Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pop Culture Curiosity: Friday Night Lights ...

A lot of my friends who know what MSHSL stands for, and one who probably doesn't, really dug "Friday Night Lights."

"Don't watch it at the Y," said Fannie, the one, when I told her I was going to whittle my way to cardiovascular excellence by watching it one 43 minute elliptical machine workout at a time. "I cried during every episode. You don't want to do that at the Y."

I tried it anyway. Trudging along, the pilot, as the OG QB1's helmet is sliced off his head. I spilled not a drop of snot on the console. But I did see that only watching it in an elliptical was going to require eight hour workouts and the Herculean strength of Tim Riggins' deodorant to fulfill. So I completely stopped going to the Y (again) and cozied into the couch for 55 as-close-to-consecutive-as-possible hours of Texas high school football.


"Friday Night Lights" is set in a small-ish town in high school football-hungry Texas. A place where a woman can spend 14 years as a stay-at-home mom, and parlay it into a career trajectory that goes from guidance councilor to principal to guidance councilor to Dean of Admissions at a university in less than six years. A town where a kid can bludgeon a rapist to death and, with his sidekick, pitch the dead body off a bridge and both a) recover from any sort of emotional ramifications by the commercial break of the episode where he is exonerated and b) never have word of the incident land in the news.

It is a town that caused me to Google two different versions of the question: "What is the legal drinking age in Texas."


"Friday Night Lights" was seemingly written by dudes who never imagined a future we would stream 55 consecutive hours of the show over the course of two weeks. It asks watchers to suspend disbelief so mightily that we should all earn a tryout with Cirque de Soleil.

There are little things, like: Wait, Tim Riggins. What grade are you in, anyway?
There are bigger things, like: Wait. Coach Eric Taylor has been coaching Jason Street since he was a kid. But Coach Eric Taylor just moved to Dillon, Texas. (This one comes courtesy of Jodi's eagle eye for  plot flow. More on Jodi's contributions later).
And the real head scratcher: Tami Taylor's rapid ascension from guidance councilor to candidate for a job as Dean of Admissions at a university.

Until about midway through the series, there is no evidence of technology. No cell phones. The only sign of online life is when Lyla Garrity is outed on a gaudy website for diddling Tim Riggins, soon after her quadriplegic boyfriend Jason Street learns that getting a bone dog could be detrimental to his urinary health.

In keeping with this sort of primitive theme, when Julie Taylor and Tyra Collette are forced into playing powder puff football as a punishment, it is revealed that none of the girls at Dillion High School are at all intuitive about what to do when a football spirals toward ones face. This lack of athleticism comes up again when Tyra briefly joins the volleyball team as a favor to Tami Taylor -- the new coach. (She's a renaissance woman, Tami Taylor is).

When the school district splits into two high schools, there is a racial shift. Dillon was so white it was almost blue. But East Dillion is multicultural. Still, the kids from East Dillon didn't just suddenly move to town. They must have gone to Dillon High School. Where were they the first three seasons? And why don't the kids from both schools seem to know each other when, logically, they have gone to school together all their lives?

And, what? No kid from East Dillon would ever go to Alamo Freeze?


I've just never really gotten into football. I guess I don't understand it. I did however fool Chuck into thinking I knew the bare bones. I listened to myself explaining the concept of a redshirt and thought "Oh my God, I'm smart. I'm really, really smart."


Season 1 sucks you in. Season 2 sucks you in, too, then suddenly cuts off in a really jarring way that is disorienting when you start, arguably the best season, Season 3. (This is because of the writer's strike).

Season 4 is an entirely different show. The old characters skip town for college. The new characters are hard to love, especially for people loyal to the old crew. You're only watching because now you're committed to the series and you've started to find yourself staring in the mirror and chanting: "Clear eyes, full heart. CAN'T LOSE!"


Early in the series, my high school friends and I started claiming which Dillon Panther we wanted to take to Homecoming.

Fannie likes Tim Riggings. She thinks they have the same haircut. "Sometimes when I walk past a mirror, I think it's him," she tells me.
Princess Linda likes Riggins, too. But she could also take Coach Taylor. I sometimes wonder if her greatest aphrodisiac is the whistle dangling from a neck.
I am 100 percent Matt Seracan, bulging Adam's apple, nervous stammer and five years in a yellow Lance Armstrong wrist shackle. Though I know that if I went to that high school, I'd have actually been dating Landry, which is not a bad thing at all.
"I guess I'll take Tyra," Princess Linda's husband Z conceded. I could hear him faux-grudgingly making the concession and giggled.


I like a good TV marathon. At the top of the list is "The Wire," which was the perfect example of the possibilities of dramatic television in the 2000s. At its worst was the time Chuck and I locked ourselves in the bedroom and watched so many consecutive episodes of "Weeds" that I could feel my brain recoiling when the theme song "Little Boxes" started to play. This was made more disgusting by the fact that we actually ate pizza in bed, which ranks somewhere near spending four days crouched over a hole in the dirt during menstruation, in terms of evolution. Note: The theme song to "Friday Night Lights" isn't terrible at all.


Around Season 2 I started working on my senior thesis about the program: "Tim Riggins as the Pacey of a new millennium." And that is how I got Jodi to start watching the show, by describing it as having a certain Dawson-ness. (A thank-you for the time she introduced me to "Pretty Little Liars," AKA "Best Hair Party on all of the TV.")

As we three watched the show, we kept a running dialogue on Google+ and THIS WAS SO DAMN FUN! It was like TV-book club.


As a non-football fan who rarely finds anything worth watching that isn't a reality show about pregnant teens, pretty sisters under the tutelage of American Hero Bruce Jenner, seven strangers, eight self-described "guidos,"  emaciated Vogue-hopefuls and chefs brandishing spatulas, I'm surprised that I liked "Friday Night Lights."

Really, it was all about the characters, a like em or lump em cast that included wholesome heartthrob Matt Seracan, Tim Riggins, whose abs distracted us from his booze breath, Dillon toughie Tyra Collette and the freckle-faced cutie Julie Taylor. Coach Taylor and his stare that says a thousand words, Tami Taylor and her reluctance to adopt the phenomenon known as "Mom hair." Lyla Garrity, the rich man's Leighton Meester. So pretty that it takes a season to understand that she is vapid. A sponge constantly adapting new extreme personalities. Buddy Garrity, who has the biggest face in show biz.

Truths of "Friday Night Lights":
1. Coach Taylor's team, whether they are Panthers or Lions, are always a second-half team.
2. If a new girl is introduced and is alternative cute, she will become Landry's love interest.
3. Chuck has the same flannel shirt as Billy Riggins, so now we call it his Billy Riggins shirt.  
4. As long as Buddy Garrity is alive, there will always be employment for former high school football stars.
5. This show excelled at making characters and their parents look eerily alike.
6. Chuck found a reference to Landry online as "The albino Matt Damon."
7. Chuck also found online that plenty of people had googled 'Buddy Garrity's sunglasses.


Jodi said...

If I knew how to, I would weave some sort of embroidery floss friendship bracelet for you that included the words "Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose." or maybe just CEFHCL, because it's a bracelet and not a belt.

Also, I love that you had an "I'm really smart" epiphany while watching TV.

And here's the real cross-cultural dilemma. Who would you rather take to homecoming Matt Saracen or Pacey Whitter?

Christa said...

I would totally wear that.

Dammit, Jodi. I think that I still like Pacey more. I think. Matt's maturity though was really appealing. His nonplussed look when Jules told him about her ringding with the loony TA.

I don't know! I don't know! Is this binding? I have to say Pacey. Partly because I love it when he makes Dawson cry.

What about you? But I'm adding Tim Riggins to the mix. Tim, Matt or Pacey.

Jodi said...

Okay, I 've given this a lot of thought, at least 10 minutes worth. I've weighed the pros and cons.

Matt: Pros? Sensitive, Artistic, Loyal, Coachable. Cons? A little bit on the wishy washy side.

Tim Riggins: Pros? HHBL (hunka hunka burning love), Wild, Rebellious. Cons? Alcoholic

Pacey: Pros? Thoughtful, creative, adventurous, rapscalliony, a penchant for older women. Cons? Flakey, known to make poor hair/clothing choices, Not so much with the loyalty.

Notice that all three boys have one thing in common: Daddy issues. Interesting.

Now, this is a big decision. If we've learned anything from TV it's that whomever you take to Homecoming (or Prom) is obviously your one-true soulmate and destined to be your life partner.

So all that being said, I choose Pacey.

Was there ever any doubt?

Katie Z said...

Loved your reflection on the best show ever. We miss it every week....

So glad I am in the % that knows MSHSL!

Mike is "tickled" he made the post.
We liked the comment on Buddy's face being the biggest in show business. So true. It rocks that Chuck has a Billy shirt.

Anonymous said...

Love this post! Am I the one who doesn't know what MSHSL means?? =)Oh, and thanks for explaining why the second season ended the way that it did... that has been bothering me for ever.

-Red Lipstick