#180 - Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose
Culture Rover was skeptical of the television show Friday Night Lights at first. How could the network television spin-off of a film spin-off of a book from 1990 about high school football in small-town Texas be anything but a bad melodrama?
Culture Rover was wrong. The program, now entering its second season, is exquisite.
Through taut scripts, thoughtful filming (okay, I could do with a bit less shaky handheld camera, but much of the cinematography is gorgeous), and, most of all, incredible acting, FNL summons into being a world that you want to linger in long past each hour-long episode. The football-dominated, depressed oil town of Dillon becomes an almost Dickensian setting -- if Dickens had ever cast his eyes down the gridiron from the fifty yard line, and down the locker-lined hallways of high school.
As Ginia Bellefonte points out in her New York Times preview of the second season, the program is indeed melodrama, but in the best sense. It earns its assertions of redemption.
FNL manages to be remarkably grown-up about high-school age characters, treating them with dignity, honor, and attention, never making assumptions about their complexities, but instead drawing these out into finely-wrought detail.
By doing this, the show is able to summon onto the airwaves the moods and feelings of adolescence: the quick-moving angst, the dawning of awareness about life's limitations, the delusions of adults and parental figures, the sharp smack of reality crushing in, the dogged pursuit of something different, something new, something transformative.
If there is a phase of life deserving of melodrama in the best sense, it is adolescence. And the creators of and actors on Friday Night Lights get this mode just right.
Because of low viewership, the show's survival hangs on a Hail Mary pass, but with hope, the critical acclaim will keep it afloat until the season is over.
14 October 2007