I HATE TO SAY, BUT I MAY BE HOOKED on a new TV series. Last night the new series "Friday Night Lights," premiered, and I have to say that they're on to something.
The series is based on a movie which was based on a non-fiction book, which profiled how a Texas town obsesses about high school football. You'd think that the political, business and civic leaders in town had nothing more important to worry about. The whole town literally closes on Friday nights when the games on are. The pressure on players and coaches to win is intense. The players, who are not even old enough to vote, are revered as great idols of the community. In the opening episode of the series, they they are even hit on (without success) by women older than their own mothers. Everything is sanctified by a prayer.
Kyle Chandler has landed one of the best fits of his acting career as the team's coach. He is the one who must shield the team (and himself) from the overblown expectations of the community and, at the same time, make sure they live up to them enough so that he keeps his job. He exudes cool charisma on the outside, which shields worry on the inside. This may be his most complex role ever.
In the first episode (which aired last night), the town (and viewers) are jolted to reconsider just exactly where football fits in the hierarchy of human priorities. It's a brilliant way to start the season, as it will keep viewers coming back. And it raises all sorts of interesting questions.
I grew up in a town where sports, especially football and basketball, were treated with similar reverence and hysteria -- though not quite to the extent that it is portrayed in this series (and, sadly, none of the kids I grew up with looked quite as good as the actors in the series). It often disgusted me that people would take these games so seriously. On the other hand, it did bring about real excellence. Several of our teams, including our football team won the state championship my senior year (I was on the team until my senior year, wouldn't you know, but I was not, how to say, a star player), and many of our other teams won championships and were competitive as well. That's good, too.
Unlike the town on "Friday Night Lights," I think there was ultimately a sense of perspective in my town, that sports wasn't everything. But it sure was amazing to me how so many people in town followed the progress of our teams even long after their sons and daughters graduated from the high school and with a fixatation that was a little too intense.
Anyway, for better or worse, I guess my Tuesday nights are booked.