It’s pretty early in the new television to be speculating about which series will be cancelled, but after only two weeks on the air, the football drama “Friday Night Lights” already might be in danger. The show, which follows the challenges and triumphs of the fictional Dillon Panther football team, has received stellar reviews but has garnered less-than-impressive ratings so far, causing fans such as myself to worry that the Panthers season may be cut short.
I knew “Friday Night Lights” would be a tough sell because, historically speaking, sports dramas have never done well on TV no matter how well done they are. (Remember “The White Shadow,” anyone?) But “Lights” deserves a chance not only for its authentic examination of athletics but also for its intelligent treatment of faith in rural America. The characters in “Lights” attend church or stop in the middle of a task to offer a prayer in a way that demonstrates faith as a natural, integral part of living. They face real problems and have genuine doubts that we all can identify with yet they never lose hope.
And while I am a fan of the show, there are other critics even more fervent in their support of this show. Writer Frazier Moore wrote a commentary for the Associated Press in which he called “Lights” nothing less than the heir apparent to “The West Wing.” He gives a slight dis to Sorkin’s “Studio 60” and then proclaims that he thinks “the spiritual successor to ‘The West Wing’ is ‘Friday Night Lights,’ whose coach bears the grass-roots equivalent of the burden once borne by President Bartlet: a constituency telling him how to do his job while he fights to stay true to his own vision.
So here is my challenge to Idol Chatter readers: If you haven’t given “Lights” a try, watch tonight’s episode (NBC, 8:00 p.m.). What do you have to loose? “Gilmore Girls”–which airs at the same time–has, sadly, become a pale imitation of its former self. And no one needs to waste time and energy watching a bunch of D-List stars doing the cha-cha over on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.” Instead, take a trip to Texas. You might be surprised at what you find there. And Coach Taylor and the rest of his team sure would appreciate your support.