So last week went by in sort of a blur-I spent a few days in New York that included a string of late late nights and early early mornings. My weekend was a little crazy as well and the result was that Sunday I was pretty destroyed. I got home from church and all I wanted to do was lay around. Sadly, there was nothing good in our Tivo and Sunday television can be pretty abysmal. I decided to catch up on some blog stalking and wound up on a link to the NBC website where you can watch full episodes of most of their top shows. Several people have mentioned recently that I remind them of Tina Fey on 30 Rock so I watched a few of those(and while I'm going to take those comments as a compliment, there might also be a diss hidden in there somewhere...)and deemed it a worthy replacement for The OC on my Thursday nights. Then 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 have become hopelessly attached to Coach Taylor, his family, and his players. I feel like maybe I could live in their town. At least through high school football season.
The story centers around Coach Eric Taylor in his first season as Head Coach in the "football is everything" 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 is being quietly strangled by it's time slot against American Idol.
All 18 episodes are available at nbc.com so get to watching!