Lord, is “Friday Night Lights” good. In fact, if the season is anything like the pilot, this new drama about high school football could be great ; and not just television great, but great in the way of a poem or painting, great in the way of art with a single obsessive creator who doesn’t have to consult with a committee and has months or years to go back and agonize over line breaks and the color red; it could belong in a league with art that doesn’t have to pause for commercials, or casually recap the post-commercial action, or sell viewers on the plot and characters in the first five minutes, or hew to a line-item budget, or answer to unions and studios, or avoid four-letter words and nudity.
“Friday Night Lights” is a wonder. It’s a big drama, and even seasoned pilot skeptics and their bookies, who rank shows based on the odds they’ll be canceled will have a hard time not getting choked up at tonight’s episode. At this rate, “Friday Night Lights” might just bring old NBC the state championship. It’s been a long time. – Virginia Heffernan, New York Times, October 3, 2006
For all its authenticity — capturing the forlorn West Texas landscape and the enforced violence of the sport — the premiere episode, Tuesday night at 8 Eastern and Pacific times, contains one scene that illustrates the difference between being based on a work of nonfiction and inspired by one.
That scene portrays a team rally at a car dealership where a black football player takes the microphone and raps a series of rhymes while his mostly white teammates, fellow students and town citizens groove along and shout encouragement.
To say that the vignette does not fully reflect the tenor of race relations in 1988 in Odessa is an understatement.
But little about the television series closely follows the book or the 2004 film based on it. The series is set in the present, nearly two decades after the events depicted in the book, and in a fictional West Texas town called Dillon. A career-threatening injury to a significant player strikes the soft-spoken white quarterback rather than the outspoken black running back. All the football players are scrubbed and buffed, looking as if they hail from the O.C. rather than the oil patch, while the cheerleaders —even the town bad girl — have haircuts rarely seen west of the Hudson River, much less west of Dallas. – Edward Wyatt, New York Times, October 2, 2006.