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Being a planner, as we entered the home stretch of our Leftovers group watch, my mind started drifting to what show would be next, should the interest be there to continue watching TV together, even as pandemic restrictions lift and life slowly starts to get back to normal. It wasn’t an easy thought process! I wanted something that felt like it was in a similar creative vein as Lost and The Leftovers, a show that’s a cultural touchstone, and a show that has enough distance from the series finale that it feels fresh revisiting it. After dismissing shows like Six Feet Under (WAY TOO DARK) and Mad Men (several of us did that pilgrimage in 2019), the answer came to me, and it was like you dummy, why didn’t you think of this right away? It hits all the sweet spots.
Enter Friday Night Lights.
On paper, it seems like a show about a football crazy small town in Texas would have little to do with the epic nature of Lost and The Leftovers, but the connections run rampant, especially with The Leftovers, from the Peter Berg connection to Damon Lindelof stating that he used Dillon as the inspiration for Jarden in season two. (Both shows shot on location in Austin, so there are physical similarities as well.) As far as any comparisons to Lost, I continue to be fascinated by revisiting television that came in the creative boom of the mid-aughts and that were also shaped, in part, by the 2007-08 Writer’s Strike. It boggles my mind sometimes that Lost and Friday Night Lights existed concurrently, in a world that was only just starting to expand beyond the major four networks and HBO. Both shows changed the television landscape. And both shows are about so much more than their initial premise. And finally, with the fifteenth anniversary of the pilot approaching this fall, it just FELT like the right time to go back to Dillon.
Long time friend and contributor Kayti, Native Texan turned New Yorker Adrienne, and Queen of “In Defense Of” and FNL newbie Sarah are joining Sage and I to break down the highs and lows of Season One before we move on to season two. Let’s get to it! — Kim
- Favorite Episode?
Adrienne: I think this title belongs to the pilot. It’s such a solid doorway into this world and they perfectly balanced the introduction of an oversized ensemble cast. Right off the bat, you know who these characters are. Having already seen the movie version of “Friday Night Lights,” I knew what was coming for one of the characters, but seeing Jason get injured is never easy. The tension, the look on each character’s face, the heartbreaking way Jason thanks the paramedics, it’s a turn that truly impacts the majority of the characters and you can’t wait to learn how it will do so.
Sage: “His and hers closets, baby.”
“This is life, this isn’t Maxim magazine.”
“Mr. Street, do you think God loves football?”
“That dude could be Santa Claus, and I still wouldn’t like him.”
“Here’s to God, and football, and ten years from now, Street, good friends living large in Texas. Texas forever.”
“We are all vulnerable. And we will all, at some point in our lives, fall.”
And, of course, our first “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
It’s not the BEST episode of the season. There’s some over-writing, some fuzzy characterization, and so much more good stuff yet to come. But the pilot of Friday Night Lights is packed with moments and lines that I think about on the regular and it SETS A DANG MOOD. You know exactly where you are and what you’re doing there. And while it’s a somewhat disorienting being thrown into the deep end of Dillon’s social politics and interpersonal dynamics, it’s also exhilarating and real. From the jump, it’s clear that this isn’t a show about football. It’s a show about the ecosystem football creates and how each of our characters feeds into it and from it. Everyone’s struggles matter, everyone’s dreams matter, but sometimes, especially in a town like this, tragedy is shared.
I’m always struck by its impeccable world building, from Slammin’ Sammy Meade serving as our Greek chorus to the tap of Grandma Saracen’s house slipper on the floor. The pilot builds to a world-shattering event, but it also tells you loud and clear, from the way the camera moves to the not-entirely-plot-related dialogue (Why’d you make two sandwiches, Matthew??), that Friday Night Lights is interested in showing you the minutiae that more polished, concept shows wouldn’t bother to. We slip into these people’s lives and don’t keep our distance, which is a pretty irresistible selling point for anybody (meeee) who lives and breathes for character-driven drama.
Sarah: I almost went with “State” or “Mud Bowl,” but it has to be “Blinders.” Kim pointed out this episode could still be made today, and a lot of these same issues were covered just a few weeks ago in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. It’s the first chance Gaius Charles gets to show the full range of Smash, and he knocks it out of the park. From the first minute he’s on screen he reminded me of the smoothest kid in my school with charisma to spare who had time for everyone, and his performance only gets more complex with every scene, building to (spoiler alert) my Hero Moment of the season. “Blinders” shows the conscience of this show and its kids. And that’s just the A plot! This place has everything: Matt and Riggins coaching the powderpuff game, Landry threatening to throw Coach off the field, and best of all, Coach’s face lighting up when he realizes he can coach his Julie. All that and we don’t even touch the tension building between Lyla and Tyra, or Tami’s prejudice towards Tyra. Besides the pilot, this is the episode I would show someone who’s never seen the show before.
Kayti: “Black Eyes and Broken Hearts” isn’t a perfect episode, but it’s a damn good one, and incredibly ambitious to boot. At a time when TV was even less willing to talk about how racist America is, Friday Night Lights delves into the subject. The season’s exploration of the topic peaks in the 16th episode, which sees Smash and the other Black members of the Dillon Panthers refusing to play until Mac McGill is fired for the racist comments and behavior he has exhibited as part of the coaching team. As is the show’s way, FNL looks at the issue from many angles, but it centers Smash’s story as he goes from wanting to ignore the issue altogether to unable to after Waverly encourages him to feel his anger at the unfairness of it all to organizing the protest.
FNL doesn’t make Coach Taylor the good guy here. He doesn’t support his Black players the way he should, and it’s incredibly realistic. Eric may be a good person, but he is a White man situated within some very racist structures of power that perpetuate and reinforce that power. Of course he sides with Mac without even talking to Smash or the other players, even after Tami advises him to fire Mac. The show ends up undercutting its honest exploration in the final act, creating a bigger, more obvious racist villain in the form of Dunston Valley and letting the racist White characters we know step in and be the less racist heroes—i.e. Tim Riggins taking out the Dunston Valley kid who was harassing Smash, and Mac refusing to let the cop on the bus. It’s unearned in a way that demonstrates how, even for all of the things FNL does well in this episode, the show is only so prepared to delve into a discussion of American racism. It’s also an episode that, 15 years later, still feels remarkable.
Kim: I fucking love “Mud Bowl,” you guys. It’s so good that I would put on my list of all time great television episodes, period. Friday Night Lights was really firing on all cylinders in the last four episodes of the season, but “Mud Bowl” just feels like it’s on another level. And the thing is, it’s a great episode even before we get to the game! There’s Coach Charlie Browning about the true meaning of football as he sees Buddy commercializing Hermann Field. We get Landry’s awkward flirting and offering to tutor Tyra in algebra. We have Lyla reading Jason the riot act for his constant state of pity party and we get Jason finally putting an end to the lawsuit against Coach Taylor and the Panthers. We get one of my favorite Eric and Tami scenes of the whole series when he takes her to the cow pasture to describe his field of dreams.
And THEN we get the game.
Seriously, from the moment that rain starts, it’s like the mother fucking Battle of Helm’s Deep up in here. It’s completely enthralling as the game quickly loses all semblance of order, becoming more of a contest of who can manage to stay on their feet and hold on to the ball rather than any sort of recognizable football game. And then it becomes HARROWING, as the game is interspersed with quick cuts of Tyra in the very same rain, valiantly trying to fight off her attacker with all her might. (The editing of this episode deserved an Emmy! It’s so brilliantly done and it wasn’t even NOMINATED.) “Mud Bowl” is joy and it is tragedy existing concurrently, which is basically Friday Night Lights in a nutshell.
- Least Favorite Episode?
Sarah: “Who’s Your Daddy.” It’s stressful! I can handle the idea of being in the last minutes of the big game, but my skin absolutely crawls at the thought of hosting a party and not having enough food for everyone. I want to cringe out of my skin.
Kayti: I, um, don’t love “Mud Bowl.” It’s so (intentionally) difficult to watch Tyra’s sexual assault, and I am worried that someone is going to slip and fall in the mud and break an ankle. Sorry.
Sage: As FNL episodes go, “Little Girl I Wanna Marry You” is on the bleaker side of things. It’s all pretty shitty, without many of the show’s moments of human joy and triumph to balance the shitty out. Smash’s steroid use is never fully fleshed out and is nipped in the bud far too soon to feel realistic. Having Matt’s dad around provides some necessary backstory for him but brings the whole vibe down. And what can I say about Jason and Lyla’s engagement to adequately describe how depressing it is for two TEENAGERS to already feel like there’s nothing left for them to do but go through the motions? This is certainly one of the most stellar network-length seasons of TV that there’s ever been, but this episode is too much of a bummer to compete with the best ones.
Adrienne: “Blinders”/”Black Eyes & Broken Hearts.” MAC MCGILL SHOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED! The school administration should have stepped in right away. A) This decision shouldn’t have been on Coach Taylor’s shoulders and B) he should have been more concerned about what his players were going through than the upcoming game. I feel the whole storyline was handled poorly and Gaius Charles, while superb in these episodes, deserved better.
Kim: To me, “Extended Families” is the only outright clunker in the whole season, which is IMPRESSIVE. It feels like they are spinning their wheels a little bit in this one, throwing in a whole mishmash of plots that all add up to one episode that just has you going, “Well that happened, didn’t it?”
First of all, Buddy Garrity is a character best served in small doses, so the hijinx of him crashing with the Taylors after his affair gets outed gets old real fast. And what about those plotlines for Smash and Tim? Honestly, it’s like Jason Katims screened a bunch of Dawson’s Creek episodes in the writers’ room trying to find some new, non-football story arcs for those two. Think about it! Waverly’s bipolar depressive episode? I give you Andie McPhee’s meltdown at the end of Season Two. Giving Tim Riggins a fast-talking blond moppet as his shadow? Pacey Witter did that in season three AND it was the kid from Jerry Maguire. (I mean, at least Jason Katims knows that Pacey had the best storylines! Respect.) *Lyla voice* Jason, if I want to watch Dawson’s Creek, I’ll just watch Dawson’s Creek, okay?
- Underrated Episode?
Adrienne: I have gone through the episodes and literally have no idea what to put. All the ones that stick out for me are usually seen as the best. I will say that I love the powderpuff football storyline and wish it were part of an episode with a less frustrating A story.
Sage: “Who’s Your Daddy?” is where Friday Night Lights begins to settle into itself. And as the team and Jason both fumble forward post-accident, we get more of a sense of the daily challenges that all of our characters are going to face. Moving to a rehab center, Jason can begin the process of truly accepting the reality of what his recovery will look like. Matt doesn’t know it yet, but his thank you for saving the season from the adults in his football-obsessed town may be to almost immediately be replaced by an outsider. And the Taylors clash over the expectations that come with their respective roles.
The team BBQ and its repercussions were divisive among our group watchers, and I get it. It’s very frustrating to watch as Coach lets the whole thing fall into Tami’s lap, chastises her when she’s not a sufficiently cheerful hostess during the party, and then tries to end the fight with a half-assed non-apology. But that, to me, is what’s so fresh about this show. I love sports movies. I love shows about sports. And I can’t think of a single other one that takes such an interest in the way that the culture around them requires players and coaches’ partners to essentially become political wives. And there’s a good-ol’-boy quality especially to early Coach not in that he sees Tami as the little woman – Tami Taylor would never have married a man who did – but because he simply doesn’t pay attention to the social obligations and ceremonial stuff that he doesn’t think are important to the job. By letting that conflict play out, the show draws attention to it, highlights his shortcomings, and shows us that Tami will not put up with that again. There are certainly FNL storylines that already feel dated, but this isn’t one of them. I bet the same fight is still happening in bedrooms all over Texas right now.
Kim: “Nevermind” was the mid-season premiere and it does a lot of heavy-lifting, setting up narratives for the rest of the season while also keeping in mind that the show’s been off the air for a few weeks, so it also has a dash of “Now, where were we?” to it. I love that the episode title has so many layers: on the surface, it’s just a reference to Jason having a meltdown because his Nevermind CD is missing. (“Because I’m crippled and I want to listen to Nirvana!” is a LINE and a HALF.) But peeling back the layers, you could also apply the term “Never mind” to the whole situation between Matt and his absentee father.
After ten episodes of watching Matt struggle in his role as a caretaker, a role that no sixteen-year-old should have to bear alone, the natural reaction is to say “Oh thank GOD, an adult is finally here!” when Matt’s dad shows up unannounced on a two week leave from his tour in Iraq. But as the episode progresses and Henry Saracen’s callous and cavalier attitude towards both Matt and Lorraine is revealed, we as the audience can’t help but be right there with Matt when he’s finally like “Go back to Iraq, I was doing FINE without you.” I love the way the Taylor women surround Matt after that blowout, and I love the way Coach allows Matt to have the space to spew his long pent-up feelings before gently reminding him that he shouldn’t carry that kind of hatred around. It’s a beautiful and complicated scene, and it really furthers their father-son dynamic.
Counterbalancing the heaviness of the Matt storyline, we have the absolutely DELIGHTFUL b-plot where Tami assigns Landry as Tim’s English tutor. (Shout out to the way Connie Britton very nearly breaks character as she listens to Tim fumble on about The Scarlet Letter.) I love when FNL starts opening up to exploring different cast combinations, and the chemistry between Jesse Plemons and Taylor Kitsch is so wonderfully unexpected. It would have been so easy to have Tim just be cruel to Landry, but he’s NOT, and I also love how Landry is not afraid to call Tim on his shit when he’s being clearly obstinate. And then Landry actually gets through to him!! It’s the sweetest B+ of all time.
Sarah: “I Think We Should Have Sex.” Huge, huge laughs from me throughout. Anything that has Coach BSODing has to at least be in my top 5. After unreliable narrators, my favourite story trope has to be a character figuring out the difference between what they want and what they think they want, and Matt and Julie do this in a healthy, consensual way that I want to show it to kids as an example of what to do right in life. When you compare it to “It’s Different for Girls,” there isn’t a sense that the show judges any of these kids for the decisions they make, and that’s still such a refreshing thing to see fifteen years later. (Compare it to Glee’s “The Power of Madonna” three years later to see this done a lot worse in my opinion.)
Kayti: “More than anything, I love you. My worst fear is to become you. And call me crazy, but… we don’t change this tire, right here, right now, by ourselves? We’re both doomed.” This scene featuring Tyra, her mom, and a flat tire cannot be overrated.
As a middle-of-the-season episode, “Little Girl, I Wanna Marry You” has a lot of plot and character to move forward, including Mrs. Williams and Coach finding out about Smash’s ongoing steroid usage, Buddy Garrity being an able-ist asshole to Jason, and Matt dealing with the departure of his father. That it also finds time to give us further insight into the Collette family’s love, struggle, and grit—a subplot that, really, has nothing to do with the football team—is a reminder that this is not really a show about football.
- Favorite Character?
Sarah: I think it has to be Coach. There are no weak links in this cast, but Kyle Chandler holds the whole thing together. This show wouldn’t be what it is without him.
Kayti: I love Tyra. She’s so smart and so fucking determined. She doesn’t take shit from anyone—as a teen girl. You know how hard that is? I wish I could have been more like Tyra when I was in high school (and now): not afraid to show my anger, not afraid to piss people off. But also able to put that anger down for other important emotions. Able to convince Lyla Garrity to get into the car.
Tyra is my favorite character for how much I wish I could have been more like her in high school, and Matt Saracen is my other favorite character for how much I feel like I was like him in high school. Quiet, guarded, putting a lot of pressure on myself, embarrassed to have people come over my house. On the sports team, but interested in other things too. Matt is easy to love and hard to know, and he makes for a great protagonist.
Adrienne: Call me a basic bitch, but I adore Matt Saracen. This kid has so much on his plate, but like Coach said, he’s a stink bug that can’t be crushed. Add his sweet demeanor, artsy interests, plus his smile, and you got a guy 16-year-old Adrienne would have had a serious crush on. How can you not love a guy who will sing his Mr. Sandman to help his gran’ma go to sleep? Look, he’s just a guy you can’t help but root for and Zach Gilford’s naive charm makes him a standout character. In my opinion, and you’ll see this trend throughout my answers, season one belongs to #7.
Sage: There are so many characters in this show that I love deeply and forever that I thought I’d end up throwing up my hands at this question. But it became more and more obvious as my rewatch went on that Season One of Friday Night Lights belongs to Matt Saracen.
To begin with, he’s the quintessential underdog, and every sports-related narrative needs one of those. But there’s so much more to Matt than being a QB2 who never thought he’d see significant gameplay. There’s a tendency to write characters in this wheelhouse as always being in this kind of aw-shucks mode. But Saracen – though very sweet and empathetic – is also confident and crafty and so, so, so brave. He doesn’t let the fact that he’s low-key terrified of Coach keep him from asking Julie out. He doesn’t just roll over when the boosters foist Voodoo on the team. He sasses Landry, gives Tami her best nickname, and makes it his business to get one good punch off before he gets the shit kicked out of him by the Arnett Mead boys. He’s used to being underestimated, but he doesn’t let that jade him.
Also, Zach Gilford is a miracle in this role. The camera catches everything in FNL and it does not catch him slipping. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what he can do (the season he should have been nominated if not won an Emmy for is still to come), but he’s already more than earned that secondhand Members Only jacket.
Kim: Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can watch the first season of Friday Night Lights and not fall head over heels in love with Matthew Saracen. For as much as FNL is an ensemble show, season one feels like Matt’s story. It’s so interesting because the first three character shots of the show are Coach (the gif used as the header of the post), the iconic shot of half-naked Tim Riggins passed out on the couch, and then Matt Saracen, who gets the series’ first line of on-screen dialogue, immediately establishing him as our “in” to this world and a character we’re going to need to keep an eye on. The pilot keeps reinforcing that fact to the point where, when the camera pans to him in the immediate aftermath of Jason’s accident, your heart is screaming “PROTECT HIM” as this BABY doesn’t even have the wherewithal to hide his sheer panic at the thought of going into this game. (One of my favorite moments in the Pilot is how Smash immediately grabs Matt’s hand as they head out to the field, showing his support. For all his flash, Smash is a team player, first and foremost.) And then, after a rough start, this BABY pulls it together and wins the game with a Hail Mary pass that even Slammin’ Sammy Meade has to admire. How do you NOT root for him from that point on?
As much as I am loathe to use the phrase “going from a boy to a man,” because Matt is still VERY MUCH a boy by the end of that State Championship, but the change in him by the end of the season is palpable. Matt BLOSSOMS under Coach’s tutelage and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Zach Gilford’s work throughout the season is phenomenal, from the perfection of his deer in headlights look to his halting speech patterns to those moments when Matt’s steely sense of confidence comes through. It’s the perfect marriage of actor and role, where the performer so seamlessly disappears into the character that you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. It’s an unheralded kind of brilliance because it’s almost TOO natural, you know what I mean? But it’s brilliance nonetheless.
- Least Favorite Character?
Kim: I understand that the unseen Slammin’ Sammy Meade has to be overdramatic because he’s on the radio, but does he REALLY? Calm your tits, sir, it’s not like you’re Ryan Seacrest and these are teenage boys you’re dragging on the airwaves while you’re sitting in your comfy little broadcast booth.
Adrienne: IT’S A TIE! I can’t decide between Beau and his cradle-robbing mother. They couldn’t find a less annoying kid for Riggins to latch onto? And the boy’s mother is just plain dumb. I don’t care that Taylor Kitsch looks older than 16, THE CHARACTER IS IN HIGH SCHOOL! IT’S ILLEGAL!
Sage: Plot Device Suzy, the nail in the coffin of Lyla and Jason’s ill-conceived engagement. Having several tattoos does not a whole personality make, FNL writers. I don’t know who told you it did.
Sarah: I don’t really have one! If you asked me halfway through the season, I would have said Buddy, but he’s so fully realized and whole that I just can’t, for all the mistakes he makes. I think I have to go with Henry Saracen. I know there has to be more we’re not seeing with his war experience, but the way he treats his mother and Matt are intolerable, and we haven’t got to see him become fully rounded like Buddy.
Kayti: Why are you doing this to me???
I love how much context this show gives to all of its main characters. Even a character like Buddy Garrity, who is actively hurting the people around him (including people like his daughter, whom he loves), and hurting himself in the process, is contextualized with such empathy. He is an idiot and it is so realistic. Buddy, like all of these characters, have been failed in some major ways by our society. Unlike some of the other characters, as a financially-privileged White dude, he has relative power in this town. And, unlike a Coach Taylor, he rarely reflects on how that power should be wielded—at least not in this first season.
I didn’t mean to start ranting about Buddy because he is definitely not my least favorite character—in fact, I think the portrayal of an able-ist, sexist, classist idiot with too much power and not enough sense is incredibly important because FNL knows all of those things about him. They know who Buddy is, and they never glorify his assholery. In fact, they have characters like Eric (who, if we’re being honest, shares some cultural blindspots with Buddy) call him out on it. There I go again…
Actually, though, my least favorite character might be someone like Ray “Voodoo” Tatum. Because I don’t think FNL contextualizes him in the way they do a Buddy Garrity. Ray is an important character in this season. He is positioned as a recurring antagonist of sorts, first as a threat to Matt’s role on the team and (more importantly) the sense of identity and belonging that has brought to his life, and then as the player standing between the Panthers and their miracle-of-a-season victory in “State.” FNL could have made Ray (played by Aldis freaking Hodge)—a Black kid who is trying to secure a future for himself and his family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, one of the most egregious examples of American domestic failure of the last few decades—a much more complex and interesting character; they could have given him moments of interiority, but we never really get that from him or for him, and it’s the kind of opportunity for character and thematic complexity that FNL doesn’t usually miss.
- Best Moment on the Football Field?
Sarah: My real answer for this has to be my Hero moment below, but if we’re talking strictly about the game, it’s Jason on the sidelines at the end of the season. Scott Porter comes alive in these moments. There’s a fire in his eyes and he shifts into a new gear that I never saw in him before, including some really fun comedy. Jason’s rehab storyline didn’t give him many opportunities to be brash and confident like he gets when coaching Matt. To be honest, I thought coming into this show that I didn’t like Scott Porter based on his performance a few years later on The Good Wife, but the arc we see in Jason over this season has me re-evaluating him.
Sage: Perhaps this is cheating. I don’t care. I am powerless in the face of loving and supportive male friendships, and what could be more pure than Riggins, Street, Saracen, and Smash taking to the field at night to drink beer, talk about their feelings, hype each other up, and cuddle??? That’s so brokeback, man.
Kayti: Matt Saracen throws it long in the final seconds of the team’s first game of the season, after Jason has been carried off the field. The camera stays on the football as it spirals through the air, and we have no context for where it might be or who might be waiting for it, but we watch and we hope. It’s a visual metaphor for the entire show. We’ll see it repeated throughout the show’s run. That football alone in the air, carrying a whole community’s dreams and pride and identity with it. I get goosebumps every time.
Also, when Coach hugs Matt after they win state.
Kim: Listen, I know it wasn’t the responsible thing to do considering the circumstances, but I am absolute trash for the moment that Big Tim Riggins starts a fucking brawl on the field all in the name of defending Smash Williams. TIM RIGGINS. Can you believe? The very same Tim Riggins who, in the pilot episode, was like “I just don’t like him. He can be from Saudi Arabia, or Sweden, oz Czech. That dude could be Santa Claus and I still won’t like him,” beat the shit out of a guy who took an illegal hit on Smash a mere fifteen episodes later. We’ve said all through our live watches that Tim’s natural instinct is to protect his people, even at potential harm to himself, and at some point in the season, Smash became one of his people. You know what that is? Growth.
Adrienne: The end of “Eyes Wide Open” when Coach brings Matt on the field to push him towards greatness. Stellar performances by Chandler and Gilford as they set up the pseudo-Father/Son dynamic that unspools throughout the season. It’s a turning point for both Taylor and Saracen and, to me, a promise to each other that they’ll give it their all to see the Panthers to victory.
- Best Tami Taylor Queen moment?
Adrienne: “When I go back up there I’ll give you a big smile, alright, just like I know you need, but down here I’m pissed.”
I struggled with this one, but I went with the first thing that popped in my head. The under-the-table argument during the barbeque in “Who’s Your Daddy?”. Her refusal to bend to Eric’s pressure to be a perfect host is brilliant. Her anger is warranted and she doesn’t just let it slide that he’s put all of this on her. If it had happened to me, I’d have been just as pissed and would have probably stayed under the table longer than her. I mean, c’mon, the man even forgot to get the ice!
Sage: Tami is all the things a mentor to The Teens should be: compassionate, vocal, perceptive. But she brings her own baggage to the job and to her role as a mother as well. It’s so disappointing to hear her judge Tyra and write her off specifically because of her budding friendship with Julie and Tami’s desire to preserve her daughter’s innocence, which is why it’s so satisfying that she recognizes and apologizes for the harm that she’s done there. Tyra and Mrs. T have more in common than either of them initially believes, and I love that scene where they clean up after Mrs. Colette’s accident for how layered their relationship already is by that point. Tami respects Tyra as a young woman who sticks up for herself and doesn’t brush off that confrontation like a lot of adults would. But you see her also very clearly come to understand that this is a kid in her care who she has thoughtlessly hurt. We all know adults who find it impossible to apologize to children; meanwhile, Tami begins earning Tyra’s trust the moment she owns up to her own shortcomings. We love a flawed but self-aware queen!
Kim: Connie Britton deserved an Emmy for the scene where she confronts Julie about seeing Matt buying condoms. While Tami definitely has more “YAS QUEEEEEEEEN” moments in the season, this scene always sticks with me because of how vulnerable she is, even in the midst of her Mama Bear must protect my child ferocity. It’s obvious that the usually unflappable Tami is flapped here, that she definitely thought she had a little more time before she had to confront the prospect of Julie becoming sexually active. Her panic, fear, anger, and indignation at Julie’s cavalier attitude all feel so very real here. And the thing is she’s right! Julie isn’t ready, and choosing to have sex for the first time is so much more than making sure you have condoms. We so rarely focus on the emotional ramifications of sex, especially when we’re telling kids not to do it, and I DO believe that’s how Tami gets through to Julie in the end.
Sarah: “But baby? I’m not going to Austin.” Let’s be honest, Connie Britton had me from jump. I keep recommending this show to people who haven’t seen it and without an exception they say, “well, of course I love Connie Britton,” because they have sense. But Tami Taylor isn’t just Connie Britton’s natural charisma and beauty. The story’s been building to this moment, and to see a lady who wants her career put first for once? We have no choice but to stan.
Kayti: It’s so goddamn inspiring whenever Tami Taylor advocates for somebody else (which she is pretty much always doing in both her professional and personal life), but my admiration for her reaches another realm entirely when advocates for herself, telling Eric that she’s not moving to Austin with him. We’re socialized as girls and women to take care of others, and to put Important things like men’s careers above all else. In this moment, Tami says: My career is important too. The community we’re a part of here matters too. There are more important things than football. And she says it while she’s in Eric’s arms, looking him in the eye. Tami never turns away from the hard things, not even when it’s only her own heart she would be breaking.
- Favorite Coach pep talk?
Sarah: Kyle Chandler is so great in these scenes. He’s fierce but not scary, tough but never mean. But my favourite pep talk has to be one off the field, when he visits Jason in the hospital in “Eyes Wide Open.” Jason’s still in his neck brace and trying to focus on what Matt needs to do to succeed, and Coach repeats, “You’re a good man. You’re a good man. You’re what makes guys like me want to coach. You are a good man.” I can’t help but see every teacher who ever cared in Coach’s face there. He knows what Jason is doing by concentrating on Matt in the moment, but he doesn’t call him on it. He just tells him he loves him. It’s a gutsy move to pull this in your second episode, now that I look back, but Kyle Chandler and Scott Porter never make this feel any less than honest and earned.
Adrienne: Again, I’m going with the ending of “Eyes Wide Open” as Coach prepares Matt for his first full game as starting quarterback. It’s one of the best scenes in the entire show, IMHO. Taylor’s trying to understand his new QB1, but realizes that Matt is still trying to understand himself. And in this moment, they reach an understanding together. Coach is here to help Matt succeed if he wants it, but Taylor’s advice on how Matt should be proud of all he does off the field makes this a standout speech.
Kayti: Some of Coach Taylor’s best pep talks don’t happen in the locker room or on the field, but in quieter moments. In “Eyes Wide Open,” the second episode of the season, Eric goes over to Matt Saracen’s house to find out a little bit more about his new QB1. Matt is embarrassed to let him in, to have his domestic life seen by Coach. “I don’t know how you do it. You got your time commitments, you got your pressures, you got your studies. All that, and being the man of the house too … I’ll tell you something. I know you didn’t want me to step foot in your house tonight, but I’ll tell you something else and don’t you ever forget this: you should feel proud. You should feel real proud.”
Sage: I have a visceral memory of seeing Coach and Matt on the field at night in “Eyes Wide Open” for the very first time. The pilot is phenomenal, but the second episode and this scene in particular is what completely sold me on Friday Night Lights. It was that Coach being in his house for 60 seconds is all it took to have him truly see Matt and acknowledge that he’s had too many responsibilities bigger than football thrust upon him. It was Coach taking Jason’s advice to invest time into building Matt’s confidence. It was Coach telling Matt that he believes in him completely – which he does, despite the pressure he’s feeling to succeed. Most of all it was Coach telling Matt to carry himself with pride – to start owning how strong he is just for making his difficult family situation work.
Eric isn’t always a perfect mentor, but this is the best of him. He takes a petrified kid and turns him into the leader of his team, just by telling him what he’s already worth. I get goosebumps every time.
Kim: I start tearing up from the moment Coach shows up at the Saracen house in “Eyes Wide Open.” It’s Palovian. It’s just SO MUCH, you know? From the way Lorraine delightedly finds some food to shove into Eric’s hands to the way Eric accepts it to the way Matt looks like he wishes the floor would open up underneath him, it immediately establishes everything we need to know about this dynamic.
The thing about Eric Taylor as a coach is that he knows when to be hard on his players and he knows when to be soft. What Matt needs most in this moment is validation. He needs someone to acknowledge that he’s doing his fucking best under circumstances that no child should have to face. Eric Taylor does exactly that, not only acknowledging what Matt is going through, but telling him he should be PROUD of how he’s handling everything. When was the last time someone other than his Grandma told Matt that they were proud of him? I bet it’s been a LONG time. And THEN when Coach segues into talking about the game, talking about how everything is right there for the taking if Matt wants it. He creates the game atmosphere as best he can, blasting crowd noise and yelling at Matt to find his voice. If you aren’t a blubbering mess by the time that Matt YELLS that he’s QB1 for the Dillon Panthers, I don’t know what to do with you.
- Favorite ship?
Adrienne: Got to go with Matt and Julie. The courtship at the beginning of the season is so cute and Matt’s cluelessness over dating and girls is very endearing. I also stan a couple who play stupid games like leg wrestling. I find their relationship to be very realistic for their ages, unlike some of the other characters’. Plus, I adore Matt’s concern in making sure Julie consents.
Sage: Coach! And! Tami! It is extraordinary that Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton were able to create a relationship that already feels this lived in. You can feel their history in every interaction, even (especially) the non-verbal ones. They are tuned into each other in such a complete and intimate way – it’s honestly a dual performance.
That being said, they are also extremely hot! Famously, Kyle Chandler wasn’t comfortable doing sex scenes, so they never went there. But the physicality and intimacy they organically incorporate into every moment they share says so much more than any sex scene possibly could. Tami smiling warmly at Eric when he takes off his hat at dinner, like she’s seeing the boy she fell in love with. Eric cradling Tami’s face in his hands when he kisses her. Tami holding Eric’s hand during Julie’s dance recital. Eric draping himself over the back of the couch to say hello when he gets home. They’re not just attracted to each other – Eric and Tami are a true romance.
It almost feels silly to be writing now about how enviable Eric and Tami’s marriage is. They’re an iconic TV couple for a reason. But since they’re still the outliers, it bears repeating: You don’t need to shoehorn in trauma or infidelity to write a rich and interesting adult relationship! You just need two actors who understand that long-lasting relationships are sustained in the small moments.
Kayti: When I watched this show the first time, I was barely an adult. Now, I am firmly in adulthood. Back then, I was so into the Tim and Lyla relationship. I loved the angst of their coming together, and how they found someone to hold on to in their grief and loneliness and utter confusion; I loved Tim Riggins, full stop. I still love Lyla and Tim and can’t wait to keep watching, but, as a full adult watching FNL again, Eric and Tami sweep me off my feet. They’re not perfect, they’re something better. They’re partners. They’re each other’s favorite person, and they don’t take that for granted. They put in the work, and they make the time, even when they are exhausted. They are one another’s dream, but they never want to be the other’s only dream. They just believe in each other so damn much. They make each other laugh and, when their eyes meet across the kitchen or the football field, it’s magic.
Kim: The love between golden boy Jason Street and bad boy Tim Riggins is so much more than platonic friends. These boys are brothers. (The Streets are most definitely responsible for the one healthy meal he gets a week thanks to their family dinners.) They are each other’s ride-or-dies. They are soulmates. Tim and Jason’s friendship break-up is more painful than the Jason/Lyla break-up could EVER be. Jason is hurt by Lyla, obviously, but he is BETRAYED by Tim, which just feels so much worse. It KILLS me how Tim doesn’t fight back or try and deny anything when Jason confronts him and it kills me at how he gives Jason the space to process his feelings (unlike Lyla) and it KILLS ME at how quickly Tim jumps at the chance to mend fences when he gets the sense that Jason is ready. And just like that, they are best friends again. Texas Forever.
(Of course the obvious solution to this love triangle angst is that the three of them just all date each other, but what do I know?)
Sarah: I don’t know how you could watch the pilot and not ship Jason/Lyla/Tim, and I am always a sucker for that Shakespearean Young Lovers thing Matt and Julie have, but somewhere along the line Lyla and Tyra just started to make sense to me. It’s enemies to lovers! They have more in common than divides them! I need a slowburn 100k fic with lots of big Texas sunsets stat.
(Please note: the Taylors do not count here. They fuck up the curve.)
- Best Warm Fuzzy?
Sage: I’ve never really bought it when Tim Riggins tells Bo’s mom that he was the schoolyard bully. Like…the same Tim Riggins who comes to Crucifictorious’ first gig just to sincerely thank Landry for helping him get a passing grade on his book report and then sits through the whole excruciating thing because Landry invites him to and because he doesn’t want to hurt his feelings by leaving? That Tim Riggins? Mmmkay.
Sarah: Coach listening to Tami when she gets home in “Blinders.” He doesn’t try to fix it, he just listens. There are a lot of Best Marriage Ever moments in this show, but that has to be the top of the list for me.
Adrienne: I squealed the first time I saw Matt kiss Julie after the game. And several rewatches later, it still gets my heart fluttering. The moment is made even better by the fact that Matt later apologizes for kissing her without permission. A rare thing to see on TV in 2006.
Kayti: When Bo gives Tim Riggins his school picture, and Tim Riggins accepts it without hesitation.
Kim: I am ALWAYS a sucker for boys talking about their feelings so the scene where Jason, Tim, Smash, and Matt take their twelve-packs of beer and shoot the shit on the football field in “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes” is basically catnip to me. I love everything about it! I love how Tim encounters Jason at the corner store and buys his beer for him with his ridiculous fake ID, despite the lingering awkwardness between them. I love Smash and Matt’s jubilation at seeing Jason and the instant invite to join them. I love how they basically play the “Whose life is the worst” game from Notting Hill. I love how Matt expresses his fears about the upcoming game without getting any judgement from the others. I love how Coach!Jason emerges as the boys rally around their quarterback while W.G. Snuffy Walden’s score swells in the background. And I fucking LOVE how they stay out there all night, how Smash and Matt end up passed out on each other while Tim and Jason renew their friendship with a “Texas Forever” and a Brokeback Mountain joke.
When I watched Ted Lasso In late 2020, I couldn’t help but see the DNA of Friday Night Lights intertwined all throughout that perfect season of television. And this scene definitely feels like a meeting of the Dillon Chapter of the Diamond Dogs. Ted would be so proud. And he would maybe cry a little too.
- Thirstiest Moment?
Adrienne: RIGGINS. TANK TOP. RAIN.
Kayti: Eric and Tami making out on the pasture that will soon be mud.
Kim: I go absolutely WEAK IN THE KNEES when, after FINALLY offering Tami a genuine apology and acknowledging all the emotional heavy-lifting she does in her job and in their relationship, Eric gives her that crinkly eyed smile, playfully asking if they’re still friends over and over again as he crowds her up against the bleachers before ducking in and kissing her, briefly sweeping his hands through her glorious hair before resting them over her head. LET ME LIVE, KYLE CHANDLER.
Sage: Tim Riggins, Powder Puff Football Coach really does it for me, you guys. I don’t know if it’s the aviators or calling his players “ladies” or treating them otherwise exactly how he would a team of boys that clinches it – probably all of the above. It’s also just really hot when he takes charge and loses the ambivalence for a while.
Fortunately, this isn’t just a one-off thing. We’ll get to see more of Riggins being a women’s sports enthusiast as the show goes on, so look forward to that. I know I will.
Honorable mention to Coach’s hair every time it’s a) towel-dried, b) fresh out of bed, c) sweaty, or d) recently freed from his hat.
Sarah: Before I start, can we look respectfully at the production team and how they treat Lyla? Even in a cast of conventionally beautiful people, Minka Kelly stands out. Lyla has more sex scenes than anyone else in the show but it never feels like she’s being objectified. She might be in her underwear, but we don’t get that head-to-toe pan some other show might have done in the same story. And at first I thought this might just be due to the show’s shaky-cam cinematography, but no: Julie gets a head-to-toe shot on her first date with Matt to show how overdressed she is. Although I can’t swear this didn’t happen because I didn’t watch it at the time, it doesn’t feel like Friday Night Lights is using Minka Kelly to get a quick sexy shot just for the promo for next week.
Right, now that we have that covered, it’s Kyle Chandler in the rain during the Mud Bowl, rain in his hair and eyelashes. If next season doesn’t have several storms I’m going to be very disappointed.
- Right in the Feels moment?
Sarah: I am not a Tim Riggins girl but as soon as he said “I’m going to teach you how to spiral, all right?” to Bo, I was putty. Bo responds with “oh boy,” because he and his mom moved to Dillon from Mayberry, and Tim chuckles, and it is the sweetest, most wholesome, DILFy Americana I have ever had the privilege to witness.
Sage: The show’s depiction of Grandma Saracen’s dementia is inconsistent. She has spells when it’s convenient for the story and that’s about it. I can note that and still fall completely to pieces whenever Matt holds her tight, sways her gently, and sings “Mr. Sandman” in her ear until she calms down.
What makes that moment even more affecting is that we see it through Julie’s eyes. And what a revelation for her. Imagine being kind of into this guy despite your ban on jocks, and the first thing he does on the date you’re still not sure you should have agreed to is to (awkwardly) showboat his status to impress you. And then – AND THEN – you find out completely by accident that he’s actually this completely devoted, tender boy who memorizes old songs to soothe his nana.
RIP Julie Taylor, a goner before he even got to “bring me a dream.”
Adrienne: “Damn, son. You didn’t let me down.”
This moment gets me every time: as Jason is laying in a hospital bed with a fucking spinal injury, his thought is that he has disappointed Coach Taylor. His apology is heartfelt, as is Coach’s response. This whole exchange, starting with “You’re what makes guys like me want to coach,” is beautiful and both Scott Porter and Kyle Chandler perform it with such delicacy and poise.
Kayti: Julie telling Eric that she has dreams too. As someone who moved a lot growing up, this is a conversation I wish I had with my parents.
Kim: I don’t care if this makes me the most basic of Friday Night Lights fans, but my heart falls out of my ass when Jason takes that fateful hit in the Pilot. Even when you KNOW it’s coming, you still don’t see it coming, if that makes any sort of sense. It’s masterful how the episode goes from raucously loud to pin-drop silent in seconds, as everyone on the field and in the stands realizes what’s happened at the same time. And then, when the silence is pierced by sirens and Lyla’s screams for him to get up? And then the way Jason, a good polite boy always, tremulously thanks the paramedics as they strap him to the board? Please. It’s bone-chilling and it’s devastating and it knocks the breath out of my chest every single time.
- Best Hero Moment?
Sarah: Smash leading the Black players off the field at the end of “Blinders.” It might have been the first time this show made me cry. The entire steroids storyline led to this: Smash knew he might be giving up everything he just fought to get back, and he did it anyway. It’s still relevant, it sucks that it had to happen, and this kid made the stand he needed to. To quote one of my favourite characters of all time:
“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.
This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — ‘No, YOU move.’”
Kim: FNL’s entire MO is so many of these teenagers are dealing with shitty home situations and being forced into adulthood way before they should be. I’m sure Tyra Collette has seen a steady stream of garbage men going in and out of her house for most of her life, due to her mother being a disaster person. (A loving and well-intentioned disaster person, but a disaster person nonetheless.) The way she sits there and rolls her eyes as Angela and her boyfriend scream at each other is proof that it’s not an unusual occurrence. But still, given her lightning fast reaction when trash man hits her mother, it’s like Tyra has been WAITING for this moment to come and she’s prepared herself for it. She grabs that fire iron without even thinking about it and just goes FERAL, swinging it like a broadsword and getting up in trash man’s face, daring him to try it again. No wonder that motherfucker runs for his life.
Adrienne: Tyra chasing off her mother’s abusive boyfriend. The ferocity in her eyes as she stands between him and her mother, daring him to hit her, says so much about Tyra as a person. How unwilling she is to back down from a fight. Adrianne Palicki performs that moment flawlessly with such passion.
Kayti: Lyla giving her dad back his car and then singing her angry heart out in her soon-to-be-broken-down used car as she drives to Dallas. I love that this show lets Lyla be petty and angry and unlikable sometimes. Changing can really hurt, and Lyla changes so much in this first season. She goes through hell, and she doesn’t really get a lot of sympathy or support from the people and community that surrounds her.
Sage: Every time a well-behaved young girl blossoms into an angry young woman, an angel gets its wings. That’s Lyla in the second half of the season as her perfect world continues to collapse down around her, and I LOVE IT. When her toxic positivity filter falls away, it completely shatters and she starts to understand the power (and the release) of embracing her rage.
From doing some property damage at her cheating dad’s dealership to humiliating a very deserving Jason in front of his tattoo artist side piece, it’s all so cathartic. But the moment Lyla becomes the self-possessed bad bitch she was always meant to be is when she cuts on the lights at Jason’s pity party.
“You think it’s easy? I do it because I love you, stupid! But now you’re sitting here feeling sorry for yourself and acting like a jackass all the time! You want to play rugby? Find another team! You hate this lawsuit so much? Find a way to make it go away. And next time you want a glass of water, say please.”
- Favorite feature of Dillon, TX?
Sage: Long live the Alamo Freeze! I love everything about it, from those cute little all-white uniforms to Matt and Smash’s friendship blossoming behind the counter to the sheer terror/excitement of walking into a small-town hangout knowing that you could run into literally anyone you’re scared of, have a crush on, or can’t stand.
Sarah: You KNOW the Alamo Freeze has the best chili dog you’ve had in your life.
Kim: Who here DOESN’T want a soft serve cone dipped in chocolate from the Alamo Freeze, especially when it’s served to them by the cute Quarterback?
Special shout-out to Dillon’s five-star dining establishment, Applebee’s. Eatin’ good in the neighborhood!
Kayti: Tim Riggins’ Texas drawl.
Adrienne: I’m gonna get real cheesy here, but I’m gonna go with the people. Yeah, the town has its fair share of idiots and assholes, but there is something so real about these characters. And I believe that comes down to the actors knowing the characters so well right off the bat. The details that are brought mean so much. Saracen’s Live Strong bracelet, for example. And then, there’s the accents and what they (might intentionally) say about the character. As a native Texan, allow me to break it down for you…
- Coach and Matt share a lazy drawl that in no way denotes laziness. Coach’s derives from his mostly laid back nature, whereas Matt’s comes from his lack of conviction. His speech quickens when he’s sure of himself.
- Riggs uses a slower drawl of a guy who’d rather not say anything. Supposedly, Taylor Kitsch would throw away scripted lines in favor of showing the emotion with a look.
- Jason has the standard country boy accent, sweet and sure. Polished from his popularity.
- Tami’s got Texas twang that’s pronounced, but precise. She knows what she wants to say.
- Lyla’s slight twang is there, hidden under Minka Kelly’s distinct pitch. Most of her character is shown by word choice, for example, saying “I was unfaithful” instead of “ I cheated.”
- Tyra has a distinct drawl. An easy curl that denotes her lack of privilege, but her attitude adds impact.
- And then there is Julie’s suspicious lack of accent that marks her less than complimentary view of Texas. Possibly conscious.
- Favorite pop culture reference?
Sarah: Landry casually holding “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” title out, as he chats to Tyra in the library.
Kayti: “Lady Marmalade.”
Adrienne: Hands down, it’s gotta be Matt and Julie watching “The Office” (UNDER A BLANKET!). Such a seminal show for 2006. And, they are watching “Grief Counseling” which is a fantastic episode.
Kim: I love a good network synergy moment, so it HAS to be Matt and Julie curling under a blanket (THEY HAVE A BLANKET!) to watch The Office on a Thursday night.
Sage: The network synergy of Matt and Julie watching The Office, which was had just started its third season at that point, under the fateful blanket at the Taylors’ house! They could have picked any NBC show for them to have on the TV, but this one feels specifically apt because these two are the only kids at that school who I can actually picture being into workplace cringe comedy.
- Favorite Friendship?
Kim: Convention dictates that Julie Taylor and Lyla Garrity would have become friends, especially given the extremely touching moment the two girls share in the hospital hallway at the end of the pilot. It’s odd that they rarely interacted again after that. Give Lyla Garrity some girlfriends! It’s the one true failing of this show that they don’t fully delve into the delicate ecosystem of girls in a male dominated high school.
ANYWAY, I think Julie’s more acerbic nature would have clashed too much with Lyla’s sweetness, so I love that they pivoted to Tyra and Julie being friends instead. I mean, it’s really not much of a surprise that the town vixen with a heart of gold and the innocent coach’s daughter with a bit of a rebellious streak found some common ground, is it? There’s some definite hero-worship happening on Julie’s side and I appreciate that Tyra treats Julie with such obvious care, questionable shoplifting excursion aside. (Thank God they didn’t really follow through on that!) Sure, Tyra may encourage her to ditch class and is partially responsible for landing Julie in jail after a night at The Landing Strip, but she ALSO gives great boy advice and tells Julie that she doesn’t have to have sex with Matt if she isn’t ready yet. No wonder Julie defends her so fiercely when Tami expresses her reservations about their friendship. Every girl needs a brazen bestie, it’s a rite of passage!
Kayti: Tyra and Julie. I love that these two found each other, as two girls who don’t really care about football in a town that mostly only cares about football.
Sarah: Matt and Landry without a doubt. That’s the friendship that looks the most like the ones I had in high school. Not a lot of parties or drama, just two friends hanging out who really care about and trust each other. Someone could write a thesis on performative masculinity in this show, but the chemistry between Jesse Plemons and Zach Gilford and how comfortable they are with each other while simultaneously nervous of pretty much everything else in the world is *mwah* chef’s kiss. The way Landry acts like he lives in Matt’s house, while secretly scared his grandma’s a witch? As Magneto said, perfection.
Adrienne: Look, everyone needs a Landry in their life and Matt is extremely lucky to have found his at such a young age. Someone who is there to help you pick out a first-date outfit (Can you say Members Only?), let you borrow their car for said date, and cheer you on from the stands as you lead your team to the state championships. The playful banter and chemistry between Gilford and Plemons is a perfect and believable match to the point that I feel like I actually knew these kids in high school. The only thing missing is a shit-ton of “Anchorman” quotes.
Sage: A lack of stimuli can’t be good for Grandma Saracen’s dementia, and unfortunately, most of her days go exactly the same way. Enter Tyra, who treats Matt’s grandmother like a girlfriend instead of an old lady. It will always warm my heart to see Lorraine come alive as soon as she sees her gal pal.
- Sum up your feelings about the season?
Sarah: I’m excited about what’s to come next. I’ve been careful to not look up much about the show for fear of spoilers, but I know through pop culture osmosis that this show had to fight for every renewal. Season 1 is a great story in itself, but to know they get to do more is so fascinating. I’ve never been able to predict where this show is going (with the exception of Jason and Lyla’s engagement).
I can’t stop recommending this show to other people now. Sports Night had this tagline: “It’s a show about a show about sports, that isn’t about sports at all.” You can’t convince anyone Friday Night Lights isn’t about football, but you don’t have to like football to like this show. You just have to like some of the best writing, acting, directing and producing I’ve seen on TV in years.
Kayti: This show has been special to me for a long time. I grew up in a rural town filled with people who are failed and forgotten by our country, who some might view as not having much to look forward to after high school. Before Friday Night Lights, I had never seen any TV show come close to depicting that with any kind of authenticity or complexity on screen. To me, this first season is perfect.
Adrienne: As I sit to write this, I realize that my feelings about this show and season are rather complicated. Overall, it’s an amazing season and has one of the best pilots out there. However, there are multiple storylines that I very much dislike (adults having affairs with children, the whole storyline with Mac McGill being racist, etc). And then there’s my personal connection to the show. Like many of the characters, I was a Texas high school sophomore in 2006. I’ve met Jason Street, I had classes with Smash Williams, I went to sleepovers at Lila Garrity’s. The nostalgia for me is overwhelming as I remember the many Fridays/Saturdays at Mercer Stadium. Like Julie, I wanted to get out of Texas, but the funny thing is that shows like FNL remind me of the things I miss about it. The food, the southern hospitality, the “thank you much.” So in the words of Tim Riggins, Texas Forever.
Kim: I think what strikes me the most about season one of Friday Night Lights is how timeless it feels. Sure, the abundance of pop culture references date the series, and a few of the storylines don’t hold up very well fifteen years later, but at the same time, this first season feels like it could have aired in our current television landscape because everything about it is so recognizable. That recognition is what makes this show timeless. It’s what makes Friday Night Lights universal. We know these characters right away because we know these characters. We know this town, even if we’ve never set foot in Texas.
I went to an affluent private high school in Brentwood, Tennessee that’s nothing like Dillon High School, but at the same time, it was just like it. My high school REVERED football. Players got to break the dress code on game days, wearing their jerseys to class. Cheerleaders wore their uniforms to class on game days. Everyone was at the game every Friday night, whether you liked football or not, and organizing carpools for away games was both a strict science and an exploration of friend group hierarchy. We went to State five out of the six years I was there, winning back to back Championship titles my junior and senior years. I know these people and their struggles and their triumphs, even if my personal journey is nothing like theirs. That’s what makes it special and that’s what makes it feel as real and as urgent in 2021 as it did in 2006.
Sage: Sum up my feelings? Sum up my feelings?? After watching this season of TV for the first time, I named my adopted puppy Riggins and bought him a bunch of Panthers-related dog accessories. I paid my own way to ATX in 2015 mainly to experience the convention’s traditional Friday Night Lights tailgate and meet some of the stars. (Highly recommend watching “Mud Bowl” drive-in style with a few hundred other fans if you ever have the opportunity.) I watched all three seasons of Bloodline!
Part of the appeal for me is that, while I didn’t grow up in Texas, I do hail from a small Western Pennsylvania town with a similar lack of prospects and a similar reverence for high school football. And while none of us were anywhere near as hot as this cast, so much about the teen storylines rings true to me. Every one of these kids is hampered in some way by the situation they were born into. They know what’s expected of them, whether that’s to barely graduate high school and join the workforce or to be the one that makes it. And they either push as hard as they can against it or lean into it, afraid of the vulnerability that comes with wanting something different.
Friday Night Lights respects their striving and their resignation while still shining a light on how an institution like high school football can widen divides and exacerbate issues. Maybe what we’re seeing on screen is not how it should be in so many parts of America, but it very much is what it is, and those stories deserve to be told too.
As always, feel free to track the #ClearEyesFullHearts hashtag for our live tweets. Season two kicks off tonight, and continues every Monday and Friday.