Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Lights are back on

While we're taking care of relatively trivial matters (see intro to previous post)...my weekends are a little brighter since "Friday Night Lights" has come back for its third season, after I had assumed it had gone the way of other well-done, entertaining shows that are at once thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying...i.e. cancellation. I've seldom been happier to be wrong. OK, that's not saying much (see previous post).

The show features characters that are realistically drawn but have interesting lives (a tender balance). Admittedly they are statistically more attractive than the average sampling of the population, but then this is a show mostly about jocks, jocks' girlfriends, cheerleaders (the latter two often being the same), and former jocks and former jocks' wives. And yes, there's a stripper or two, but they're not the heroes. In fact, that aspect (the wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl trying to better herself) is one of the many good v. evil stories that make this show interesting. Not just us v. them, Bad Guy v. Good Guy, but the inner struggles to make the BEST choices as well as the RIGHT ones, and sometimes the consequences of making bad ones. There's not much glamour even for the jocks; the photography captures the grit and ordinary nature of life in a small Texas town, far from L.A. polish. The storylines do more to bring reality to the myths of the sports hero and the "cool crowd" than the other way around. The high school football game, as looming backdrop or as center stage, is the perfect metaphor for these dramas: the lofty dreams and distant goals of life, the angst of youth as well as the hardships of adulthood, and the victories that make it all worthwhile.

Something for everyone here. Sports, romance, family, adults who care about young people as a profession and as a personal passion...not to mention morality, the pursuit of excellence, self-sacrifice for the good of the community. Some actual religion--not very well portrayed up-close, and now the girl who found change through faith has become a fallen woman--easier to write, I suppose...but I give them credit for trying.

Plus, the Southern qualities are very genuine for network TV, even the accents! Someone in Hollywood finally realized not every Southerner talks like Scarlett O'Hara, and told some actors. Or maybe some of them are actual Southerners, too. Either way, I approve!

For me it's only occasionally reminiscent of my high school days, such as when the characters who are below the upper crust are on screen. Contrary to what I'll assume you would guess (don't correct me), I was not a jock, not part of the popular crowd, and didn't do much after school hours, including attending ball games, because I lived in the sticks and rode the bus until graduation. I was not an outcast either; one friend put me in the "intelligentsia" crowd. I could talk to girls as long as I wasn't asking them out, and I did go to pep rallies when they were during school hours.

I guess it's sheer vicarious entertainment...living in my mind through other people's experiences, for an hour, once a week. That's what TV is good for, and this is good TV.

No comments: