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Third-episode verdict: Friday Night Lights

Posted on October 19, 2006 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights seems to have been almost magically created to answer Mark Wright's question in TV Today, “Where are the shows that tell me what the condition of being a US citizen actually is?” Here's one Mark – The Wire's another – although it should be pointed out that finding a show that illustrates the condition of being a US citizen is like trying to find a show that illustrates the condition of being a European, given the US is continent-sized and just as diverse.

The small Texan town depicted in Friday Night Lights, whose entire self-esteem hangs on how well the high school football team does and who say prayers at the drop of a hat (no ten-gallons in sight), is pretty much a Texas phenomenon* so can't be described as representing the US is general. But thanks to the cast's reasonably naturalistic performances and the show's handheld camerawork and documentary style, you feel as though you're seeing the gospel truth of what it's like to live in such a town.

The focus of the show, perhaps even more so since the pilot episode, is the football, with large amounts of each episode dedicated to showing just how hard the team trains (it certainly makes all that rugby practice I did at school seem woosy by comparison). How much of that is tolerable depends on how much you can stomach football: while the match in the pilot episode was accessible to everyone, football fans and non-fans alike, football practice isn't so riveting to watch.

Also, a considerable amount of time is being spent on the kids, rather than the adults, and on the fallout from a particular incident in the first episode. If angsting teenagers annoy you, no matter how wide-eyed and Christian they may be, Friday Night Lights is going to be something other than your cup of tea.

So, it's starting to get a little dull, to be honest. I'm still enjoying it, but there needs to be some plot advancement soon. By the end of the third episode, it did look as though a corner had been turned and things are going to start progressing. But that could be an optical illusion.

A minor recommendation from me, then. It's pretty much like watching a “drama-docu”: if a docu-drama is a dramatised version of a real event, then a drama-docu is a documentary-ised version of a drama. If you fancy sitting through a series of documentaries on the same high school town, Friday Night Lights is pretty interesting in its way and you probably won't have seen anything like it before. But it's not for everyone.

Incidentally, UK readers, ITV has picked up the series, so it will be airing in the UK at some point, particularly now NBC has commissioned nine additional scripts for the show.

* Footnote: I hear. But what do I know? I've been to Austin. Once. For a day.

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