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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Friday Night Lights - The First Season
Friday Night Lights - The First Season
Universal // Unrated // August 28, 2007
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted September 15, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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Highly Recommended
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The First Season

Friday Night Lights is a television drama series about a high school football team. The series was adapted from a novel of the same name by Peter Berg, Brian Grazer, and David Nevins. It first aired in 2006 and ran for twenty-two episodes in its first season. The freshman season was well-received by viewers and critics, and won several awards, including an Emmy Award for casting. The network hosting the series, NBC, was so confident of the show's appeal that NBC Universal is offering a money back guarantee that you will love the show. Until December 31, 2007, you can visit http://www.FNLGuarantee.com for a refund if unsatisfied with it. However, I think it is safe to say that NBC was right and you won't want a refund. Friday Night Lights is an engaging drama with a large ensemble cast, complex characters, and storylines that will leave you wanting to know what happens next.

The series takes place in a fictional small town of Dillon, Texas. Dillon has a culture of its own; it is a place where high school football is everything. In the beginning of the series, Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is given his first big break... he is appointed the head coach high school varsity football team, the Panthers. The main reason he was given the job was due to his close relationship with quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter). Coach Taylor has been mentoring, coaching, and training Jason to become the all-powerful football force he is. This young man is expected to lead the Panthers to victory and win the state title.

The Panther's first game of the season marks a great tragedy when Jason is seriously injured and left paralyzed. The loss of Jason affects everyone on the team and the town of Dillon. Replacing Jason is the second-string quarterback Matt Saracen (Zack Gilford). Everyone fears Matt does not have what it takes to be first-string and without Jason, Coach Taylor is not the man for the job. As the series progresses, it looks at various aspects of the lives of Coach Taylor, his wife Tami (Connie Britton) and daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden), Jason's girlfriend Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly), star running back Smash Williams (Gaius Charles), fullback Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), and Tim's girlfriend Tyra Collette (Adrianna Palicki), as well as their families and closest friends.

One of the interesting storylines focuses on Coach Taylor. Since Jason was his meal ticket, he has to prove to the town of Dillon that he is capable of leading the Jason-less team to state. He runs into many roadblocks, which include sacrificing his best players to preserve his morals, coaching Matt to have the confidence to be a strong team leader, helping misguided youths to do the right thing, managing his home life, dealing with constant pressure from Panther board member Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland), and other related aspects. What it boils down to is that Coach Taylor is one of many very interesting characters.

Jason's storyline is also pretty strong. In the beginning of the series, he has the perfect life with a great football career ahead of him and a wonderful girlfriend. After the accident, he has to come to terms that his formerly "great" life is gone. He soon realizes what is important and with the help of fellow quadriplegic Herc (Kevin Rankin) that there is more to life. He finds salvation and the thrill of competition in quad-rugby.

Other strong storylines include Smash's desire to be the best and using anabolic steroids, complex love triangles involving Jason-Lyla-Tim-Tyra, Tim reconnecting with his father, and Matt struggling to keep up with football, his part-time job, his grandmother who has dementia, and the fact his father is in Iraq. The remaining season one storylines are also full of drama and prove to be engaging and entertaining.

What the series does best is presenting and handling the various storylines. I stress this point because the show has a large ensemble cast, each having their own problems and issues to deal with, from reuniting with misbegotten parents to struggling to be the best to overcoming the odds to handling troubled home lives to facing drug/alcohol problems. The storylines are intertwined well and they really develop the characters into people you feel for and like (or dislike) as individuals. Friday Night Lights has excellent writing.

On that note, the show also has a very strong cast. For the most part, the actors and actresses fit into their roles well. The performers do fine jobs portraying the conflict, the drama, the excitement, the pain, the sadness, and all the other emotions that they encounter during the episodes. With such a strong cast, it is not a surprise the series won an Emmy Award for casting. However, while I thoroughly enjoyed the cast and the characters, I did have an issue with Minka Kelly. Perhaps it was just the character she played, but I never really liked her. Lyla is very soapy and consistently comes off too over-the-top. Sometimes it felt like she was faking more than acting when it came to the real emotional segments.

Overall, Friday Night Lights' first season is a tremendous effort that offers engaging and entertaining programming. The season one content features complex storylines with a large ensemble cast and the development of the key plotlines and characters are handled well. The cast (for the most part) does an excellent job portraying their characters and the emotions they undergo. In the end, Friday Night Lights: The First Season is not something you want to miss out on.

Episode Guide

1. Pilot: A new football season kicks off, and the pressures are already mounting as a coach and his team face off on the muddy field of dreams.
2. Eyes Wide Open: When the mighty fall, the town is forced to pull together as a second-string quarterback is unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight.
3. Wind Sprints: Drastic measures are needed when a loss to an underdog team has school officials pointing fingers and morale at a risky low.
4. Who's Your Daddy?: Panther pride goes before personal crises as the team prepares for a match against their biggest rival, the Tigers, and Coach Taylor struggles to save his job.
5. Git'Er Done: Quarterback Ray "Voodoo" Tatom makes enemies on and off the field, but the team realizes what is most important when they visit their former first-string quarterback at rehab.
6. El Accidente: Friendships are put to the test when police arrest the team's star defensive tackle, Bobby Reyes, and Tim and Lyla take injured Jason Street on a surprise trip away from the rehab center.
7. Homecoming: The alumni are in town for Homecoming week, but it's time to focus on the future as Smash Williams prepares for a college recruiter and Jason suspects his future with Lyla may be changing.
8. Crossing the Line: Victory is theirs, but more challenges lie ahead for the Panthers as Smash debates taking something to enhance his performance and Jason competes in his first quad rugby game.
9. Full Hearts: Everything that can go wrong before a game does a s rumors about Lyla and Tim's relationship spread throughout the team and Smash buckles under the pressure of his personal demons.
10. It's Different for Girls: The cheer team definitely has something to yell about when Lyla is the victim of brutal high school harassment, and Coach Taylor tries to keep his daughter, Julie, away from Matt.
11. Nevermind: Family matters come to the forefront as Jason adjusts to living at home again and Matt's father returns from Iraq.

12. What to Do While You're Waiting: The future of the Panthers' season depends on a game between two opponents, but there's still plenty of pressure as the Street family prepares their case against Coach Taylor.
13. Little Girl I Wanna Marry You: It's crunch time for the Panthers with playoffs one game away, and Lyla and Jason face a life-changing decision of the field.
14. Upping the Ante: The stakes become more intense as the first playoff looms, and Coach Taylor must deal with a delicate situation regarding Smash.
15. Blinders: Team loyalty is put to the test when Mac McGill makes controversial race statements, and the Powderpuff girls head to the field.
16. Black Eyes and Broken Hearts: Coach Taylor faces his most difficult challenge yet as he deliberates between keeping one of his best coaches and supporting his outraged black players.
17. I Think We Should Have Sex: Emotions are at an all-time high during playoffs as Julie shocks Matt by confessing she's rady to have sex, and Tim's relationship with his father takes a turn for the worse.
18. Extended Families: There's no such thing as home sweet home when Buddy Garrity's affair is discovered, forcing Lyla to turn to Jason for comfort.
19. Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Change is in the air when TMU makes Coach Taylor an offer too good to refuse and Jason gets some devastating news from the quad rugby recruiters in Austin.
20. Mud Bowl: When envelopes of cash appear in the players' lockers, Coach Taylor worries that outside pressure to win could put his team's home field advantage at risk.
21. Best Laid Plans: Relationships reach their breaking points as Coach Taylor takes TMU's offer against his wife's wishes, Lyla catches Jason on a date with someone else, and Tyra confronts a friend who betrayed her.
22. State: The football season comes to its climax as the Panthers head to the State Championships in Dallas, but there are still a few difficult hurdles they must face before the final showdown.

The DVD

Video:
The video in this release is given in anamorphic 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color format. The picture quality is quite good. It suffers from a slight grain, but detail remains to be sharp and clear. However, there are some occasional moments when the picture suffers compression artifacts. This is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Needless to say, the show should look good on bigger television sets.

Audio:
The audio in this release is given in English 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound. Overall, the sound quality is very good, providing an audible and clean audio track. The majority of activity is in the forward channels, but there is decent use of the surround sound capability. Music and sound effects sound very rich and vibrant.

There are English subtitles and support for closed captioning.

Extras:
For special features, Friday Night Lights: The First Season comes with deleted scenes for 19/22 episodes and a featurette about the series.

  • Deleted Scenes: are included for episodes "Eyes Wide Open" (6:34) 4 scenes, "Wind Sprints" (1:34) 1 scene, "Who's Your Daddy" (5:59) 5 scenes, "Git 'Er Done" (4:41) 3 scenes, "Homecoming" (2:34) 4 scenes, "Crossing The Line" (4:46) 3 scenes, "Full Hearts" (5:36) 6 scenes, "It's Different For Girls" (2:43) 3 scenes, "Nevermind" (4:11) 4 scenes, "What To Do While You're Waiting" (2:03) 2 scenes, "Little Girl I Wanna Marry You" (1:02) 1 scene, "Upping The Ante" (2:43) 1 scene, "Blinders" (6:08) 3 scenes, "Black Eyes And Broken Hearts" (2:37) 1 scene, "I Think We Should Have Sex" (2:24) 2 scenes, "Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes" (1:00) 1 scene, "Mud Bowl" (1:43) 2 scenes, "Best Laid Plans" (5:13) 2 scenes, and "State" (2:11) 2 scenes.
  • Behind the Lights: Creating the First Season of Friday Night Lights (22:23): is a behind the scenes featurette about the show. It stars Jeffrey Reiner, Jason Katims, Peter Berg, Brian Grazer, Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Minka Kelly, Gaius Charles, Taylor Kitsch, Zach Gilford, Scott Porter, Aimee Teegarden, Annie Palicki, Brad Leland, Michael Waxman, Nan Bernstein, David Nevins, Sarah Aubrey, Jamie Duneier, E.A. Womack, Jr., Kendrick Jefferson, D'Anthony Palms, Aundrus Poole, and Gina Marie Gandy. The contents include interviews and behind the scenes footage of production, directing, collaboration, etc.

Final Thoughts:
Friday Night Lights is a television series about a high school football based upon a novel of the same name. The show is covers the ups and downs of the lives of select football players, the coach, the town, and their closest friends/relatives. The series is exciting and engaging. It provides well-written melodramatic storylines with complex characters. It will only take one episode to get hooked and wanting more. It is an exciting, engaging, and emotional experience that you won't want to miss out on. And with NBC/Universal's satisfaction guarantee and the box set's low MSRP, there is no reason not to pick up a copy. It comes highly recommended.

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