When Coach Taylor Spoke, We Listened

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by Howard Decker @HowardTheDeck on September 27, 2011

in TV

Friday Night Lights has a way of captivating me like only a few shows ever have.

Mid-way through season 5, the East Dillon Lions earned a hard-fought victory over a dirty rival squad, the South Kingdom Rangers. Maybe it was the build-up of the long bus trip to the game, or perhaps it was the fact that this was the same school that the Lions had to forfeit to in the Season 4 premiere. Whatever the reason, I was extra-riveted by this fictional sporting contest, to the point where I was fist-pumping and leaping off my couch when the Lions scored or caused a turnover. When the final whistle blew, I got the chills, and turned to my wife and said, “The East Dillon Lions are my favorite football team”.

Sure, that’s a silly notion: a  fictional group of high school football players being my favorite team. I know that. Thing is, I love to root for these guys, and that’s ultimately a testament to the superior writing, directing and production of Friday Night Lights. If it strikes you as odd that I am speaking in present tense in reference to a show that has already aired its series finale, that is because my wife and I are about 8 episodes behind on our DVR. We will get there, give us time. That’s what having a two year-old does to your tv catch-up time.

Halfway through season 5, the thing that struck me is that Vince Howard (current QB1 and most prominent player on the East Dillon team – played by Michael B. Jordan) is one of the most important guys in my life. Again, a ridiculous claim, but I find myself genuinely concerned about his well-being. I have a sincere desire to see him find happiness in the end, knowing that the series finale looms closer with each episode. When I began confessing these feelings aloud to my wife I realized that I have felt this way before. I had the same feelings about Jason Street. I felt the same way about Matt Saracen. After that it was Landry Clarke, and then Tim Riggins. Each one individually carried the weight of all or part of a different season of Friday Night Lights as the primary school-aged protagonist. Matt Saracen was just the back up QB in season 1. Landry Clarke was the backup QB’s goofy friend for two years.

I swore I wouldn’t let myself get attached again.

Tim Riggins was a bit of an antagonist with little to no redeeming qualities, yet each of these characters evolved into someone I cared deeply about. Each time the show moved a new character into the forefront as another one moved on, I swore I wouldn’t let myself get attached again. No chance. Vince is just the latest in a long line of characters I sincerely care about. I cannot say that about any other show I’ve ever seen.

The tough part of basing a show around high school-aged characters is that they have an expiration date. Teenagers won’t stay in high school forever, but FNL had a way of moving them on so gracefully. The one constant over all 5 seasons was Coach Taylor and his family (even the school changed!). Kyle Chandler has created a ton of fans based on his expert portrayal of Eric Taylor. I don’t get to see many movies while they are in the theater anymore (again, two year-old), but I went out of my way to see Super 8, and Chandler being in it was a huge reason. Connie Britton, who played the coach’s wife and school counselor Tami Taylor, has also won me over as a fan for life; although that might have already been the case after her turn on Spin City.

I don’t know what the future holds for these beloved characters. I know most of the FNL-loving world does by now, and from what I’ve heard, multiple sources claim it was the perfect ending. That’s high praise for a show that has consistently delivered for 5 seasons. When my wife and I finally arrive at the finale I’m sure there will be more fist-pumping and chills, and if the show causes me to shed a tear, it won’t be the first.

 

 

Howie Decker is the editor of UnderScoopFire.  He likes fantasy baseball & taco night. You can read his Letter from the Editor here.

 

 

Lead image via DadCentric.com

 

  • Brian Morin

    Friday Night Lights very quickly became one of my favorite shows. I originally tuned in as a football fan and honestly didn’t expect much from it at all. By the end of the series finale I had become a lifelong fan of this human drama that was jut set against a football background. I tried multiple times during the first few seasons to get my wife to watch with me; but she is so dead- set against football that she would just go off to another room while I watched. It wasn’t until the final season, when she got a laptop and stayed in the living room while I watched, do I think she realized how incredible of a show she was missing. I would often peek over and see that she was watching as well. Of course, she’d never admit this. My wife is incredibly stubborn, a trait that is at the same time frustrating and endearing. Maybe one day we’ll start the series over and watch together. Until then, I will look back at the finale, and remember how satisfying it was, something that’s rare for shows that survive long enough to even get a true finale.

    • http://underscoopfire.com Howard Decker

      Brian – here’s the funny thing. Since I read your comment this morning I have been thinking about FNL all day. I can’t think of a TV show I have ever been more emotionally invested in. I’ve been invested in shows, like LOST, to get answers and see the characters find their resolution, yes. But in terms of me actually caring about where they went and what happened in the end, FNL is tops for me. So many of their storylines were relatable – I lost my dad not too long before Matt Saracen got his news, and that story arc hit me hard. My wife did the same, ignored it for 3 seasons, kind of sniffed around during the fourth, and then it became a situation where she wouldnt allow me to watch it on the DVR without her. I think your wife would dig it once she realizes the “football” aspect is very secondary.

      • Brian Morin

        Sorry to hear about your dad. It must have been difficult. The funeral episode touched me emotionally and my dad is still here.

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