Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Ode to 'Friday Night Lights:' Goodbye Dillon, Texas

Thirty-three minutes into the pilot episode of Friday Night Lights, Jason Street, the beautiful, smart, kind, polite, going-places Dillon quarterback with the gorgeous cheerleader girlfriend became paralyzed in freak accident during Eric Taylor’s very first game as head coach. In the days leading up to the game, people none-too-subtly told Eric, who wore a perpetually worried look on his face, that the pressure was on and that if he didn’t guide the team properly, he’d be gone.

Buddy Garrity was still married, Buddy Jr. was a little kid and there was a grand to-do celebrating the opening of his car dealership.

Sophomore Matt Saracen was complaining that he’d never get the chance to set foot on the field because Jason was so good at QB-1.

Julie Taylor, who was reading Moby Dick, compared her father to Captain Ahab and the town of Dillon to the elusive Moby Dick.

Tyra Collette flirted wildly with lots of guys even though she was the hard-drinking Tim Riggins’ gal pal.

At the end of that first episode Eric, who was emotionally crushed by Jason's injury, said, “We, at some point in our lives, fall. We will all fall.”

Now, on the cusp of the series finale of Friday Night Lights, I can honestly say that the show ended on a high note. The Taylors have weathered all manner of family crises, including in season two when Eric was living away from home part-time and Tami was pregnant, when Eric was replaced as Dillon’s coach and handed a non-existent football program at a financially strapped school and when Tami was drummed out of her Dillon principal’s position after she dared to have a conversation with a girl who attended East Dillon about the girl’s accidental pregnancy. The original group of Dillon high schoolers has left and new students, attending East Dillon took their places on the show and have done so seamlessly.

I’ve loved the earthy Taylor marriage and how Tami rarely let Eric get away with stuff. The scenes where they planned date nights, when they demonstrated that, after all this time, they were still into one another, were wonderful. In an episode this season, after Eric had been drinking with his fellow coaches at an away game, he called Tami from his hotel room and asked, “What y’all wearin’?” hoping for phone sex.

As the Friday Night Lights book closes, we learned that Jason Street has thrived, despite the tragedy that befell him in episode one when his entire sense of who he was and what he’d do with his life was shaken to its core. Now a husband and a father, Jason evolved into a confident sports agent, complete with his own business card and that trademark, All-American smile on his face.

Matt, who always seemed older than his age as he shouldered more responsibilities than someone his age should have to, finally stopped martyring himself. He went away to school in Chicago to chase his dreams and utilize his artistic talents. His future looks bright.

Tim, whose best days seemed to have been left behind on the playing field, is now an ex-con and has no idea what he’s going to do next.

What’ll happen to Jess Merriweather, who dreams of becoming a football coach, to Vince Howard, who hopes (like the other East and West Dillon players before him) to go to college and play pro ball, to Becky Sproles, who seems lost without parental guidance but has found puppy love with Luke Cafferty, who’s learning that football scholarships aren’t abundant? We’ll have to use our collective imaginations to picture what might’ve become of their futures had Friday Night Lights gone on for more seasons.

It was a down-to-earth, smart and enjoyable ride while it lasted. Thanks y'all.


Cooley Horner said...

We saw the last episode online a few weeks ago--it aired on DirecTV last year, so online copies were abundant--and I absolutely loved the way they ended the show. If you're interested, Grantland did a great interview with the creators and actors to discuss the show; it was really interesting:

Meredith O'Brien said...

That Grantland oral history of the "Friday Night Lights" TV show was great. Filled with lots of trivia and the real voices of the people who came to embody some of my favorite TV characters.

I'll miss this show.