Last night,we said goodbye to the folks of Dillon,Texas and probably one of the most beloved TV series of all time – Friday Night Lights.
The show ended its final and fifth season last night,for a second time,with a perfect finale. “Always” was able to capture the essence of the main characters,including Dillon itself,and provide us devout fans with just enough closure to know that Eric and Tami Taylor,Tim Riggins,Tyra,Matt,Julie and Vince were moving forward,where they need to be. A show that went beyond the drama that occurs on a football field,FNL was about the American family,the dreams you hope to reach,and the battles you come across in your attempts. It was about the relationships between people:marriages,friendship and professional ties. And at the core of the show it was all about SUPPORT. Support from your husband or wife,your best friend,your teammate,your guidance counselor,the old man at a BBQ place – wherever.
From the moment I saw the pilot,I was hooked on the show. It was a mini-movie,but not in the way that other series pilots are where they cram so much information within the first episode you feel guilted in to tuning in again. You were watching an entire town’s hopes and dreams be flushed down the toilet. Jason Street – all American,handsome,good kid – manages to ruin his life with a simple tackle,and the rest of the town,from his girlfriend,his best friend,his parents,coach,teammates and everyone else who was counting on him,so they could count on someone,were directly effected. Tragic events manage to have a ripple effect and the FNL pilot showcased that in a way that was so seductive and raw,you didn’t want to look away. You couldn’t – you were fully vested in the Dillon Panthers.
It’s not hard for me to make sense of why this show has had such an impact on me,specifically over the past year. I hit 30,got married and don’t actually balk at the idea of settling down in a house with my husband and our dog,and a possible family. I have become nostalgic in a way that I didn’t think would occur,where I can look at the past fondly without wishing I was there. I was a cheerleader,an athlete,a semi-stoner,and a teen with a job at the mall. The way Friday Night Lights captures the process of living –the expansive blue sky,muddied up football field and two-bedroom ranch homes as the settings for marriage quarrels,teenage pining,elderly nostalgia,and future dreaming – is in one word brilliant. You care immediately about the town,their love of the game and of each other,and how sometimes the simple little things can lead to a total other life. And this show is no longer a hidden gem,with its presence on Netflix,syndication on ESPN Classic,oodles of critical and mainstream support,not to mention the four Emmy nominations it received last Thursday. FNL has done what many other series haven’t and simply couldn’t –it bridge the gap between the beauty of TV and the realism of life. Peter Berg,the creator and executive producer,was smart enough when he developed the show for TV to cast unknowns,film it in Texas,in real settings and far away from Hollywood magic. FNL could have easily become overdone and overwrought,but its realness allowed it to maintain an authenticity,and that’s what I believe was the driving force to the series.
With the show ending,Grantland compiled an oral history of the program that confirms a lot of things that many of us loved about the show. It’s rare nowadays to be completely transplanted in to another world that isn’t very different from your own. And apparently I am not the only one who doesn’t want my trip to Dillon,TX to end this soon. Berg,who directed the original film based on the popular novel and then adapted it to the small screen as a series a few years later,has said that he is currently working on a way to bring the next part of the FNL story to the big screen. But let’s not get excited yet – this sort of idea can take years to occur,since the rights to the show and story are in about six different production companies and studios hands. But if fan enthusiasm can dictate the studio’s next move,we have not seen the last of the Taylors. Personally,last night’s finale,even after my fourth viewing,was so well done and a near perfect wrap up of the show,I can understand any hesitance to revisit Dillon on the big screen. But that being said,I would be first in line to spend some more time with Tim Riggins,Vince Howard,Jason Street,Tami and Coach Taylor. And here is my personal plea to Peter Berg – I am available for hire,so let me know if you would like me to head to Austin because I will do anything to work on this,and with you.
Back to the show,I will sincerely miss my time in Dillon and plan on revisiting with season 1 later this summer. Hopefully,the cast and crew will get their due come September when Emmy awards are handed out,and that this post-finale praise across the internet brings more and more fans to the fold. In twenty years,Friday Night Lights will hands down be one of the most referenced and appreciated programs in TV history,and it has certainly earned it. I have embedded the finale “Always” below for readers who have yet to see it.
In the words of Coach Taylor,“Clear eyes,full hearts,can’t lose.” TEXAS FOREVER,and ever.