“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.”
Dillion High Motto
Okay, I know I’m late to the game but just last night I finally watched the pilot to Friday Night Lights that first aired in 2006. Really great stuff. I’m so far behind that just over a month ago the series just finished airing its fifth and final season.
I was a fan of the Friday Night Lights book by H.G. Bussinger when it first came out in 1990, and enjoyed the 2004 film that was based on the book, so I don’t know what took me so long to getting around to the TV program other than I don’t invest too much time into television. From the start what I like about Friday Night Lights is it has a rich sense of time, place and people.
The TV version of Friday Night Lights was created by Peter Berg who wrote and directed the movie version and also the show’s pilot. In an interview with Jeffrey Brown, Berg had this to say about the program that over its five year run had a relatively small but faithful following:
“I think it’s become pretty clear in the last couple of years — I don’t know, four, five years — that mainstream audiences are looking for escapism in their films and in their television programs. They’re not looking to and I certainly understand why, they’re not being asked to work a lot emotionally or often times I think intellectually. That’s not to say that we’re lazy emotionally and intellectually, it just says that when we watch TV or go to the movies as a culture, we generally want to have fun and escape. And for “Friday Night Lights,” for a variety reasons, is not always a lot of fun and it’s certainly not an escape. I think that’s a similar problem to films like “The Hurt Locker” have encountered when trying to find and connect to, you know, large mainstream audiences.”
Berg was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series for the pilot. And apparently the program stayed strong under the showrunner Jason Katims because Friday Night Lights picked up several nominations in 2010 including one for Outstanding Writing by Rolin Jones for his episode The Son.
Berg is also an actor who had roles in Chicago Hope and Collateral. I did a little digging and sure enough found a nice Midwest connection with Berg. Though born in New York City apparently he started taking acting classes in Saint Paul, Minnesota at Macalester College where he graduated in 1984 with a degree in theater.
Berg set the emotional and intellectual tone early in the opening show when the star quarterback who has his sights set on playing college ball at Notre Dame is paralyzed in the first game of the year. The show ends with Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) saying this prayer;
“Life is so very fragile. We’re all vulnerable and we will all at some point in our lives—fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts that what we have is special, that it can be taken from us, and that when it is taken from us we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls.”
In my book, that’s pretty fine writing. And words that resonate beyond the football team at Dillion High School.
By the way, the star quarterback who is injured in that first program was played by actor Scott Porter.
“I played wide receiver for Lake Howell High School in Florida. We had a great team, went to the state semi-finals my junior and senior high, and had three future NFL players.”
I happen to have played wide receiver at Lake Howell High School in Florida as well. (As did current Miami Dolphin wide receiver Brandon Marshall.) Doesn’t mean much, but still fun to make those little connections.
Here’s one last little connection that comes full circle to this blog. Diablo Cody (many of you know my inspiration for starting this blog three years ago) wrote her Juno script in Minneapolis not far from where Berg started taking acting classes. Turns out that Cody is a big fan of Friday Night Lights (“one of the best shows on television”) and even featured Kyle Chandler on her webshow Red Band Trailer.