesting as you do. Even here in the US a lot of people don't want to see the show because, they say, "I don't want to watch a show about football." But I tell them, "It is NOT about football." It is about people.

I will add that the show is completely accurate about how huge football is in parts of the United States. In Texas and Oklahoma and other states in the central part of the US small towns live for their high school football teams. I've lived briefly in a couple of places where the entire town shut down on a Friday night so that everyone could go to the high school football game.

The lastest word on the long-term fate of FNL is that NBC is trying hard to partner with another network. The idea is that NBC would show it first and then another cable network would show the same episode a few days later. It is hard to tell right now how good the chances for renewal are, but it is at least encouraging that NBC is working to save it. For that I am grateful. I'll be even more grateful if they actually save it.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2008, 12:36:15 AM PST
Sadly, I am completely understanding and in agreement with you Mr. Moore. I see those ratings and when I think of how hard I too worked to save quality shows like Arrested Development and Once and Again.. *sigh* shame on those who are watching the crap-ola out there. Do you think they just don't know better..? I can't understand it either. Did FNL do better when it didn't have the doomed times slot of Friday Night? LOST is another favorite of mine and it's well written and supremely superior in my opinion to the likes of According to Jim lol. Anyway, thank you for your time and possibly the best review of one of my favorite shows. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2008, 9:12:53 AM PST
Robert Moore says:
Thanks much Mr. Freeze! I actually have never seen ONCE AND AGAIN, though I have a friend who raves about its virtues. I want to watch it, but right now I think it would be too frustrating to watch only the first two seasons. So I'm waiting for Season Three to come out. My friend will lend me her DVDs as soon as Season Three is about to come out.

The brute, depressing fact is that no matter what TV shows are to us, the fans, to the studios they are primarily vehicles for delivering commercials. So for them a piece of garbage that everyone watches is better than a show that is critically acclaimed. I mentioned BUFFY above. Even though BUFFY has had a staggering amount of influence on TV, possibly more than any other show of the past 15 years (e.g., the first influential implementation of long story arcs, the popularization of the heroic female, the introduction of the "body count," the creation of the dramedy genre, the general raising of the intelligence level in a general audience show, etc.), from a network standpoint it is a comparative failure compared to AMERICAN GLADIATOR, which brings in a vastly larger audience and therefore is a better vehicle for commercials. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is a critical success, but most of its audience either watches it via download or through DVRs (FNL is another heavily DVR'd series), so it has to be disappointing in that regard to NBC Universal. The Scifi Channel wants you to watch BSG, but only if you watch the commercials that go along with it.

I think we may be reaching a critical point in the history of commercial TV. On the one hand, TV has never been better. I don't care what decade you look at, there have never been shows better than FNL, BSG, BUFFY, THE SOPRANOS, SIX FEET UNDER, ANGEL, VERONICA MARS, LOST, PUSHING DAISIES, THE WIRE, THE GILMORE GIRLS, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, FIREFLY, 30 ROCK, DEAD LIKE ME, ALIAS, the early seasons of 24, and so on and so forth. All of these shows were/are critical successes, but most of these shows have either struggled to find an audience or were able to find only a niche audience. Ironically, all these shows tend to have a very long life on DVD. Most of the fans of FIREFLY discovered it well after its last episode was broadcast. AMERICAN GLADIATORS, on the other hand, once it ends will have created all the fans it will ever have and there is less than no demand for it on DVD. Ditto just about every reality show that exists. I don't know what kind of business model can be developed that will help save the best shows that can be made these days while reducing the amount of garbage. No question DVD sales are a factor in keeping shows like BSG on the air (possibly most people watch BSG on DVD rather than live). But as long as most TV revenue comes from commercials, ratings will be the major determinant in what lives and what dies. Some shows will be kept alive because their critical acclaim helps "brand" a network as a purveyor of excellent programming. Hopefully that will play enough of a factor for NBC to keep FNL alive.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2008, 7:19:06 PM PST
You make so many good points that I totally agree with. And I love all the shows you mentioned for the most part.. some I just haven't had the pleasure of seeing yet. Another annoyance with the DVD sales for me is that when studios double, triple and quadruple or more dip their releases, the consumers become weary and wait until the 'final' release is available before purchasing in hopes of not getting burned again. However, it seems studios use this against us by claiming a set isn't 'selling' or they are too difficult to find in stores so it's basically set up for failure. Quality has to triumph.. otherwise I feel like this is some master plan to dumb down America to keep people in their place. *laughing hesitantly* That's just jazzy.. right? ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2008, 10:19:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2008, 10:39:52 AM PST
J. SHARP says:
This is a thread I just had to jump into. With you guys naming just about every show I've loved in the past 10 years (including BSG, Buffy, Gilmores, Veronica, and Once and Again), I just couldn't keep my mouth shut.

Why do Americans watch crap?

The answers I keep hearing from the average TV viewer about quality shows vs. reality/procedural/bad sitcoms are twofold. Adults over 30 (my peers) tell me: "I don't want to think and I certainly don't want to be presented with problems that resemble my own. Dramas about daily life like FNL and Once and Again are depressing. I want to escape. I want to be entertained." How decapitated hookers and bullet-riddled cuckolds in an all-glass police department constitute entertainment, I haven't discerned yet.

A recent marketing study of those under 30 that my employer commissioned essentially says they love reality TV above all other TV because: "I don't want to be fed information or narrative and be manipulated into thinking any certain way about it. I want to watch it unfold on its own and I want to interact with it if at all possible." (Which, of course, shows their abysmal ignorance of how "reality" shows are scripted and edited to present slanted narratives and manufactured conflicts).

Are we snobs? Is fiction dying and are we too archaic to admit it? I have to refuse to believe so. Otherwise, art - that creative mirror of our hearts and minds - is dead.

Oh, and Robert, another Buffy influence: pop-culture riffs and references.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2008, 5:35:09 PM PST
Robert Moore says:
Sadly, little of this I find surprising. I have a friend at work. I lent him the first disc of LOST and he gave it back and said he didn't want to watch any more of it. I asked why. "Too much work," he replied. I was aghast. He said all he liked to watch was the various CSI shows and then only occasionally. He said that if he started watching LOST he would have to stay up.

I do see an upside to all this. Why most viewers seem to want their Junk TV, there seem to be enough people who like quality TV that we'll be able to keep at least some of it on the air. The challenge with FNL is convincing all those people who love those other great shows that this is also one that they would love.

And right! BUFFY was stuffed with cultural references when most other shows were loathe to admit there was any other culture. There had been others before BUFFY, like NORTHERN EXPOSURE, but most of its references were a tad more high brow. I think BUFFY was maybe the first show to refer to Harry Potter (when in the first Dawn episode she said that she couldn't get her school supplies at the Magic Shop because "I'm not going to Hogwarts"). I'm excited more than I can say about DOLLHOUSE coming on next fall. It's been a bad several years with no Joss Whedon on TV.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2008, 9:33:42 PM PDT
I appreciate everyone who posts on here.. oddly enough I was just posting about people saying they don't want to care or think when watching movies *on a 'Rocketeer' thread just so you know ;).* and this is what I posted.. it seems relevant here. Oh, and I am praying you're right about FNL being saved Mr. Moore! WOO-HOO!! Thank GOD! Here's the post I wrote. Thank you kindly for your time and patience.

"I care.. I think in whatever 'genre' if you can make it as real as possible it allows you to make stronger connections to story, characters, events, etc.. otherwise why watch anything if you don't want to care, to *feel* anything for anyone or anything happening..? or even to be reminded that sometimes people do things for others. For the greater good.. *hope*."
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Robert Moore

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