Friday Night Lights Fridays: Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream

It has been a long time and a lot of miles since I last read Friday Night Lights.  At the time, I had lived in only one state in memory and had ventured beyond my small hometown just to the weird cocoon of college (and the even weirder cocoon of grad school).  Since then I’ve lived in six more states, worked in three professions, and started a family.  Notably, I did a swing through Texas itself, if there can be any comparison between Houston and Odessa (probably not, no).  I consumed the movie and TV series the book produced and gobs of movies and TV and fiction and nonfiction besides.

I almost put Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream down as soon as I picked it back up.  The book starts off displaying some of the worst pretensions, literary and otherwise, that I have come to despise.  Bissinger is a smug, elitist asshole.  But don’t let that fool you—he has written a phenomenal book.  By dint of luck and talent, if not good intent, he captured a magic, manic season in a place gutted by an oil bust and gone mad for football.  This is a book well worth reading whether or not you care about high school football or that big empty part of Texas.

(My review, by the way, is of the version featuring a new afterword written a year after the original edition was published, not the 25 year anniversary edition.)

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Friday Night Lights Friday: 30 for 30: What Carter Lost

“It was football season, but this wasn’t just a football story.  In Texas, it never is.”

Buzz Bissinger’s book left a sour taste in the mouths of Odessa Permian fans, who felt they were unfairly portrayed.  They felt vindicated by Peter Berg’s movie.  Peter Berg’s movie left a sour taste in the mouths of Dallas Carter fans, who felt they were unfairly portrayed.  Inaccurately portrayed?  Sure.  Unfairly portrayed?  Nah.

The depiction of Dallas Carter in Peter’s Berg movie wasn’t nearly as negative as the truth of a team that forfeited its state title because the principal changed a player’s grades to keep him eligible and that had several players arrested for multiple armed robberies.  30 for 30: What Carter Lost tells that story.

Dallas Carter was also, according to LaDainian Tomlinson, “the greatest high school team that has ever been assembled.  Ever.”

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Friday Night Lights Friday: The Movie

The Friday Night Lights book produced an all-time great family drama, a very good high school movie, and a very good sports movie.  That final game!  (More on Carter next week when I cover the 30 for 30: What Carter Lost.)

The movie hews much closer to the basic facts of the book than the show.  Maybe the TV show better captures its spirit, but the movie does benefit from the verisimilitude of reality.  Who would come up with a coin toss to get into the playoffs?

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Friday Night Lights Friday: Varsity Blues

American Pie made a hundred million dollars in 1999, but for those of us living in wide swathes of the country, there was another high school movie that was just as important: Varsity Blues.  I include it in Friday Night Lights Friday because (1) any chance to talk about Varsity Blues is a good one, and (2) Varsity Blues, like Friday Night Lights, was also based on the Permian Panthers.

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Friday Night Lights Friday: FNL season 5

I like this season, but FNL emphatically does not go out with a bang.  The actual series ending, though, as opposed to the last season itself, is just about perfect.  The heart of season 5 is the story of Vince and his dad.  Michael B. Jordan is just about perfect, and Cress Williams is excellent, but most of the rest of the season feels tacked on.

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Friday Night Lights Friday (early): FNL season 4

Season 4 of Friday Night Lights represents one of the ballsiest moves in television history.  Peter Berg moved Coach Taylor to an entirely new school, in the process dropping much of the old cast, adding several major new characters, and drastically increasing the number of African-American characters.  And it works.  Man, does it work!  Season 4 is arguably the finest season of FNL (I rank it second).

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Friday Night Lights Friday: FNL season 3

I’m going to come right out and say it: Season 3 is the best season of FNL.  It is not a coincidence, I think, that season 3 is also the first season after FNL moved from being a straight network show and the first season with a planned short season (Season 2 being artificially shortened by the writers’ strike, as I recall).

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Friday Night Lights Friday: FNL season 2

Oh season 2.  Much, much maligned season 2.  And not entirely unfairly.  I won’t argue that season 2 isn’t the weakest season of Friday Night Lights.  But as weakest seasons go, it could be worse (I’m looking at you, season 5 of The Wire).  There is a lot to like here, and, frankly, the Landry-Tyra murder storyline isn’t as bad as advertised.

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Friday Night Lights Friday: FNL season 1

God I love the Friday Night Lights TV show.  It is my top 3 all-time.  It probably squeaks by The Wire and rivals The Shield as the best ever.  I took advantage of the baby to rewatch all five seasons.  Let’s start with season 1 (available on Prime).

Season 1 is damned good television.  Everything great about FNL—except Vince Howard—is there.  But FNL only really hits its stride when it moves away from network TV purgatory in season 3.  But this is a damned fine season of television nonetheless.

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Announcing Friday Night Lights Friday – Index

I love football.  For the past couple decades, that has meant college football, but it wasn’t always that way.  Growing up working class in a small town, football means Friday nights and high schoolers running the Wing-T.

I haven’t been to a high school football game in over 15 years, but rewatching Friday Night Lights has my thoughts returning to all those cold fall nights under the lights.  If I can’t watch high school football—going alone to watch a game with strangers at a high school that to me is just a place to vote ain’t gonna do it—at least I can write about it and revisit the Friday Night Lights franchise in a blog series.

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