Critically acclaimed and publicly ignored, Friday Night Lights has beaten the odds again, and will kick off its fourth season this Friday on NBC. Saved by a worshiping fan base and consistent award recognition, NBC bit the bullet and teamed with DirecTV for a final two-season renewal. The network will continue to lose money with each episode, as FNL remains a ratings underdog to the flaky programming preferred by a Snuggie-draping public. It's tragic that a compelling drama centered on faith, family, and football can't hang with something called Wife Swap (pass the popcorn - they have sleeves!). With struggling ratings, but rave reviews, there's a good chance that: a) you're not watching, and b) you probably should be.
Based in fictional Dillon, Texas, FNL has been praised for its realistic portrayal of Middle America and the intimate exploration of its central characters. Using a documentary-style filming technique, scenes unfold organically as actors are afforded the freedom to improvise their deliveries. Most scenes that air are first takes, and the artistry of stripping away rehearsals and redo's paints a gritty authenticity that is deeply engaging. It's the rawness of these imperfections that creates an uncommonly strong bond between fans and characters. This is where a show about football becomes a show about life.
There is something undeniably real about Friday Night Lights. As reality television continues to become more artificial, couldn't we all use a little honesty? Welcome back, FNL.