Created by Peter Berg. Starring Emmy winner Kyle Chandler, and television legend Connie Britton. With a narrative based on the potentially audience-limiting topic of American Football. Five seasons, 76 episodes. It is, of course, Friday Night Lights. It might have finished in 2011, after a successful run, and a lot of kind words from critics, but Peter Berg’s television adaptation of the H. S. Bissinger book, and the film – in which he directed, too – is one of the most realistic, emotionally engaging, television series’ of all time. Actually, no, I’m going to make the bold claim that it is the best series of all time.
Did I like American Football? Hell no, I’m English, and we Brits kind of frown upon the sport. Do I have a new-found respect for the US game? Damn right I do. Any television series that is able to change its viewers mind on a specific subject is instantly a winner. And while Friday Night Lights is outwardly about American Football in a small fictional Texan town called Dillon, football is certainly not all it focuses on. With themes of family, love, friendship, racism, mental health, peer pressure, adolescence, and so many more, Peter Berg, and his team of exceptional writers, give audiences five seasons of television gold. No cliches in sight here.
FNL is not a ‘teen drama’ in the sense that 90210 and One Tree Hill are teen dramas. Combining the lives and stories of Kyle Chandler’s Coach Taylor, with that of players Smash Williams (Gaius Charles), Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), and the residents of Dillion these players – and their team – have an effect on, FNL is quietly making a commentary on the difficulties of contemporary life in small town America, with football as the metaphor for an array of different aspects of life. From absent parents, to a failing academic system, NBC, Peter Berg, and a host of executive producers – including Jason Katims and Brian Grazer – created something genius from episode one of their sports drama.
Virginia Heffernan of The New York Times, of the series, said “this…drama about high school football could be great – and not just television great, but great in the way of a poem or painting.” That was following episode one. Watch it, love it, cry at it, laugh with it. Just make sure you see it – because today we are inundated with dramas concerning Crystal Meth cooks, biking anarchists, and 1920’s criminals. These are all great, in their respective ways, but Friday Night Lights is great “in the way of a poem or painting.”. And, can you really get much better than that?