Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tuesday Night Light

Every Tuesday night at 8:00 PM (PT) on NBC there is a show that takes faith and the faithful seriously. Friday Night Lights, the TV show based on the movie based on the book is a revelation. Christians are depicted as serious people who have foibles and yet are still faithful. The scenes where the football coaches must drive the ACLU faithful crazy. They'll have to live with it. The 1st Amendment is alive and well in football locker roooms all acrosss the South and West (and I'd wager in more places than that, but I'll stick to what I know). People can actually bow their heads, shut their mouths, and take a quiet moment while the reast of the team prays without their heads spinning off or them bursting into flames. When in Rome....

The coach and his wife are depicted as Christians, yet they are not cartoon characters -- too perfect or too perversely fallen. They are hard-working, loving, and they get angry and curse a bit -- real life cursing -- not the stream of filth popular (and realistic) among today's youth. They make an interesting foil against the struggles of the high school crowd adrift in the emptiness of youth culture with its empty pop culture, meaningless sex, and in some cases too easily expressed faith (the Smash character is a good example).

It is also an accurate example of small-town Texas high school football. The fictional town of Dillon is based on the real town of Odessa, TX and the Permian Panthers who were, through the early 1990s, the cream of the crop of Texas football. Economics and demographics have changed that, but it's still a good story of faith, hard work, and a slightly unbalanced love of the local high school football team. The writers are thus far (through 3 episodes) catching the right balance of the cultural Christianity that makes nominal faith easy in the Bible belt yet highlights the real faith of the sincere believers.

The, in some cases, perverse love of the football team -- stoked by the decline of the town's economic base (oil in real life, though the writers haven't dealt with that aspect) drives some to do acts that are unethical, if not illegal. The writers deftly include Katrina in the plot as the local auto dealer tries to recruit (illegal in Texas) a quarterback displaced and basically homeless. He's a stud who can replace the injured starting QB. Odessa Permian was notorious, in the 1970s and '80s, for recruiting kids from across Texas -- giving fathers oil jobs so their kids could move to Odessa and play football. I'm quite sure it often went down as depicted in last night's episode.

The show illustrates these events and people without any irony or caricature -- at least not in excess. Some exaggeration is going to happen to drive the plot and create dramatic tension, etc. Congratulations to NBC. I hope Friday Night Lights succeeds. I'm a supporter, not just because it honestly portrays believers, but because it's a good show in general.

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