Let The ‘Lights’ Shine On

By Rich Mayor

Football season is over.

After the Super Bowl, you’d think that, wouldn’t you?

I happen to know of a team shrouded in as many interesting plot lines as the Dallas Cowboys of the early 1990s, a team in the thick of a season with championship expectations and aspirations.

That team is the Dillon Panthers.

I still have a football-related fever, but it’s unrelated to the biggest sporting event of the year. Instead, it’s related to a little show I like to call my favorite – “Friday Night Lights” (Friday, 8 p.m. on NBC).

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

I can’t make a claim so bold and uninformed to say that it’s the best show on television, but I’ll tell you right now – it sure is one of the five best, as well as the best sports-related show maybe ever.

And, somehow, it’s been dying for three years. “Friday Night Lights” follows Dillon High School, home of the Panthers. The show begins with new head coach Eric Taylor moving to town with his wife and teenage daughter, attempting to assimilate his family into the culture of Dillon, while under heavy pressure from boosters and football-crazed fans. He inherits a team chock-full of offensive firepower, with the No. 1 recruit in the nation as quarterback and a brash, talented running back planning to “bring the world together” with his talent. This team is a lock to win the state championship in Texas – but things go very wrong in the first game. A television series of the highest quality ensues.

I’m very eclectic in my entertainment preferences, a truth I believe can help to convince you to begin watching FNL. I consider The OC, Friends and Sex and the City to be among my favorite TV shows. I’m not embarrassed about liking Justin Timberlake. I own Clueless and Mean Girls. And I love girls and sports. Big deal.

My point is, FNL can appeal to everyone. It hasn’t quite caught on yet, which has led to a tumultuous production history. While ratings were low during the first season – one I’d put up against any in the history of television – those who watched it fell in love. There were whispers of cancellation, but the FNL followers were deafening in their support, and in an extremely encouraging act, NBC ordered another season.

Once season two was cut short by the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike, more rumors that FNL wouldn’t return for a third season cropped up. But in an industry-first move, DirecTV swooped in and took some of the financial heat off NBC. In return, the first season would air in its entirety (13 episodes) exclusively for DTV subscribers, before the season aired on NBC. The fourth episode of the third season is scheduled to air on the Peacock tomorrow night.

The show’s brain trust is comprised of creator Peter Berg and executive producers Brian Grazer, Jason Katims and Jeffrey Reiner. These men bring a sense of Hollywood credibility to the show, and it shows in the production. High-quality acting and writing, coupled with beautiful cinematography, helps the show maintain the level it’s been at for three years.

So in a time where television has become a complete and utter wasteland of semi-entertaining yet intelligence-reducing programming, FNL is a symbol that not all is lost. Thought-provoking, intelligent and entertaining television does exist.

DVDs of the first two seasons have been dramatically discounted to promote more people to pick up on the show. NBC.com has every single episode ever aired available on demand. The seasons are available for renting on Netflix. So buy the seasons, rent the seasons or stream the first few episodes and get a taste.

The boys will ogle at head cheerleader and Helen of Troy-esque Lyla Garrity. The girls will fawn over bad-boy fullback Tim Riggins. Adults will appreciate the realism of the Taylors’ marriage.

Younger adults will appreciate the real-life issues and situations they, too, faced in high school. Everyone will love the euphoric theme song.

Need more inspiration? Look no further than Coach Taylor, who closes the “Pilot” episode with this monologue:

“We will all at some time in our lives, fall. Life is so very fragile, we are all vulnerable, and we will all at some point in our lives, fall. We must carry this in our hearts, that what we have is special, that it can be taken from us, and that when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.”

Look inside yourself. Turn on the Lights.

Rich Mayor is a junior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]