Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's time to light the 'Lights'

This morning's column reviews one of my two or three favorite new shows (and, considering that I've seen a second episode of this and not "The Nine," it may have shifted into favorite position), "Friday Night Lights":

At one point in the debut episode of "Friday Night Lights," we see the teenage quarterback of the Dillon Panthers fade back to pass. He evades one tackler, then another, and then...

... well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? But when it comes to fictional sports stories, does that matter? Or is the knowledge of what's to come part of the point?

With real sporting events, the rush comes from the unpredictability, the way that a game refuses to follow a script. (Save for the occasional New Orleans Saints return to the post-Katrina Superdome.) If there weren't the possibility of witnessing failure, what fun would success be?

And yet there's a reason why sports movies remain so popular, why four different football films are being released this fall, why Sylvester Stallone is sucking in his gut and lacing on the gloves for a sixth "Rocky" movie. The thrill of victory may be sweeter if you risk the agony of defeat, but sometimes we just don't want to suffer, do we?

The best sports movies and TV shows provide us with a kind of certainty, the knowledge that you'll get to witness either a clear win ("Hoosiers," "Major League") or some kind of moral victory (Rocky going the distance, Rudy getting on the field).

So when I say that virtually every development in the "Friday Night Lights" premiere will be telegraphed well in advance, I don't mean it as a bad thing. The drama is one of the season's best because it makes you care even when you know something big is coming -- and because it finds pleasant little surprises along the way.

To read the rest, click here.

UPDATE: Might as well use this to get other points of view rather than starting a second FNL thread. What say you?

11 comments:

jim treacher said...

Glad to hear you liked the pilot of "The Nine." I found it very moving, for reasons I can't really pin down. It's amazing how much they made me feel for those characters after 44 minutes. Let's hope they can continue that every week. Wednesdays at 9 on ABC, no pressure!

vance said...

I could care less about football but I was really surprised at how much FNL made me care. Somehow by the end of the pilot, I was totally captivated and MOVED. After only ONE episode! I hope people can look past the shaky cam and the slow and subtle dialogue (which makes it beautifully realistic which scares a lot of people) to give FNL a chance.

Reel Fanatic said...

I managed to finagle the first two episodes of this at work, but haven't gotten to watch them yet .. I'm planning to tonight, and judging from all the advance word, I'm definitely looking forward to it!

Todd VanDerWerff said...

I'm already on record as loving it.

That said, I can't imagine this being a big ratings winner.

EzekielRawlins said...

I was quick to dismiss this show well before seeing the pilot tonight. But, damn if I didn't find myself caught up in it and generally surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

Anonymous said...

The ratings were pretty low for this one. I don't think it is making it past the holiday break.

Dark Tyler said...

Okay, seriously. What does NBC have to do to get the viewers' attention?

Ben said...

Alan, due to the critical praise NBC will give it some time. However NBC can't afford to be patient with 2 high quality struggling shows. They're a struggling network and don't have that luxury. Friday Night Lights will probably suffer the same fate as Freaks and Geeks. If NBC has to choose between 2 shows, FNL or Studio 60 overseen by one of the most powerful producers in the industry who do you think Zucker will choose? Especially when they already have an established relationship with Sorkin via The West Wing. Sorry Alan, but I think Lights will be toast by January with Studio 60 being allowed to run through May with preemptions during the sweeps months. Lights will undoubtedly be yanked in November and return in December when it's ultimate fate will be decided.

Ben said...

The CW got a 3.7/6 from "America's Next Top Model" to beat out a repeat of the "Friday Night Lights" premiere on NBC. ( It could be gone before January at this rate. There's no way NBC can spin this loosing to a fledgling network and to a cheesy reality show at that. Sorry Alan. At least you'll have your wife to lean on when the show is canceled and you break down weeping in hysteria-induced grief.

Anonymous said...

He can comfort himself laughing at the "hilarious" Ugly Betty.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Wow, guys, how did you know that I was curled up into a ball moaning, "I am cold! I am frightened! What will the new world order bring for Yakov?" Group hug, please?

Seriously, I went into this season knowing that a lot, maybe all, of the new shows that I liked would fail, probably in short order. Too many ambitious, serialized dramas for an audience that only has so many hours in a week for that kind of thing (and already has prior commitments from returning shows like Grey's, Lost, House, etc.).

I've had my heart broken by a TV show's cancellation exactly once, and that was "EZ Streets" in my very first season as a TV critic. Once that went away, I made my peace with the idea that any and every show I love could get canceled at any time.