- The fact that the show lasted as long as it did is a small miracle in and of itself
- The show's permanent under-the-radar status made it more of a joy to watch
- The losers and the dorks tend to be the ones who triumph in the end
I'm not sure how many people told me to watch "Friday Night Lights" before I actually did.
Six? A hundred? Somewhere between six and 100. It was a hard-fought campaign. I would say "Isn't that the football show?" And they would say, "Well, sort of, but it's not really about football."
Years later, when I was a Dillon Panther 4 life (just kidding, GO LIONS!) and I would recommend the show to other people, they would say "Isn't that the football show?" And I would say "Well, sort of, but it's not really about football."
This is why "Friday Night Lights" was probably doomed from the beginning (as much as "doomed" could ever describe a critically beloved television show on a major network that ran for five seasons).
Someone who would want to watch "the football show" could just as easily have watched a real football show, which is called: actual football. And those who would want to watch a stirring, beautifully filmed, understated and naturalistic portrait of modern life centered around a small town high school would always be scared off by the phantom lunchroom bullying that the idea of "the football show" stirred up.
Which is not to say you had to hate actual football to enjoy "Friday Night Lights," but it didn't hurt.
The series revolved around a high school football team in the fictitious town of Dillon, Texas. And much like actual high school sports teams in towns across the country, it developed a strong and loyal following of sometimes rabid devotees.
But even with that assist, the fact that the show lasted as long as it did is a miracle -- like show character Smash Williams' heroic last-minute touchdowns. Which is not to ignore the impressive game-winning work of Matthew Saracen, Luke Cafferty or Vince Howard.
Despite being the little drama that could, the show pulled in decidedly low ratings. It appeared that no one was watching it. Ever. Which is basically rule No. 1 for television success: Someone needs to see it.
But the show's permanent under-the-radar status may have actually made it more of a joy to watch for the core fan base. It was like being in actual high school and finding that one friend who shared your weird love of some Japanese all-girl pop-punk group whose songs were exclusively about food. "This is for US. We don't even want THEM to know about it."
And if I can carry this whole high school metaphor one step further -- and why not: It's a show about high school after all -- the losers and the dorks tend to be the ones who triumph in the end. They're the tan, skinny, well-dressed ones at the reunion, while the high school heroes have all let themselves go, settled into unhappy marriages, and taken up less than satisfying careers.
Time vindicates the losers. And so it was wonderful for every "Friday Night Lights" fan to see executive producer Jason Katims and actor Kyle Chandler (aka America's No.1 dad) win Emmys last Sunday for their work on the show. Although let it be known that Connie Britton was robbed and even Juliana Margulies' dress should apologize.
"Friday Night Lights" deserved more recognition than it ever received, but that is pretty much the point of the whole show: You get out there and you do the work and you don't worry about who might be watching from the stands because they're not the ones who decide whether you win or lose.
That, in the end, is up to you.
In some ways, "Friday Night Lights' " greatest triumph wasn't the Dillon Panthers making an unlikely pilgrimage to State, or the Lions coming out of nowhere to win the home rivalry game. It wasn't even last weekend's long-deserved Emmy recognition. The show's most lasting success was in giving all of us Landrys out there a way to enjoy an American tradition we didn't even know we wanted to. Even if we all prefer to think we're Tim Riggins.
"Friday Night Lights" forever, Six.