23 Shows You Should Be Watching: #23, Friday Night Lights

When I decided to write about the TV shows I watch, and you should too, I scared the hell out of myself. As it turns out, I make time for TWENTY-THREE shows, not counting all the ballgames, flip-arounds, and gotta-stop-and-watch’es (Raising Arizona, Goodfellas, the Godfathers, the Man With No Name westerns). It’s a depressingly huge number, only slightly mitigated by the fact that not all of these shows cycle at the same time.

What’s weird is that I almost never just sit and watch the tube — I’m always engaged in something else at the time, like, say, writing blog posts. Still, the volume of this list, combined with the fact that I can’t stand 90 percent of the “top” TV shows — the CSI and Law & Order franchises, reality TV, Desperate Housewives/Gray’s Anatomy — leads me to believe that maybe, just maybe, TV isn’t quite the vast cultural wasteland it was even five years ago in the pre-Sopranos days. Maybe, just maybe, HBO and FX and Showtime have managed to offset the tidal wave of prime-time crap, and more choice actually does allow for more quality.

Or maybe I just don’t have the attention span to read anymore.

Anyway, for this little affair, I’m focusing only on shows that are currently on the air. So we won’t include work like Homicide or Arrested Development, NYPD Blue or The West Wing, Cheers or Miami Vice, Keen Eddie or Lucky, Boomtown or Line of Fire. You should definitely look to catch those shows — every one rises to the level of art at one time or another. But for now, let’s just focus on the ones you can TiVo. Anyone who guesses what #1 is wins a script to SUNDOWN: ARIZONA #1.

23. Friday Night Lights
Synopsis: The story of a small Texas town in autumn, where everyone values God, guns, sex, and football…and most definitely not in that order.
Why You Need To Watch It: Because it’s dying in the ratings, and unlike most shows, it doesn’t deserve to. This show could have gone wrong so many ways, and goes right every single one. The acting, the music, the direction, the storylines…this show takes Faulkner’s approach of finding the secrets of the human condition in a tiny postage stamp of land, and pulls it off.
Key Scene: The hush that falls over the stadium in the very first episode when the star quarterback takes a paralyzing hit. In most other shows, he’d get up and walk to slow, building applause and overwrought orchestral music. Here, with less than sixty minutes of show under our belts, we already know the quarterback’s ending won’t be a storybook one.
Great Quote: “Give all of us gathered here tonight the strength to realize that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all at some point in our lives fall. We will all 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 now all be tested. It is these times. It is this pain that allows us to look inside ourselves.” –Coach Eric Taylor, speaking to his team outside fallen QB Jason Street’s hospital room. It’s a scene of quiet, powerful dignity, and once you realize it won’t be spoiled by Hollywood cheese, it hits you all the harder.

Jay

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