Preview: Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

In the US: NBC, Tuesdays, 8/7c. Starts October 3rd.

In the UK: Not acquired (and probably won’t be cos it’s about American football)

Ah, the TV series of the film of the book. Always a heady combination. And it’s all about sport: (American) football, to be exact. Who can resist?

Okay. I’m being sarcastic. Plus ça change, and all that. But actually, despite being a notorious (any) football hater, I really kind of enjoyed Friday Night Lights. It wasn’t totally captivating, but it had ‘qualities’.

For starters, the series is as much about the effect high school football has on the lives of the small-town inhabitants the show depicts. There’s the desperate by everyone in town for the need to win, because frankly there’s not much else for them to pin their hopes to. There are the ambitions of those on the team, the dreams of becoming rich and famous, the rivalries with their team members.

This focus is a major feature of the book, which was an account of a real small town in the US. That got lost somewhat in the film, but it’s been revived here to good effect.

Then there’s the fact it’s about regular people. Regular Texans. Not cops or accountants or lawyers or venture capitalists, like most of the Fall dramas. Just blue-collar workers and their kids, school teachers and their ilk. The kind of people who have to save up to buy wardrobes. The kind of people who will have a group prayer for an injured player and mean it. That’s refreshing.

The visual style is also quite involving. When the story’s not dwelling on the obligatory big game, there’s very much a documentary feel to the show, with handheld wobbliness, bad lighting, warts-and-all shots of people and settings. Although there are enough recognisable faces among the actors (namely Kyle Chandler from Early Edition and Connie Britton from Spin City, 24 and The West Wing) to disabuse you of the notion, it does feel at times as though you’re watching real events.

Then there’s the football itself. Football is usually pretty dull to watch, but this is “drama football”. If film is real-life with the dull bits taken out, then “drama football” is football without the relentless ad breaks, etc. Even for someone like me, the scenes on the field were actually pretty exciting – you could see how someone could enjoy the tactics and skills involved.

The script has its share of clichés: this isn’t Hoop Dreams, by any shot, and the big game has the ending you’d expect. But there is enough originality and attempts to get at some form of real-life that it’s worth watching. I’m not sure I’d watch it with a passion, but I’ll certainly be making it as far as episode three, I reckon.

Here’s a promo for the show, so you can get a slight feel for it.

Cast

Kyle Chandler (Coach Eric Taylor)

Connie Britton (Tami Taylor)

Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen)

Adrianne Palicki (Tyra Collette)

Jesse Plemons (Landry Clarke)

Minka Kelly (Lyla Garrity)

Scott Porter (Jason Street)

Aimee Teegarden (Julie Taylor)

Gaius Charles (Brian Williams)

Taylor Kitsch (Tim Riggins)

Studio

NBC Universal Television Studio

Imagine Television

Executive Producer/Writer/Director

Peter Berg Friday Night Lights, Chicago Hope

Executive Producer

Brian Grazer The Da Vinci Code, A Beautiful Mind

Executive Producer

David Nevins Arrested Development

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