Tuesday, September 23, 2008

FNL 101

So earlier in the week I heard the most crushing news I've heard in quite some time...


That's right, Friday Night Lights, fondly/annoyingly known by me as FNL, will be unveiled on DirecTV a full four months before (finally) airing on NBC. Season 3 premieres on DirecTV on Oct. 1 and won't be available to the rest of us until February!

Talk about disappointing.

FNL is one of the most underappreciated shows I've ever seen. (It's awesome. Even Peyton Manning thinks so!) I've loved it from the beginning, but NBC has threatened to pull the plug on the show every year since its inception. The show has shuffled around from timeslot to timeslot, night to night, and eventually last year landed in a pretty self-explanatory timeslot... Friday night.

What does this mean for avid FNL fans like myself? I'll suffer through a disheartening one-third of a year or I'll somehow cave and buy DirecTV. Personally, I'm hoping for the episodes finding their way to Hulu.

Anyway, as a big fan of the entire FNL franchise (yes, there is a franchise in that there's more than one), I'm frequently asked what the differences are between Friday Night Lights the book, the movie, and the TV show. Here is today's lesson:

The whole thing started with H.G. Bissinger's book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream, a non-fiction book about the 1988 Permian football team in the west Texas oil town of Odessa. Bissinger followed the Permian Panthers around for a year, went to the annual watermelon feed, attended practices and games, and even sat in on halftime and pre-game pep talks on the team's quest for the Texas State Championship. The dark and beautifully written book was published in 1990 and exposed the unglamorous underbelly of racism, economic despair, and a community too focused on sports and not enough on education. Unsurprisingly my sentiments on the quality of Bissinger's work is not shared by many Odessa residents.

Then in 2004, the book was made into a movie called -- you guessed it -- Friday Night Lights. For the most part the movie followed the book, obviously many details were left out for the sake of time. The characters were the same, had similar dilemmas and personalities, and again was set in Odessa. Billy Bob Thornton played the part of Coach Gary Gaines. Oddly enough, Connie Britton played his wife, Sharon Gaines. Britton plays "the coach's wife" in the TV series as well.

Then, flash forward to 2006. Friday Night Lights, the TV series, hit the airwaves. However, unlike the movie, this one was not based on the book, but inspired by it. Oddly enough, the show's executive producer is Peter Berg, first cousin of the book's writer.

The TV show is a pretty sizeable departure from the book and movie. There are a few similarities, like the tragedy, immense sadness, and tough lives of the characters, the town's obsession with high school football, the team's mascot (the Panthers), and the small town Texas setting. The TV show is filmed in Austin and nearby suburb Pflugerville (note what real Pflugerville's football jerseys look like, pretty much the same look as those on the show) but takes place in fictional Dillon, Texas. The Dillon Panthers have blue and yellow jerseys, unlike Permian's trademark black jerseys (see below). Apologies for waxing Uni Watch again.

The TV show never really says where in Texas Dillon is. Sometimes you'll hear that it is a few hours from Austin, or a few from Dallas, but it never gives any real indication where in the state they're located. There are frequent references to Mack Brown and/or the Texas Longhorns. Honestly my analysis of the show could last for hours, but I'll curtail the details here. But like the book, the sadness and rawness of the emotions is what makes the TV show so beautiful.

If pressed for an opinion, I would say the book is the best, but it wins in a squeaker (over the TV show... the movie didn't bring much new to the table). Great writing (Bissinger formerly wrote for Sports Illustrated by the way) wins every time, but you have to keep in mind that the hugely successful movie and great TV show (bad ratings, but critically acclaimed) wouldn't exist without the book.

PS, one day I hope to attend a high school football game at Permian. I realize that likelihood hovers around nill, as it is a 6 hour drive, and um, 370 miles away. Couple that with gas for $3.70 a gallon, and yeah...

The end. Finally.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

That's some effed up shit.