People have been telling me to watch Friday Night Lights for a while now, but it was Lorrie Moore’s essay “Very Deep in America” in the New York Review of Books a few weeks ago that finally convinced me that not only did I need to see it but that I needed to see it before The Wire and all the other shows I also need to see. Lorrie Moore is one of my favorite writers and if she liked it, I assumed I would to.
So when my friend’s bachelor party Friday night left me bedridden for the rest of the weekend I figured I had time to watch some FNL. And I did. I watched TWENTY THREE EPISODES essentially in a row. I am embarrassed that I watched so many, that I didn’t do the million important things I needed to do, that I was hungover and horizontal for as long as I was. But I also forgive myself. I understand why I did it. Everyone is right – the show’s that damn good. I’m pissed I’m not watching it now.
The show takes you very deep into America, but not one that I know. It’s set in Texas. Everyone’s prays a lot and always talks about God, everyone’s middle class or poor, everyone’s really, really attractive. People say y’all and they play football. The people who don’t play football live for the sport as much as those who do. It’s another planet. And sure, I like the exoticness of these things, but I believe them because the show is so faithful to the everyday details of this world. I believe everyone’s fight, and everyone is fighting. The show is acted so well that you realize how badly everyone’s acting everywhere else.
Moore ends her essay writing,
It would not be entirely accurate to say the entire show was discussed in our mad corner at that Manhattan party. The people I was speaking with mostly wanted to discuss the character Tim Riggins, played by Taylor Kitsch. Kitsch heaven! Lyla Garrity was a dismissible minx. Tyra Collette, who runs for class president by saying, “Nobody here is getting laid if you let Ginny here have the prom in the gym,” had distracting hairdo instability. The girls in general held less interest, and the coach’s new baby Graciebelle held the least of all. (According to Jason Katims in the DVD commentary, Graciebelle is portrayed by a toddler who is one of “three twin sisters,” a remark that certainly gives one pause.) Even Landry Clark and Matt Saracen and stormy, stalwart, black-Irish Eric Taylor—the characters who possess the most forceful gazes, mesmerizing scenes, and unexpected psychological moves in the show—received short shrift. It was the brooding, beautiful, and slightly doomed Tim Riggins, handsome as a statue and bleakly craving goodness, about whom no one could stop talking. Tim Riggins: through the wonders of long-form and instantly sharable narrative, he was the realest person in the room.
Rereading this now, now that I actually know what Moore is talking about, all I can think is yesssssss. Tim Riggins. Tim Riggins! Anyone who’s seen it will know what she (we) means. Adam Wilson goes more into Riggins and FNL here, and he gets it right.
It is a harmless fantasy, but painful, because it illuminates the great tragedy of American life: we will never live up to the myths we have created for ourselves.