Saturday, April 28, 2012
Friday Night Lights
The most critically acclaimed series are not always those which enjoy the largest audience shares, and I am not referring to the subtitled selection of European goodies that BBC4 serves up on a regular basis. Think of The Wire, a series that the critics loved but one which drew such small audiences in the States that at one point it was going to be cancelled but which was saved thanks partly to its success in Britain where word of mouth and DVD sales battled gamely against ridiculous scheduling.
Friday Night Lights is similar in many respects to The Wire in regard to its initial scheduling if not its overall quality. Almost cancelled after two seasons in the States, shown at a bloody stupid time originally in the U.K (ITV 4 at 1:30 a.m anybody?) it was nevertheless a critical success and its repeat showings on Sky Atlantic have produced a small but perfectly formed audience, let's face it anything on Sky Atlantic is going to get a tiny audience. Of course audience size is all relative, in the U.S it's 6.1 million regulars was considered small, in the UK that first season on ITV4 drew just 26,000 people.
So what makes the story of a high school football team in a fictional town in rural Texas so appealing? Well it's got the old basics of a good story, or stories, that affect everybody. It's all there: ambition, love, illness, betrayal, disability, drug taking, the pressure of college football, lack of jobs, you name it the series has it and its much more than the day to day, week to week, problems of the Dillon Panthers football teams. It's one of those few series, like the Wire in this respect, where the characters are engaging right from the beginning - and there's a lot less swearing. That's not to say that all of the writing is above and beyond criticism, some of the characterisations are not written that deeply and, unlike some British television series where the writers are to a degree constrained by the history of the series and the writers 'bible', FNL seems to play fast and loose with its own history as the series progresses through the seasons.
Given that we are watching a series that premiered in the States some six years ago it's interesting to see how some of the young performers have fared since. Aimee Teegarden who plays the daughter of Coach Taylor has made a few low budget, low profile films which seem to suit her style of acting, she doesn't seem to have the presence to carry off a lead in the same way that say Natalie Portman could do at a similar age that said she was excellent in the film Beautiful Wave. Taylor Kitsch who plays Tim Riggins has made some big budget films, most noticeably and most recently John Carter, which flopped everywhere except Russia. The actress with the most screen presence though is Adrianne Palicki who plays Tyra Collette, the tart with the heart and she hasn't really done anything of note since. The wonderfully named Minka Kelly, who was actually twenty six at the start of the series, which is surely too old for anybody to be wearing a cheerleader outfit, is another who has done very little work of note since.
There are very few television programmes these days that I find necessitate programming into the Sky planner but Friday Night Lights is currently one of a select group.
Posted by Paul at 9:57 AM