Thursday, March 29, 2007

"This is our dirt! This is our mud!": Friday Night Lights

I know some of us did it months ago, but I think it's time to name Friday Night Lights the best show airing on television right now. It certainly helps that The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood and Galactica are all off the air right now, but the fact that Lights could give any one of those four a run for its money shows just how great this show is. It started out as very good with the promise of improving to must-watch, but it's grown into maybe the best network television series in many, many years. It's more ambitious and more closely observed than any other series on network right now, and it only grows more confident in its abilities to tell the stories of the small town it chronicles so well from week to week. Even the off episodes are better than just about anything else on television.

And almost no one is watching.

This is one of the things that frustrates me about TV. The times when there's a series that the critics and audience can agree on are few and far between. Now, obviously, critics who watch TV for a living will shy away from the predictable and sometimes all you want when you get home from work is a little mind candy. That's fine. I get it.

But there are also scads of people out there who complain about how My So-Called Life or Freaks and Geeks or Arrested Development were canceled and then ignore shows of that level in their very midst -- namely, this one. And this is going to just turn into another show, caught up with after the fact and bemoaned when we all had the chance to save it RIGHT NOW.

Look, I know the network TV model is broken. I know watching on DVD is way more fun than watching from week-to-week (which breeds resentment at any show, just because you have to wait and have no control over how the story is doled out). But. . .COME ON! Jump in over the next two weeks. Because I'm going to roll my eyes at you when you say, "How could the network cancel this?!" It's a two-way street people -- if the networks put good shows on, we have to WATCH them.

Anyway, tonight's episode, featuring a Mud Bowl was damn near perfect. While the show has taken pains to be Not About Football, it needs to return to that well from time to time, and this was a good example of it doing that. The football was compelling, the sense that this is the way the game was meant to be played was palpable, and Saracen's evolution from stuttering kid to football star is complete. I'm sure the team could lose state, but at this point, it won't really matter, I think.

And the plots surrounding the football were pretty great too -- especially the quest to turn the cow pasture into a field. The one thing that made me wince was the Tyra rape -- not because I didn't think it was possible, but because it seemed so set up -- rain storm, one guy in the restaurant, no one else around, etc., etc., etc. The show quickly redeemed itself by having Tyra rescue herself, rather than Landry doing so, and the moment between the two when she was completely vulnerable was incredible. I hope that the show doesn't try to shoehorn these two together (I can't imagine it doing so), but I liked their interactions here.

Heck, I even liked the Jason-coaches-Matt storyline, complete with a too-obvious closing line ("You ever thought about being a coach?"). I didn't see how the producers would keep Street on the show next season, but now I do. And the two actors playing these two kids have such great chemistry that I want to see more. And, hey, what about that scene with the settlement? Wasn't that a pip?

I love that the show is wrapping up its storylines more or less. Because people like YOU aren't watching it and are going to catch up on DVD, and say, "That was great. Why didn't they make more?"

Only two left. Enjoy it while you can.


Lee said...

Hey, I'm watching. Hell, I'm religious about the show, but sadly I live in the UK and watch it illegally, which doesn't give me much sway with NBC.

Anyway, I loved this episode, and can't wait for the Voodoo showdown.

David Sims said...

My, aren't you combative today, Todd!

I think the reason people aren't screaming for this show's renewal is, despite the numbers, everyone's been downplaying that it could be in trouble. I mean, all the gossip is that the show is basically bound to come back. It's obviously in the back of my mind that it might not, which would be horrible, but there hasn't been any urgency about such a thing.

All that aside this was a FANTASTIC episode. One of the show's best. No more to be said.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

Oh, it'll come back. NBC doesn't have anything else, and everyone there is in love with it (as you will see if I ever post the Super TV Preview).

I'm just tired of people who bemoan shows being canceled that they've primarily watched on DVD (then again, I watch damn near everything on TiVo, so I'm not the ideal viewer either -- though I did watch this episode live).