“Friday Night Lights is the greatest sports-related show ever made.” Bill Simmons of ESPN said this in his article in hopes to keep the show alive. Honestly, I couldn’t have said it any better. The producer, Peter Berg, stroke genius by presenting dynamic and relatable characters and then broke them down in weekly episodes. He had a way of drawing an audience in by putting them on an emotional roller coaster that was impossible to get off. From the characters to the setting, Berg did a tremendous job of presenting to us exactly what is like to live in a small town in America.
The show first aired on October 3, 2006 on the NBC Network. It began as an 8 PM Tuesday night show, but made the switch half way through the season to Wednesday’s at 8 PM. The first season produced about 6 million viewers. Although, it was getting recognition, praise, and a passionate fan base I think NBC expected it to do better. Actually, after season 2 NBC had to strike a deal with DirecTV to co-produce three more seasons. The show was then broadcasted on DirecTV and then rebroadcasted on NBC networks months later.
Prior to FNL the TV show, the story was actually first presented in a book called: Friday Night Lights: A town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G Bissinger. Bissinger was awarded the Pulitzer Prize of $10,000 allowing him to then pursue a story of a prominent high school football team. After some research he landed in Odessa, Texas. This small town was football obsessed and a tight knit community. Bissinger spent the entire year of 1988 with the players, coaches, family members, and townspeople in Odessa. He did this in order to convey the town and team properly.
Current FNL producer, Peter Berg, then transferred the book into a film in 2004. The film took Bissingler’s words and painted a picture for us. The film won an ESPY award for, Best Sports Movie in 2005. More Movie Info
Now thanks to Berg we are able to splurge on the 5 seasons he has given us whenever we want. According to our book, FNL falls under the Family Drama genre. This genre also tends to attract a wide range of demographics reaching from 18-49 year olds. These audience members are able to identify with characters and relate to similar scenarios regarding relationships, family, and other tough societal issues.
FNL has done a great job by presenting a wide range of characters from teenagers to adults with some dynamic backgrounds. In my first blog post I gave a brief description of the main characters. “You have the “high school football coach, Eric Taylor, the star quarterback, Jason Street, his cheerleader girlfriend, Lyla Garrity, best friend, full back and ladies man, Tim Riggins, black running back star, Brian ‘Smash’ Williams and underdog back-up quarterback, Matt Saracen.” When I first gave this synopsis, I didn’t have a full understanding of each character because they were still developing right in front of me.
As they continued to develop the realness of the characters emerged as they were thrown into real life scenarios and facing complex issues such as race and financial security. I believe FNL takes risks by talking about these things that most shows would avoid for controversial reasons. They capture reality just right by giving the audience a little bit of everything.
Although FNL always finds a way to connect with current events and everyday scenarios, the episode I analyzed was “What to While You’re Waiting.”
Short Description: Matt Saracen’s Dad returns home from Iraq. Matt is hoping he can kind of take some of the load off by paying some of the bills and helping out with Grandma. That might not be the case. Smash Williams is trying to impress a girl he likes, Waverly. Then, Jason Street’s family is suing the school and Coach Taylor in hopes to gain some money to cover their new life.
Matt Saracen in the beginning of the season was a nobody he rode the bench never expecting a chance to actually play let alone be the head quarterback for the Panthers. I described him as the “underdog backup quarterback.” Throughout the season he emerges as this humble, polite, sincere kid who actually doesn’t have a second to even breathe. With his dad in Iraq and his mom not in the picture, Matt is basically his own guardian who takes care of his grandma, cooks, goes to school, has a girlfriend, and oh yeah he is “QB1.” He became the town’s backbone overnight, which adds more stress to his life then ever before.
In this episode Matt’s Dad returns home from Iraq and decides to stick around to help Matt. This means Mr. Saracen is going to have to find a job and he and Matt are going to have to get reacquainted. This episode shines some light on a very real and current issue. As a solider returns home from war and has to transition back into civilian life it can be extremely difficult for the entire family. Matt’s character was reinforced when he went out of his way to get his dad a job with Mr. Garrity being a car salesman.
Then you have Smash Williams. I described his as being a “running back star.” That being said, he is also a conceited, cocky, and is football obsessed. I’m not going to lie I admire his ability to chase after his dream of playing Professional football, but his character isn’t very complex. He is very straightforward in a sense that he loves football, himself, and oh uhm football. What his character lacks in diversity he makes up for in facing adversity. He tackles some pretty serious stuff such as racism and steroid use.
In this episode he is trying to impress a girl named Waverly. Waverly isn’t someone Smash typically goes for. She likes music and art, making it almost impossible for them to have any connection. As he attempts to be someone else just in order to impress her he fails and realizes he isn’t capable of changing. He will always be the kid who loves football and himself. His true character is reinforced when he goes back to referring to himself in the third person. “Everyone loves the Smash baby.”
The two characters that I believe are portrayed very well are Coach Taylor and Tammy Taylor. Not necessarily there characters separately, but their relationship together. Personally, I haven’t seen a better-portrayed marriage on television. Berg does a great job by presenting ups and downs that every married couple faces in a lifetime. The way they communicate with one another and sacrifice for one another is a true depiction of how a marriage should be. Berg also doesn’t shy away from what he knows. He never presents any dramatic twists that other shows tend to go for. For example, Grey’s Anatomy couples are always cheating and lying to their partners.
In this episode, Jason’s Street’s family is suing the Taylor’s for lack of teaching tackling drills. A scene occurs in this episode when Coach and Tammy are lying in bed talking with one another. This is a great example of something a real life couple would do, talking about their issues when they get a few seconds away from work and children
This is show is attended to get the audience to think, connect, and feel. You will always find yourself engaged when watching this show. Whether it is a connection with sports, a character, or a scenario. At some point in the season you are going to be fist pumping or crying tears of joy.
The scenes in this episode were shot in many different locations. In this episode there were both indoor and outdoor locations. For example, the football field. There are players in full gear that are actually hitting one another. The sound affects definitely grab my attention and make it all a little more realistic. An example of an indoor location, Matt’s home. You have the kitchen and the living room presented. There are schoolbooks on the kitchen table and pots on the stove. You can also tell by the furniture that they aren’t well off. They are a middle class household that purchases only what is necessary.
FNL is filmed in a documentary-style filming technique. “Three cameras are used for each shot and entire scenes were shot in one take. FNL also does a lot of close shots. It most scenes the background is irrelevant. Yes, you know where the characters are and the surrounding area, but you are more drawn in on the actor’s faces. I feel as though this provides seriousness and dramatics.
As for product placement there isn’t much. In this episode I noticed two: an Applebee’s and a Target sign. This just goes to show that small towns don’t have much.
Overall, Peter Berg does a fantastic job at portraying a small town in Texas and the characters. Every little bit helps. The camera angles, the dialogue, and the real life connections.