Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A town, a team, and a dream: on the small screen...

I taped tonight's premiere episode of Friday Night Lights. I had to, dang it. One, I taught my grad class til 8:30, and two...I taught the book to half a dozen iterations of a course for aspiring supes in our doctoral cohort in ed leadership called "the cultural context of education."

Buzz Bissinger's book got at the thickness of school culture for me early on, as a way to ground our later theoretical explorations. In later iterations of the course, I added Prom Night by Amy Best, a wonderful look at that social and school phenomenon.

I liked FNL the book, especially for the way it wove thick description of Odessa Texas in 1988 with fine portraits of people being tested by life. I liked the film too, and thought the young man who played Boobie Miles was terrific...his descent from cocky hero to throwaway is riveting to watch, as is Tim McGraw's fine characterization of a former gridiron star now living through his son. Billy Bob Thornton can act more with his eyes than most actors can with their whole body, IMHO. The coach was a role made for him.

The look of the new TV version is a bit of the OC meets west Texas. I don't mind that, actually, as I like the OC and accept its limitations.

Some of the same tropes from FNL the film are there: the shots of the forlorn landscape of west Texas, the callers to the radio show sounding off about the coach and the team, the religious quality of the whole experience. Peter Berg directed both the film and the TV show, so it is not surprising.

The show's soundtrack is moody and atmospheric. I won't spoil the final scene or the plot and character twists from the book/film, as an encore of this episode plays Wednesday night. I will just say that the voiceover at the end blew me away.

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