I’m only thirteen years late to this show, but wow, what a ride Friday Night Lights turned out to be. From the pilot where the Dillon Panthers lose their star QB all the way to Michael B. Jordan’s character, Vince Howard, winning state, I couldn’t help but sit on the edge of my couch as I rooted for this rag-tag group of kids to be successful. I had no idea when I began this show that I would get so emotionally attached to the characters and their absurd lives, but I did. However, With all the good that came with this show, there was also a good chunk of bad, which leads us to my best (and worst) review for the fictional Friday Night Lights variant of Dillon, Texas.
#1 – Tim Riggins
Even though my boy Timmy Rigs falls into a few of the bad categories below, he hands down led the pack for the good things from Dillon, Texas. Taylor Kitsch was an absolute godsend to this show and that hair of his was just stupid perfect. Tim was a character that had his ups and downs, well actually mostly just alcohol-fueled downs, but the arc he traveled was an amazing one. He started as a star full back who lost his best friend, made a weird journey down a path with that same friend’s girlfriend, ended up in jail for his brother, and finally made his way back into our hearts by the finale of the show. Friday Night Lights wouldn’t have been the same without him and for that, I thank NBC with all of my heart.
#2 – The Transition Between Seasons Two and Three
For me, this was one of the weirdest transitions I had EVER witnessed in a television show. I can’t imagine how furious people were when this happened in real-time and I’m kind of glad that I wasn’t in on the show when it did. For those of you who may not know, or if you didn’t really think that the extremely odd shift was actually odd, it did have a reason behind it. Right around the end of season two was when the Writer’s Strike of 2007 began. The strike lasted from November 2007 to February 2008 and ended Coach Taylor’s chances at a second State Title while also simultaneously injuring Brian “Smash” Williams. I thought the way they picked up in season three was very strange, but I guess it was the only thing they could really do. Luckily for me, this didn’t really ruin anything, but it definitely put a damper on things as I ventured into season three.
#3 – Coach Taylor
I have never seen a man who was more dedicated to the betterment of his players than Coach Eric Taylor. Throughout each and every season he had at least one moment where he could have made a choice to help himself, but instead, he made a choice that bettered the young men he was coaching. Just think of everything he did for Vince in seasons four and five. He took him in and changed his life forever. He kept him off the streets, showed him what it really took to be a man, and ultimately led him to a future that just two short years before seemed extremely unlikely for the young star. Not to mention the way he was with Jason Street after his accident as well, which really showed Coach T’s true colors for his players. He was by no means perfect, but he was damn near close.
#4 – The Inconsistent Character Ages
This is an area that I’m not sure if it was ever explained or not, but it was blatantly obvious that they altered some ages throughout the first three or four seasons of this show. Tim Riggins was 1,000% a junior or a senior in season one, yet when season two rolls around he’s only a junior. They do the exact same thing for Lyla Garrity, who was dating Jason and also ended up being a junior once season two rolled around. One of the other characters whose age seemed inconsistent through the first four seasons was Landry (A.K.A Lance for Coach Taylor). He was a senior in season four, which would have made him a freshman in season one. This isn’t as unbelievable as the Tim and Lyla age gaps, but it also didn’t really make sense. I don’t think they ever clearly state Landry’s age but it just didn’t really make sense for him to be a freshman in season one. Even with all of these confusing age changes though, the show does a great job of immersing these characters into their storylines and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
#5 – The Casting of Michael B. Jordan
When Matt moved away and Coach T was getting moved from West Dillon High, I had no idea what direction this show was heading. I think it’s safe to say though that the addition of Michael B. Jordan was hands down the correct direction. Jordan’s character Vince was everything this show needed that we, as fans, didn’t know we needed. Vince went from a troubled boy in and out of juvie to my second favorite character in the show within a matter of three or four episodes. He had one of the most incredible storylines and character arcs of any show I have ever seen. Not to mention, you could see how much Coach Taylor loved him and looked at Vince of his son almost. Just an incredible feel-good story that capped off the end of a great five seasons of Panther football.
#6 – Jason Street’s Storyline
Now before I dive into this, I want to mention this only refers to Jason’s storyline AFTER season one. I actually thoroughly enjoyed J in season one, but I’m not exactly sure what the producers and writers were thinking after that. This whole story turned into a massive joke it seemed and I really wish they would’ve taken Jason’s character a different direction. The whole trip to Mexico for experimental surgery wasn’t awful, but the fact that they had J attempt to commit suicide, then change his mind, and then somehow magically swim a few hundred yards into shore and be completely fine was a little farfetched for me. Not to mention it was just generally dark for a show that typically was trying to inspire. From here they then send him down a weird path with the whole father storyline, which wasn’t as bad as the Mexico story but it still wasn’t good either. It almost seemed as if they had no idea how to get him out of the show, so they just went with the first thing they could think of, which was to have him get a random girl pregnant and then move off to New York to try to provide for said family. It just got really weird really fast and I think Jason deserved a better story!
#7 – Matt Saracen
Matt is just another one of those Tim Riggins type of characters that could do no wrong in my eyes. He was the man of his house from a very young age, was an all-around incredible human being, and was certainly deserving of that QB1 role he earned in season one. His one flaw may have been his love for Julie Taylor (who is another all-time awful character) because I know my boy Matty could have done so much better. And don’t even get me started on the episode where Matt’s dad passes away either. I bawled my eyes out when that happened. Zach Gilford (the man who played Matt) could not have acted better for this episode. It was absolute perfection and it hit so hard how we responded to everything that transpired his father’s death. If it weren’t for Tim Riggins, Matt would have been the front-runner for the most spectacular character on Friday Night Lights by a long shot.
#8 – Landry and Tyra’s Murder Storyline
This somewhat ties into the Writer Strike from #2 above, but also like, what in the world were the writers for this show thinking here? Another one of those extremely dark storylines that made no sense, plus I felt like Landry and Tyra’s love story could have still happened with something way less dramatic and depressing. Plus, this was clearly self-defense and Landry’s father was a cop so… like, why did they freak out and decide to hide the body? However, I think my main concern with this story was that it ultimately never had any sort of impact in the later seasons and I don’t even think was ever brought back up again. It was such a huge piece of Landry and Tyra and once the show picked back up after the Writers Strike, it was just shrugged off as if it never happened. Even a little clarity here would’ve gone a long way for both of their characters.
After all is said and done, the pads are taken off, and the dust settles on the football field, Friday Night Lights will go down as one of the best television shows of all time. I learned many things from this show and was taught countless life lessons by a lot of the characters, but there’s one thing that stands out the most. As Coach T always said, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
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