Filling the Lost Shape Hole: Friday Night Lights

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.

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  • http://ahtimsir.wordpress.com/ Timothy Chan

    I heartily second your recommendation. I’m a Lost fan, but my wife is an FNL fan and she’ve won me over. We watched the first 3 seasons and found so much authenticity in there. One of the central themes of Lost is redemption. But I think the theme of redemption is even better expressed through FNL.

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  • lindsay marshall

    Yes, yes, yes! It’s a fantastic experiment in collaborative filmmaking. In addition, it makes me feel like I get to visit home once a week. :)

  • Jeff Q

    Agreed! I’ve seen the current season since I have DirecTV and there are some incredibly gripping emotional moments. Alan Sepinwall on Hitfix.com does a good job recapping the episodes, too.

  • http://mereorthodoxy.com Matthew Lee Anderson

    Timothy, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the comment.

    Thanks, Lindsay. And while it’s definitely about Texas, the small town I grew up in was astonishingly similar to Dillon. The racial tensions weren’t quite as obvious, but they were definitely there.

    And Jeff, not having DirectTV, I am working off of Hulu. So that’s good to know that there’s more good stuff coming up. I’m thinking about writing episode recaps here at Mere-O, if only to play a little bit at pop-culture writing, which I haven’t done in a while.

    Matt

  • Ali

    I usually only read this website, but I wanted to comment that I love Friday Night Lights for all the reasons you mentioned. I did not go to a public high school (I went to an all girls’ school) so football was not a part of my experience, but I, too, love how authentic and real the show is. Please do write about the show. I have enjoyed your writing about the faith, but I would also enjoy a Christian’s perspective of an aspect of pop culture like this!

  • http://mereorthodoxy.com Matthew Lee Anderson

    Ali,

    Thanks for the kind words, and the encouragement to write about FNL. Count them as pushing me into the “all in” category. I’ll start sometime next week, after I rewatch the first few episodes of this season.

    matt

  • Kathy Shaheen

    I whole-heartedly agree with you. My husband and I have watched and loved FNL from the beginning. Being from a football crazy town we identify with Dillan. I love how this show portrays real life. The Taylors are real people. I sit and cheer on the team while my son says, “Mom! It’s a tv show.” You kind of forget.

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