‘Friday Night Lights’ lets viewers look ‘through the looking glass of rural America’

By Al Cross

“Between cartoonish reality shows and grotesque game shows, there isn’t much dramatic television giving big, clear windows into America,” David Masciotra writes for the Daily Yonder. “However, on the rare occasion that TV does get it right, it is often the stuff of pure emotive and intellectual brilliance.”

Masciotra’s first example, his urban one, and the one he considers best, is “The Wire,” which ran on HBO from 2002 to 2008. His next, and his main topic, is “Friday Night Lights,” which recently began its fourth season on NBC. The show lets viewers look “through the looking glass of rural America, allowing them to explore family, faith, and of course, football with sociological savvy and emotional maturity,” Masciotra writes. “It is about small towns in modern America, and what their families do to maintain communal strength, familial love, and individual excellence under unfriendly economic conditions, intense social divisions, and limited local opportunity.” (NBC photo: Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler play Tami and Coach Eric Taylor)

Masciotra concludes with other comparisons: “‘Friday Night Lights’ doesn’t have the artsy guts of ‘The Sopranos,’ the suspense of ’24’ or the political relevancy of ‘The Wire’, yet it still belongs in the company of those innovators. It has more heart than the three of them, and tells its seemingly ordinary stories so well that viewers will have no choice but to give into the powerful urge that all art seeks to inculcate: the urge to care—to care about the characters of the fictional drama and then channel that concern into real life struggles in which the consequences impact actual human beings.” (Read more)

Al Cross, former Courier-Journal political writer, is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and The Rural Blog. Reprinted with permission from The Rural Blog. 

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