I have to say, I don’t usually admit to rooting for a character on scripted television, but that’s what I’m doing for Matt Saracen (played by Zach Gilford) on Friday Night Lights. It’s rare to find characters on television as nuanced as Saracen. He’s a guy pulled in too many directions at once.
On the one hand, he’s thrust into a leadership role for a team on which he existed in the periphery. Now the culture of Texas high school football is drawing him in. At home, he’s taking care of an ailing grandmother while his father is stationed in Iraq. He’s got a job at a fast-food joint, and he’s got a crush on the coach’s daughter. There are even hints that he’s got a bit of the artist in him.
Gilford plays Saracen with refreshing understatement. Saracen isn’t an eloquent orator, so Gilford must rely on body language to convey his character’s uncertainty about the circumstances around him. He’s got the deer-in-the-headlights look down. Saracen’s story is perhaps the most engaging thread in the multiple layers of Friday Night Lights.
The love triangle between Jason Street (Scott Porter), Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) and Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly) is predictable but also very high school, so it’s not annoying as it could be. Even the pressures faced by Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) don’t have the dramatic pull as Saracen’s situation.
Connie Britton was terrific at the start of The West Wing’s third season, but she really shines as Taylor’s wife Tami. Sometimes I wonder whether Britton is actually out-acting Chandler.
I really like this show. Incredible acting, engaging storylines — there’s a lot to like about it.
But what keeps me coming back week after week is the soundtrack. So far, Explosions in the Sky has somehow made its way into just about every episode.
In fact, Friday Night Lights spurred me to buy Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever, in lieu of an official soundtrack. And while I was at it, I got Envy’s Insomniac Doze and Eluvium’s When I Live by the Garden and the Sea. All three bands record for the Temporary Residence label.
The use of post-rock as a soundtrack is surprisingly effective. On its own, post-rock can be as abstract as modern art, but set against the unlikely backdrop of a high-pressure, small-town culture, it’s a beautiful combination.