Good-bye Friday Night Lights

So, that’s that. For five years Austin played host to Dillon, Texas, standing in for the Panhandle, and us fans got to love every minute of the Dillon Panthers, Lions, the drama of Tim Riggins and Jason Street, being oddly mesmerized by Buddy Garrity’s leonine profile (and where did they get the kid to play his son, Buddy Jr, with the same prow-like schnoz?).

Oh Coach Taylor, I will miss you (but I can always see you in Super 8). But most of all, I will miss Tami Taylor. She was wise, funny, the best friend you want to be (or to have), sexy, good and kind. And she had a seriously screwed up daughter, so it wasn’t like she couldn’t mess up. All the more loveable!

For all the missteps the show made and there were plenty, there were things it just got so right. This last season was hit or miss, mostly because they had to wrap things up, but the stuff they got right is what they always got right — the marriage. For all that Friday Night Lights was a show about high school football, it was really a well-written story about a modern marriage. Eric and Tami were the best married couple on television.

With the show filmed in Austin and surrounding towns, it was fun to play “where did they film that?” My daughter had two of my favorite star sightings — one at the bowling alley opposite her high school, where they were filming a scene with Taylor Kitsch. She and her track team were there for a team outing, and Kitsch was gracious enough to come over and talk to the high school kids and have his picture taken with them. (He was in his mid-twenties at the time, and the picture is great — a pretend teen surrounded by real teens). The other sighting was when she got to play in a pickup hockey game with Kitsch (and some local semi-pro players).

Austin might be losing a little of the Hollywood glamour. There don’t seem to be as many movie trailors around. The city is talking about canceling the tax breaks that production companies got, and Louisiana and other states are horning in on the incentives territory. More than anything, even more than Real World, Friday Night Lights was “our” show, with a local crew. I have a couple scripts that a prop guy gave me (he was a hockey dad — we bonded over early morning practices) and when I told him I was a writer he brought me the scripts.

And even if most of the cast has split, Jessie Plemons, who played Landry, is still around. He’s in a local band — I just heard him on Eklektikos on Wednesday. How Austin is that?

Bye, FNL. I’m sad to see you go.


In other news, I’m writing this on my new Sony Vaio laptop. It’s a whole new era!

Zach Gilford should win an Emmy for Friday Night Lights

Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen, Friday Night Lights
Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen, Friday Night Lights

Zach Gilford put in a tour-de-force performance in last week’s Friday Night Lights. He is the most underrated actor in the series and this episode gave him the chance to shine. Two scenesĀ  showcased his talent — the dinner scene conversation in which he completely breaks down, and the eulogy he gives about his father, and the one, single, thin little story he has to tell about a man who abandoned him years before. The anecdote he tells is embarrassing in its inadequacy, and all the more poignant for that.

I’ve said it before about the writing on this show — it’s smart, emotionally grounded, compelling. For a series about high school football, it sure has a lot to do with relationships, families, pride, loss, love. Sure, sometimes there is inexplicable melodrama, but the genius is in the little touches. I learn something new about story telling with every episode.

Man, I love this show.

The writer and TV

Kyra Sedgwick as The Closer
Kyra Sedgwick as The Closer

Prolific short story writer and novelist (and cancer survivor) Jay Lake does not watch TV. He attributes his productivity to that one simple fact. He’s been quite successful, with hundreds of published short stories and a respectable handful of novels. He’s a stylistic, successful writer with a great work ethic, and aspiring writers could do well to emulate his habits.

Would I have more published short stories if I didn’t watch TV? Maybe. TV isn’t my productivity killer, though (that honor goes to Facebook at the moment, but Minesweeper is certainly up there). But even more importantly, I watch TV because I like good writing.

Yes, you read that right. The tradition of television bashing is a long and glorious one, going back to names like “idiot box” and great lines like, “television is called a medium because there’s nothing about it that’s rare or well done.”

There’s a lot of great television out there, and if you as a writer are scorning TV because you think it’s all crap, you are quite wrong and you may be doing yourself a disservice. You need to find all the good writing you can because if you surround yourself with good stuff you will start imbibing it and you will start writing good stuff yourself.

So what do I watch? The Closer. Friday Night Lights. Glee. Project Runway. There are others, but that’s the core group. Shows I remember with fondness include Buffy of course, as well as Frasier and Friends, because as we all know, “dying is easy, but comedy is hard.” I rarely watch SF or fantasy, so while I watched all of the Star Trek incarnations except for Enterprise, I missed BSG and Babylon 5. I don’t have HBO so I have to get True Blood on Netflix.

All of these shows have the same thing in common. Really really good writing. Excellent acting. It makes no sense for writers to deprive themselves of the opportunity to see good work. That’s like saying you won’t read a book because it keeps you from writing. Writers must read, they must surround themselves with good writing. No one creates in a vacuum.

So give yourself permission to turn on the TV and then turn it off and go write.