Last week Friday Night Lights had its DirecTV season finale for their fourth season. That's right.. Four seasons have already come and gone and this show is still on the air. It's one of those shows that is critically praised but no one is watching and so it should have been canceled after the first season, but like great shows like The Wire - something odd happened, It didn't get canceled.
Season 2 started up and I have to say, it wasn't the best season. You could tell the writers were trying to appeal to the viewers and compromising their story telling ability to try to get ratings. Some of the things that happened in the first 1/3rd of the season just point to that. But as quickly as that change happened, it stopped and corrected itself.
It stopped caring about ratings and just got back to telling a great story. So when the second season was about to end it was considered dead in the water and was not expected to be renewed for another season. It was that show that was too good for regular television. Which is why DirecTV decided to help pay for it to stay on the air for a third season if they were allowed to show the episodes first. And just like that, this underdog of a show got a third and what everyone assumed would be final season.
The third season continued to crank out great stories and the character development was amazing. This was one of those shows that didn't hang on to characters if it was their time to go. The third season ad a lot of characters walk off into the sunset as their story dictated. It was also was one of the best seasons of the shows. DirecTV aired the episodes without ads and they were unedited. Something that when they finally aired them on NBC were cut down and some music was changed.
At the end of season three I was ready to let go. The show had given three amazing seasons of television that so few have enjoyed and most of the story lines were finally wrapped up... Then something happened in the last five minutes. Something that at the time it was unknown if it would come back for a fourth season but it changed me from being able to let it go to wanting there to be a fourth season so badly as the potential for the story was so strong. A few months later it got the green light that DirecTV not only wanted to do a fourth season, but a fifth one.
The fourth season just ended and I have no felt the love for a show and how amazing the quality of the production and the writing has been since Arrested Development or The Wire. It's come out that the fifth season will be the last one but to be honest, with this show that looked like it was dead on arrival for a network television show in the first season, I can more than happily be able to let it go at season five.
So you're probably asking what makes Friday Night Lights so good? I think it's a multitude of reasons. The very basic one is that at its core it's simply a family drama. But saying that is like calling The Wire a police procedural about Baltimore. There's so much more to it that just wraps itself around the characters. Friday Night Lights revolves itself around the students of West Dillion, Texas and shows you how life is like for these people in this small town that glorifies high school football.
Maybe I like this because growing up in Los Angeles, the whole concept of a small town appeals to me on a certain level. The certain amount of dilapidation around the edges of everything in town that just walks the line of being one or two tough economic struggles away from being a ghost town, but with enough life to carry some character. Which of course leads to the tales of struggle from the inhabitants trying to make it out of there.
It's sort of like listening to really long episode of This American Life. You get to hear the story of all these characters that feel so real and draws you in to learn more about it. Even if it's something that's not your intimidate interest or that if paraphrased to a simple sentence wouldn't hold your interest, it's the story telling in that tale that just grabs you and never lets go.
I've driven through Texas when I was moving back from Florida and that vast open scenery is one of those things that this show does so well. They also pair the visuals of this larger than life, and yet smaller with life areas together with the music selection. I have to compare it to Six Feet Under in terms of how perfect and how much thought was put into the soundtrack for the show. Which I would also relate to This American Life. As both have a very good selection of music as segue onto the rest of the story or a different one altogether.
So when season 3 was re-aired on NBC with some songs changed due to editing down for time, I wasn't very pleased with it. Specifically one scene that was a montage of various characters and whatever story arcs they were going through and Bixby Canyon Bridge by Death Cab for Cutie was playing over it just making it such an even bigger emotional hit to the viewer.
I've already compared it to The Wire in some aspects, but let me take it on to another level. Both shows had five season. This past season had a couple of actors from The Wire show up and become permanent characters on the show. Which only hammered home how much I love this show. Both shows are critically praised but that praise has not translated to any increase in viewership. While it's only on season 4, they have all remained consistently strong because the writers.
So while it may sound strange to compare an HBO show about police chasing drugs to a show about high school football in a small town in Texas but I'm willing to bet that history will look back at the 2000's and these two shows will be the examples they use. I can easily say that this show has the best Husband/Wife dynamic going for it that I have seen on television. Which with the fifth season being the last, I can see the demand for both Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton in acting roles will go up after this show ends.
Don't believe me on how good this show is? Why not read it for yourself from Variety;
As "Friday Night Lights" nears the conclusion of another winning season -- little seen, but enormously satisfying -- the parallels keep growing to another program that ranks among TV's best of the past decade, "The Wire."As you can tell from that article, I'm not the only one comparing the two shows. Maybe there's something more to it than you think and perhaps you should give this show a chance. The first three seasons are on dvd. While I'm not a fan of the DVD set for season 3, the story is still there and it's still as amazing viewing than anything else on television.
A cursory glance wouldn't suggest any obvious connections between the two, other than perhaps enthusiastic critical acclaim that didn't translate into viewers -- a trait that, alas, hardly qualifies either for membership in an exclusive primetime fraternity.
"FNL" is at its core a family drama, with high-school football and the yearning to escape small-town Texas life as its poignant backdrop. "The Wire" represents the great American novel for television, using the hopelessness of the drug war to chart the decline of a major U.S. city -- in this case Baltimore -- as eroding institutions break down and fail citizens, from the cops to city hall, the schools to local media.
It's the reason why I'm telling you about this now. While season 4 hasn't shown up on DVD yet, NBC will air in April. Which leaves you plenty of time to rent, netflix or just find it somehow find it online to watch before season 4 starts. You should get on this train before it takes off so you can praise the show as much as I do to others who haven't ever given this little show the chance it deserves. You wont regret it.
Clear eyes, full hearts, Can't lose!