The important question, as Abraham Piper points out, is what we’re going to watch now that Lost has left our lives for good.
I liked Lost. A lot. I have to say that and repeat it so the Losties don’t kill me for what comes next: it wasn’t the best show on television the past three weeks.
That position belongs to Friday Night Lights, the beautifully filmed drama that people think is about football. But it’s not. Really.
Friday Night Lights’s timing is fortuitous: while Lost is done, it rebooted with several new characters and an intriguing new central storyline. I won’t recap it here, but I will make a brief case why it’s worth your attention:
1) The show oozes–and there is no other word for it–authenticity. More than any other network show I’ve ever seen, FNL makes me feel as though I was really in the middle of the world I’ve been dropped into, observing the events as they unfold. And no wonder. They don’t film it like most shows, with three cameras and scripted movements. Instead, the actors are given instructions about the plot points and allowed to improvise with the camera’s following them, which creates a beautiful effect. Don’t believe me? Check out the teaser, and turn the sound off.
2) The Taylors. The central characters are hardly perfect, but they wear and bear their imperfections with a gracious faithfulness unknown in tv-land. They have managed to find that difficult equilibrium of respect, candor, and love, all while dealing with the practical realities of raising children and seeking excellence in their work.
3) The plot. There are no islands, no vampires, and–best of all–no time travel. There’s only that guy from down the street. You know, the guy who cares a bit too much about his football because he doesn’t have any other life. And the guy who thinks football is a waste of time because he wants his son to get an education. And the capable-but-underachieving girl who only wants to get away from her broken life, but has no way of doing it. And the talented kid whose mom is too drugged out to raise him. And the kid who doesn’t much like white people.
You know: the stuff of real life. The best part of Friday Night Lights is that it manages to take life in a small Texas town (which is not so different from the small Washington town I grew up in) and draw us in to the powerful narratives and dynamics that are always present, but that we might miss in our own lives.
There is more to be said. And I’m kicking around saying it here at Mere-O. It’s been a while since we’ve written about pop-culture, and Friday Night Lights might just be the thing that gets me back in the groove. So check out the first three episodes, and let me know what you think.