Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lights! Camera! Action!

Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be doing this, but I'm actually going to blog about a TV show today. This seems weird for a lot of reasons, but the one I'm most conscious of is that a lot of people have told me I'm a TV snob. This is because I'm apparently the only person in the US who has never seen American Idol, America's Top Model, or even Survivor (except for the last 15 minutes of the first season finale and only because I arrived somewhere too early and couldn't avoid it). I did see most of the first season of Apprentice (because I had surgery and spent many weeks stuck in bed), and I've caught a few isolated episodes of Dancing With the Stars, but in general, I avoid these shows like the plague -- because I think they're ... well ... boring (stultifying is probably a better way to put it). That doesn't mean I don't like TV; I just need decent dialogue and a plot -- and no; watching a bunch of semi-talented yahoos compete for (fill-in-contest-here) does not constitute a plot!

I do enjoy watching other types of shows -- like Scrubs and Boston Legal, both of which are a hoot, and Grey's Anatomy because ... I'm not blind. It's a man-anza (like the all-you-can-eat-buffet at Bonanza, but with men *g*). Today's post, however, isn't about any of those; it's about Friday Night Lights.

Today's post is also a (very very rare) acknowledgment to my husband (who will probably save this post to flaunt later):

You were right. I was wrong.

Oh the pain...

I'm making this concession because when DH tried to get me to watch FNL at the beginning of the season, I told him in no uncertain terms how repulsive I found the idea of watching some dumb-ass show about football. (That may be more polite than what I actually said...) In fact, my TV watching hierarchy goes something like this:
  • Rejection: I will not be present in the room when this show is on.

  • Tolerance: I'll remain in the room, but I won't watch (or hold back on disparaging commentary).

  • Grudging Acceptance: I'll hold back on the rude comments and watch occasionally, but I won't pay close attention.

  • Acceptance: I'll watch and sometimes even enjoy it.

  • Enjoyment: I'll make a point of watching, and almost always enjoy it.

  • PtRfMCDH: This is a special category in which maybe 5 shows in my entire life have fallen. Grey's Anatomy fits here (Hey! I did say that I'm not blind!). The acronym stands for "pry the remote from my cold dead hands."

DH worked for months to convince me to move FNL out of "Rejection" so he didn't have to watch it downstairs (because it's freezing down there). I gave in out of pity, and nearly every time it was on, FNL moved up my hierarchy to the point that the season finale tomorrow night is going to be -- Gadzooks! -- PtRfMCDH. In a (dumb) contest between FNL and Grey's, I think I would actually vote for -- Double Gadzooks! -- Friday Night Lights.

FNL may not be renewed for next season, but along with Ugly Betty, The Office, and Scrubs, FNL won a Peabody award. And a recent flurry of critical acclaim has given it some hope.

From Seattle Times critic Kate O'Hare:

Critics love it, a small core group of dedicated fans loves it, and reportedly NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly is a supporter, but the larger audience has yet to discover NBC's small-town drama "Friday Night Lights."

Challenging TV conventions has become a hallmark of "Friday Night Lights," under the supervision of executive producers Peter Berg, co-writer and director of the 2004 movie of the same name (based on H.G. Bissinger's best-selling nonfiction book), and Jason Katims ("Roswell," "My So-Called Life"). Shot documentary-style in real homes, schools and businesses instead of on soundstages, the show strives for authenticity in its portrayal of small-town dynamics and personalities.

Seattle Post Intelligencer Critic Melanie McFarland:

There's so much chatter about how trashy TV is these days, along with the tendency to reward the usual suspects like David E. Kelley and Aaron Sorkin with unyielding faith. Here is a series that trumps both shows these auteur producers coughed up this year in terms of content and consistency.

There's not a single element in "Friday Night Lights" that isn't a hard-won effort, from the scratchy, documentary realism of the cinematography to honest dialogue delivered in stumbles and spurts, the way conversations happen in real life.

It could be that people will only really discover this in its afterlife on DVD, where it would join other great series that ended too soon, such as "Freaks and Geeks" and "My So-Called Life" (which, like this series, was written in part by Katims).

But let's reward great TV while it's on for a change. Start watching and catching up with the story on Bravo. And let's all hope these "Lights" come back on in the fall.


Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune blogged about it (emphasis mine):

AUSTIN, Texas -- A dusty field in Texas. A ramshackle house in a cash-strapped part of town. The cramped, battered office of a high school guidance counselor.

They’re all unlikely places for a creative revolution, but there’s no other way to describe what’s happening on the set of “Friday Night Lights,” NBC’s acclaimed series about life in the small town of Dillon, Texas.

Far from the bright lights of Hollywood, in vibrant yet laid-back Austin, the actors, writers and directors of the show have created one of the most realistic, subtle, enthralling dramas on any screen, large or small. And they’ve done it on this first-year show by breaking many of the rules of television.

All scenes are shot in houses, businesses and stores in and around Austin, which is where you’ll find the gritty high school that doubles as the home of the Dillon Panthers, the tiny house that quarterback Matt Saracen (Evanston’s Zach Gilford) shares with his grandma, and the fast-food joint that doubles as one of the show’s hangouts, the Alamo Freeze.

But the question remains: In the usually risk-averse world of the broadcast networks, how on earth did this show, which has all the depth and uncompromising integrity of a top-notch cable drama, get made? And why hasn’t NBC messed around with “FNL’s” creative process, given that the show has struggled in the ratings?

So yes DH; you were right and I was wrong. It's a great show and I hope it comes back next year. In the meantime:


Nanci said...

Hey, you're a snob with company - I, too, have never seen never seen American Idol, America's Top Model, or even Survivor. I've not seen FNL either, but will have to check it out now that I know it's not just some dumb-ass football show. I do love Peter Berg's work, too...

P S - I'm still sending good food vibes to Kitty!

Tess said...

Hmmm - what channel is it on? We have satellite here. I've never even heard of it.

BTW, you're not alone. I've seen maybe 20 mins of American Idol, NO Survivor etc. The only two reality shows I've watched are Season One of Last Comic Standing (hosted by Jay Mohr) and Grease: You're the one that I Want, because I LOVE Grease!

Agree with you re Scrubs, GA and Boston Legal. We're watching Season One of BL on DVD with my f-i-l.

I also recommend Battlestar Galactica. It's FANTASTIC. And Rescue Me.