Monday, May 10, 2010

On Clear Eyes and Full Hearts

I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago about television. I do this quite a bit now, because this is a great time in America for quality television. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie as intense as last week's episode of Breaking Bad, or saw a movie as atmospheric as an episode of Mad Men, or saw a movie as mythologically powerful as an episode of Lost. The best one percent of television is better than it has ever been because it is more "real" than ever before, even when it is as fantastical as any of the programs I just mentioned.

But anyway, this particular conversation centered around the return of Friday Night Lights. And the truth is, we couldn't wait for it to return to network television, because we wanted a show that made us somehow feel satisfied. Every week, Breaking Bad has the potential to tear our perceptions of good and evil to shreds; terrible things happen, and we feel more and more frightened, and the characters descend further into darkness. Lost--well, the beauty of Lost is that it is a giant thematic question mark. On Friday Night Lights, bad things happen, and they occur in semi-realistic ways,* and yet we still feel good because we know resolution will eventually arrive. We know that these characters are inherently decent. FNL is the one show that makes me truly happy to exist.

I watched the first episode of the new season of FNL last night. I will admit, I have no way of subjectively judging it anymore. It evokes a feeling in me that is different than any show I've ever seen; it encapsulates everything I love about modern television, everything I love about football, and everything I loved about Buzz Bissinger's book and all the versions of it that came after (including my own). Somewhere in there is the reason I chose to write about sports, and perhaps the very reason I chose to write at all. I now often watch college football games with FNL scenarios in mind, because as absurd as they might seem when being enacted on network television, they sometimes carry real-world relevance. While every other show on television is preoccupied with expanding the definition of what television can become, FNL adheres to an old-fashioned sort of moral code; and yet it does so in a way that feels modern and relevant--even its sentimentality is offset by its naturalism. I can't imagine there are many people who read a blog like this one who aren't watching this show, but if you're one of them, please don't wait any longer. This show could change your life. Or at least, it might feel that way.

*With the exception of the unspeakable Season 2 plot twist, which shall forever be ascribed to network idiocy.

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