Not another teen drama 

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Are you ready for some ... posing? The football studs of Friday Night Lights look fresh off the catwalk.
Friday Night Lights
Tuesdays, 7pm
It’s my theory that before any of us gets to the Charlie Kaufman-loving, Arrested Development-watching, “I-like-you-because-you’re-strangely- attractive-from-the-right-angle” state of enlightenment, we must first experience an entanglement with a teen television drama. Pregnancy scares, illicit student-teacher affairs, 30-year-old guys pretending to be 16 — who can resist? For me, it was Dawson’s Creek. (Ah, I can hear the theme song now … Paula Cole, you rogue.) For you, or your kid(s), it might just be Friday Night Lights, the new hour-long NBC television series inspired by the 2004 film of the same title.

Unlike me during Dawson’s, you probably aren’t holed up in your bedroom each week during Lights with the door locked, because you probably aren’t 14, wearing braces, and worried about your mom walking in to express concern about sexual content.

Friday Night Lights does have its risqué moments, but it’s also got plenty of wholesome family stuff going on, so time will tell. It might be fodder for the whole gang, not just your reckless tango with teen TV. Or it might make you vomit. Whatever.

So, the show itself … well, seen the movie? OK, so this time we’re in (fictional) Dillon, not Odessa. The football team is still the Panthers. Substitute Kyle Chandler for Billy Bob Thornton as coach, a permanently injured quarterback for a gimpy tailback, and you’ve got the show.

Chandler’s Coach Taylor is a closed-mouthed father and husband, under pressure from the high-school-football-crazed community to take their team to the top. His wife (Connie Britton, of The Brothers McMullen) wants a new house; his daughter (Aimee Teegarden) spends her time comparing his plight as coach to the plot of Moby Dick. Just as things are looking up during Taylor’s first game as coach, star quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter) is seriously hurt, leaving us primed for a “power-of-the-human-spirit” narrative.

The pilot (although you’ve probably seen the second episode by now) is beautifully photographed, with a gritty visual texture, but the jump cuts (particularly during the game sequence near the end) were an eyesore. I love the flicker as much as anyone, but this is not arthouse fare: Friday Night Lights keeps to the conventions of teen dramas.

Part of what I mean by that (besides a script full of clichés) is that all of the female characters look the same — though they’re cleverly outfitted with different hair colors, to help us viewers tell them apart. And they aren’t at all stereotyped as the vamp, the virginal bookworm, and the cheerleader. Catch my drift (read: sarcasm)?

The men of the Friday Night Lights cast don’t look homogenous, but of course they’re all modelishly attractive, unlike most of the football players you and I know. Indeed, many of the “actors” in the series started as models.

Chandler’s performance is a redeeming quality, as is Britton’s, but that’s no big surprise. She studied acting with Sanford Meisner for Pete’s sake; the woman deserves better. And frankly, so do the rest of us. It’s sad to see such talent wasted on ... oooh ... wait ... you can download Panthers locker decorations at the Friday Night Lights website?! Dawson’s Creek never had that.

More by Ashley Lindstrom



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