“Friday Night Lights” tells the story of the Dillon Panthers (mantra: “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”), the high school football team in the fictional small town of Dillon, Texas, whose residents live and die with their team.
The focus of the show isn’t football, however, but characters that are straining against the limitations — from gender roles to racial stereotypes — that threaten to define their lives.
Tonight is the season finale. The show has won praise from critics and a prestigious Peabody Award, but its renewal for next year is not ensured — although fans are doing their best to bring it back, and NBC, we just learned, has ordered up six new FNL scripts.
We knew FNL writers were enlightened early on when the mother of one of the football players told a female friend of his: “I work at Planned Parenthood — you haven’t seen the last of me yet.” And I’ve written at PopPolitics about the representations of women on the show:
The season’s second half shifted subtly by giving more depth to Tami Taylor (Connie Britton), school guidance counselor, coach’s wife and mother struggling to stay protective of her teenage daughter; Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden), the smart, self-aware daughter; Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly), the popular cheerleader slowly coming of age; Tyra Collete (Adrianne Palicki), the tough outsider who has come of age too fast; and, to a lesser extent, Waverly Grady (Aasha Davis), the preacher’s daughter whose mix of political activism and poetic sensibility expands a football player’s horizons.
The layers and internal conflicts of these characters now drive the series. While they bump up against stereotypes and social expectations, none of them fully succumbs. And they all exhibit a great deal of agency, which is all too rare among adolescent female characters.
The scene in which OBOS appears involves Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons), a goofy but smart guy who has been trying to get Tyra to notice him. You can view the scene here at NBC.com (it’s about three minutes into “Part Two” of the “Mud Ball” episode).
It’s not clear (but probable) that Landry chose the book intentionally to impress Tyra, who he arranges to meet “accidentally” at the library. In any case, it becomes the main prop as he attempts to convince Tyra that he should be her math tutor (breaking the hearts of show-recappers everywhere who have been waiting for a guy with such impeccable reading taste … though someone needs to tell Television Without Pity — the best recapper on the web — that OBOS’ pictures have been updated since the 1970s.)
For a show that has dealt incredibly well with mother-daughter and father-daughter relationships; adolescents who choose to have sex and use condoms (and adolescents who respect each other for not having sex); and — in the same “Mud Ball” episode — sexual violence, it’s the perfect book. And now an even more perfect series.
Plus: I’ve also posted here about Maureen Ryan’s incredible package of “Friday Night Lights” stories and interviews. If you need any more convincing (what — OBOS cover not enough for you??), check it out. You’ll find more praise from the press at Fight For Lights.