Tuesday, October 10, 2006

According to this week’s issue of TV Guide, NBC’s >Friday Night Lights isn’t doing too well in the ratings. It’s coming in third, after established hits NCIS (which I’ve been watching since the beginning) and Dancing with the Stars (which doesn’t interest me, but I’m in the minority here). So it’s already fighting an uphill battle.

It’s got a couple of other strikes against it, too. It’s about football, so it’s automatically going to lose that segment of the audience that isn’t interested in football at all. I mean, I’m not interested in football at all, and that was almost enough to make me give this show a pass. Only I tend to be less knee-jerk than the average audience member, I think.

Then there’s how it looks and feels. It’s about a bunch of high school kids, but it doesn’t seen one bit like Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill (another sports-oriented high school drama, come to think of it). It’s got different angles edited together, if you pay attention to such things, but it looks even more like a documentary than the “mockumentary,” The Office. So it’s a new show, competing against popular incumbents, and it doesn’t have the crutch of being comfortable and familiar to lean on.

What it does have going for it is a low-key feeling of verisimilitude. Tonight’s episode featured so many moments that most other series would have played for melodrama. Whether it’s the scene where Coach Taylor agonized over his team’s chances with their first string quarterback hospitalize while his wife comforted him, or the scene where that quarterback learned the true extent of his injuries, the dialogue felt like honest, heartfelt reactions, and the actors played it like real human beings. I’m all for the stylized, snappy dialogue of an Aaron Sorkin or a Joss Whedon, but sometimes, it helps to hear characters talking the way real people talk, not the way people would like to talk.

And, of course, it helps to have actors who can keep the tone real, like Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, and all the kids who play the teenagers, who actually seem like real teenagers. Between this show, The Wire, and Heroes, maybe we’ve turned some sort of corner.

So I’m going to keep watching Friday Night Lights as long as it lasts, and I hope it finds a broader audience. Even if it is about football.

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