Reflecting on five years of ‘Friday Night Lights’

This whole thing rambles a bit, so forgive me.

Before I get into this post, I wanted to share something that was one of those really cool “lost in time” souvenirs I’ve collected from the five-year run of Friday Night Lights. The image you see above is not something of my own creation, but rather someone (I’m not sure who) that mocked up a wrap-around cover for Sporting News magazine a few years ago in an attempt to sell to NBC. (I think this was around the time when the financial burden of the show shifted to DirecTV from NBC, so as you can guess from the fact that you’ve never seen this before, it did not sell.)

A while back, one of my bosses shared this cover with me. It was maybe a few months before my visit to the set of Friday Night Lights in Austin — something that, sadly, I cannot link to as there is no functional archive of FirstCuts at the moment, but I’m working on it. Anyway, I had the opportunity to share that cover with Kyle Chandler, who obviously played Eric Taylor. It was a fun moment on a great day when I not only met Chandler, but also met Connie Britton (Tami Taylor) and Brad Leland (Buddy Garrity). You can view pictures from the set visit here. They were shooting Episode 404.

That day is probably one of my favorite stories to tell to people as I talk about my 8-9 hours spent in the Taylor house or my dinner with Leland and Chandler talking about everything from sports to their charitable work with their golf tournament, Beyond The Lights, which benefits the Buoniconti Fund and Gridiron Heroes. They’ve got another great event lined up in May, by the way. A good cause worth giving to for certain.

But that’s a bit of a digression. Just reflecting on the five-season run of Dillon, Texas, I can tell you that having already viewed the finale, the show ends in a way that is fitting of a series that was true to its characters and true to a story that wasn’t particularly like others you’d seen on television in many instances.

Read more of this post


Friday Night Lights, Episode 512: Texas Whatever

If you’re reading this, you’ve (hopefully) just finished the second-to-last episode we’ll ever get from Dillon featuring the Friday Night Lights gang. Go beyond the jump for thoughts on Texas Whatever.

Read more of this post

Friday Night Lights, Episode 511: The March

First up, I’ve got to say apologies for no write-up last week. Sporting News had its editorial summit and despite the fact I’d watched the episode in advance, I just didn’t have the steam after the two days of meetings on top of coaching and life. (In short, I really enjoyed it, but was surprised how over-the-top the positive reaction to the episode was. Thought some of the resolutions came too easily, to the point where I wondered whether they were final.)

Anyway, on to this week’s episode, 511 – The March, which leaves us with just two episodes before we say goodbye to Dillon forever. Is it dusty in here? Thoughts on this week’s episode, which airs on the DirecTV 101 Network at 9 p.m. ET, after the jump.

Read more of this post

Friday Night Lights, Episode 509: Gut Check

We’re in the stretch run of both the series of Friday Night Lights and the football season for the East Dillon Lions. Proceed past the jump for discussion of tonight’s episode.

As they say at the start of the episode, the dream is over and the unbeaten season is not to be. The Lions lose 28-17. Loved the different way of presenting the win – showing Jess cleaning up, the chaos in the locker room – and having it spliced together with shots of the team falling apart during the game. I’m not sure I’ve seen them present action like that since the start of Season Three when they had to sort of rush through what was missed with the writers’ strike. It was a cool change of pace. Clearly, no matter how much they tried to put up a good front at the pep rally, that fracture was more than a hairline crack and there is a real problem.

Coach Crowley lays it out there: “Look, we all know the problem. It’s Vince. He’s lost this team.” As it turns out, Vince winds up losing way more than that. Vince has lost his new rock of strength – his dad – because he’s beginning to realize exactly how unhinged he is. He’s lost Jess by the end of the episode, perhaps the one thing that could snap him back into reality. (“We’re done jackass. We’re through.”) And you can tell, that might be the moment the fog starts to clear from his vision. He starts to see how crazy his dad is, with an assist from his mom. His dad even gives a very Iverson-like speech about missing practice. “Not a game! One practice.”

It seems like both of the parents in the Taylor house are watching their own rehab projects fall apart. So much of the work OCach Taylor has done with Vince is being undone. And it unravels even quicker for Tami with Epych. Things appear to be positive, as Epych has a nice, soft moment with Gracie Bell. By the end of the episode, Epych is being accused of theft and winds up nailing Mrs. Coach in the head with a bad, which leads to her arrest and removal from her current foster home to another home. Tami’s work with Epych is through, it would seem.

The Chicago story is an interesting one to me. That Matt has clearly figured out his life without Julie, and as much as he puts on that happy act, he seems to be struggling with this idea that, as he puts it, he’s got to be Julie’s safety net and her escape as she’s clearly running away from something else. Their end in Chicago is one of total depression, if not for a late dash to the car before she goes. Maybe there’s hope for them yet before the series ends.

And then there’s Becky. Oh, Becky, Becky, Beck. Have you not been reading what I’ve said? Did I not tell you to stay away from The Landing Strip as a means of making money? This seed was planted a few episodes back, and as if Luke’s parents didn’t already hate her for the abortion, I can’t imagine this will particularly endear her to them when they find out. Oh, and please believe they will find out.

As for the second game of the episode, the one they win 19-17, I’m not one to question Coach Taylor, but why did they take so long to switch to the shotgun. OK, it’s a nitpick, but I feel like it was a package they used last season, so it should’ve been an easy switch. But I guess that just wouldn’t have created as much drama.

On to the notes…

— That Shane State gig doesn’t seem to be going away. Don’t know how I’ll feel if it ends that way … but I’ve already had others point out the parallel between that and other versions of FNL. If I were Eric Taylor, I’d have to think long and hard about that after the nonsense of this season.

— And now we’ve got another Riggins family pregnancy – one Mindy doesn’t seem too thrilled about, even if Billy is thrilled enough to put the test in his mouth. (“I peed on that.”)

— “I hope this doesn’t freak you out, but I think we need to go get breakfast.”

— The Lions head to the playoffs.

Friday Night Lights, Episode 508: Fracture

Oh my. With only a few episodes remaining, things are getting decidedly real in Dillon and elsewhere. The writers might not have thought about this as a way to jump back into things after a break for the holidays, but it functioned as that. (Don’t forget, Friday Night Lights airs on DirecTV’s 101 Network at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesdays.) Anyway, on to the thoughts about this week’s episode, all the way up through the riveting final minutes.

Read more of this post

Sports Night, 10 years(ish) later

Technically, the 10-year anniversary of the final episode of “Sports Night” came on May 16, 2010, but I’ve been re-watching the series in the last few weeks so now seems like as good a time as any to take a look back at the show and how on point it is even a decade (plus) later.

The last time I actually watched the series all the way through, it was around mid-2006 and I probably watched the series finale — Quo Vadimus — within a few weeks of Sporting News’ sale to American City Business Journals. Talk about timing.

Even before that, I really did consider it a formative show when I was in high school that got me excited about the business. I think we can all blame Josh Malina for making us think we could be stat geeks and some day land a woman like Sabrina Lloyd. (Seriously, Josh, that’s just cruel. I still carry such a torch for Lloyd.)

There are undoubtedly things that date the show, which ran from 1998-2000. Check out the technology: no flat screens, big cell phones and the actual existence of Fox Sports as a centralized competitor to ESPN. (When did their SportsCenter competitor go off the air?) But the issues they deal with, you can either find exact correlations or updated versions of those situations.

Read more of this post

Friday Night Lights, Episode 507: Perfect Record

Before I get into the review, I have to say that it set in on me tonight. We’ve pushed just beyond the halfway point for the final season of Friday Night Lights, and I can’t help but be a little bit sad. The show has been pretty strong this season — aside from the one plot I’m not in love with (and if you’ve been reading the reviews, you know what that is.) Anyway, go beyond the jump for the rivalry week game for the Oil Rig between the East Dillon Lions and the West Dillon Panthers.

Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: