My wife and I have become immersed in the TV series, Friday Night Lights. The five seasons are on Netflix. I read the book by H. G. Bissinger years ago and saw the 2004 movie that was based on it. I had no interest in following the NBC series that started in 2006 until my daughter Jennifer said she thought I'd like it. She was right - it's really good. We're about halfway done with Season 2. So if it veers off track later, as so many good TV series do, I'll retract what I'm about to say. In terms of the acting, story line, and characterizations, it's one of my favorite shows ever.
High school football is the thread that weaves together the lives of a dozen or so key characters in a small west Texas town. Coach Eric Taylor, his wife Tami, and teenage daughter Julie are the main characters. Numerous football players, their families, hangups, and conflicts come and go, with each episode focusing on two or three. The portrayals are realistic, often very sad looks into the hearts of people who have been damaged by betrayal, poverty, abuse, or disappointment.
Coach Taylor, played by Kyle Chandler (who finally won an Emmy for his role this year), is mentor and father figure for the many troubled people in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas. He has his own weaknesses, but he's an inspiring role model for the football players he loves and protects. The way the Taylors relate to each other is a refreshing change from the way most TV shows portray families. Eric and Tami's love for each other is genuine. They work through conflicts with their daughter with honesty and grace.
With FNL, I almost feel like I know these people and am back in my hometown of Union, SC. Buddy Garrity could have easily been one of my neighbors.
In Season 2, Buddy's daughter Lyla becomes a Christian and gets involved in an evangelical church. It's encouraging to see Christianity presented positively for a change (so far, at least). Through faith in Christ, Lyla's life is turned around and she becomes a compassionate and gracious friend to people who have used her in the past. Smash Williams, Dillon High's standout football player, attends a solid church and hears authentic presentations of the gospel. How often do you see that on prime-time television?
Friday Night Lights explores our broken human condition, shows the value of community, and at key moments points to the ultimate source of healing: the gospel of Christ.