Candidate for Brilliant But Cancelled: Friday Night Lights

I didn’t read the book, and I didn’t watch the movie with Billy Bob Thorton.

I live in Texas, and while I’ll largely ambivalent to the culture of high school football in Texas, I know it’s out there. Despite that pedigree, I’ve become a fan of Friday Night Lights after two episodes. That makes me one of the nearly one million viewers who didn’t ditch after the series premiere.

Two more scripts have been ordered for the show, but given the competition with Dancing with the Stars and, perhaps, Gilmore Girls, I’m not sure critical acclaim and a small fan base are enough.

What do I like about the show? It’s shot in a documentary style that’s reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica. The camera jostles and focuses sharp on the characters. The actors trample all over each other’s dialogue in a manner that mimics, you know, real life?

And while some of the scenarios may seem like typical sports story fare — injured athlete facing dire circumstances, rookie player thrust into the limelight — the show feels incredibly organic. This depiction of a small town feels far more authentic than the small town portrayed in Jericho.

Yeah, I know — I don’t live in a small town and never have lived in a small town. But I live in Texas, and the small towns runs into city life more often than you think.

Perhaps the the clincher for me is the Explosions in the Sky-style soundtrack. Honestly, I don’t know how much W. Snuffy Walden (who scored The West Wing) is emulating Explosions in the Sky, and how much of it really is Explosions in the Sky. I did recognize "The Only Moment Were Alone" from The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place this past week, and I’m fascinated by how the indie rock moodiness of the band’s music actually fits the storytelling of the show.

I expected a show about high school football in Texas to use a lot of country music. There isn’t a twang to be heard in the incidental music.

Friday Night Lights is the only other new show this season to earn a Season Pass on my TiVo.

If you’re not watching Friday Night Lights, please give it a chance. Perhaps the documentary storytelling may seem a bit too realistic, and the topic matter may seem to distant. I think, however, the human core of the stories will ultimately draw you in.