Friday, July 15, 2011

A full heart for 'Friday Night Lights'

Go Lions!

That would be the East Dillon Lions, the fictional team that often manages to win games in the final seconds of play. But the football is just part of the drama on "Friday Night Lights." I like football, but I love the relational elements of the TV show that has done so many things right.

"Friday Night Lights" is ending tonight after five seasons. We watched the first four seasons on Netflix, so we came late to the pep rally. But we're here now.

It's no secret I like TV. But I also can get annoyed with TV. "Friday Night Lights" did so many things I wish other shows would.

1. The cast evolved.
Other shows I've loved like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Beverly Hills, 90210" have focused on the characters who have been there from the pilot episode. "Friday Night Lights" managed to have characters move on, because that's reality, and develop the newcomers in ways that made you want to root for them too. Even though the Capeside few lingered, at least they went to college after four years of high school in "Dawson's Creek."

Sure, we may have wanted more of Tim Riggins scrappy ways, but somebody like Smash Williams or Vince Howard was bound to come into the spotlight. That's what happens in high school, and life. And Jason Street was going to have to find a way to adapt to life changed by a serious football injury. I do love how the writers have included Tim, Tyra, Julie and Matt in the closing episodes because reunions and homecomings do happen in real life too. Although I am wondering about Lyla Garrity.

The writers also developed minor characters into major characters. Take Billy Riggins and Mindy Collette. They were older and out of high school when the season started, but they settled into adulthood. Sometimes people do stay around the small town others were more than ready to leave.

2. It's not dragging on.
I had doubts when Coach Taylor went to resurrect the crosstown East Dillion Lions after leaving the powerhouse Dillon Panthers with a short college stint between. But it worked. I read in a well-done behind-the-scenes story that Coach Taylor replaced the blue from the early seasons with the rivaling red and made it his own. It's true.

But even so, FNL creators realize good things have to end before they become annoying, repetitive things. This is another reason I admire the "Lost" creators. They had a plan for six seasons and stuck with it, even though plenty of fans weren't ready for it to end. Ending while things are still good and the audience is still enthralled with the characters and their stories is a good move in my opinion. Failing to do this is why I gave up "Grey's Anatomy." And I'm wondering how "Army Wives," after five seasons I just crammed into a couple months, is going to handle the next steps.

3. It's not just about football.
I wouldn't call "Friday Night Lights" a sports show. Yes, some characters coach football, others play football and plenty support small-town Texas football. But it's not about football. It's about community and family and teamwork and dreaming. And sometimes life is hard, but you pick yourself up -- with the help of those around you -- and keeping going.

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose.

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