Anyone who knows even a little bit about me, would be shocked to say the least that I’m currently watching episode after episode of a series about football. Actually, for me to be interested in anything involving a sport (dancing doesn’t count here since I did ballet, modern, Latin American and Ballroom for years and do not consider them a sport so much as art-through-movement) is nothing short of miraculous.
I’ll admit, I caught a few episodes of the series Friday Night Lights back in 2006 when it first aired and wasn’t too impressed – small town, football, Texas – yeah, enough said. So I never gave it the time of day despite being a fan of Kyle Chandler’s from watching Early Edition as a kid. A little while ago, I stumbled upon the South African/Hollywood movie The Bang Bang Club, the biographical drama about the lives of four combat photographers during the Apartheid era. Of them Kevin Carter is perhaps most famous (notorious, depending who you ask) for his Pulitzer Prize winning photo of the little girl and vulture. The movie was outstanding. It takes a lot for me to be impressed by South African film and The Bang Bang Club blew me away. What really blew me away was the ability of two non-Oscar winning actors, Ryan Phillipe and Taylor Kitsch, to nail the Saffer accent where A-listers Matt Damon and Leo di Caprio had just failed dismally in the past. It was Taylor Kitsch’s portrayal of the overly sensitive and deeply troubled Kevin Carter that really caught my attention. No, his dashing good looks and baby blue eyes have absolutely nothing to do with it. So I turned to IMDB and hunted down Kitsch’s other roles… enter Friday Night Lights.
In brief, Friday Night Lights is about a hell of a lot more than football. It really captures the spirit of small town Texas while delving into what makes each of the towns-folk tick. Of course they’re all connected to the local football team. For some of the troubled kids, football is all they have making for a poignant sometimes heart-wrenching exploration of a variety of characters. The cast of characters is what enthralls me. Each character is thoroughly explored and each is dealing with a whole host of their own problems, from absent parents and alcoholism to drug addiction and injury. All of them are under extreme pressure of one kind or another. I really don’t know how kids who really live like this, survive their teenage years. Now perhaps I’m just biased but Taylor Kitsch’s character, Tim Riggins, definitely stands out and often steals the show with his damaged bad-boy-but-really-deeply-sensitive-and-vulnerable-kid antics. The show is so well written. The writers have done a truly outstanding job in taking what could’ve become a banal series for football fanatics, turning it into a character driven drama that even the likes of sportaphobes like me can not only enjoy but become totally engrossed in.
I am behind the times. The series has already concluded its fifth season and I’m only in the first, but I can’t stop watching and that is the mark of genius writing right there. I care nothing for football and yet I find myself rooting for the Dillon Panthers in every game of the series, and often find myself on the edge of my seat cheering on Riggs or Smash or Saracen. I can’t stop thinking about these characters and although I watch each episode with the intention of analysing what it is about the writing that makes the show so good, all analytic thought goes out the window as I become deeply engrossed in the lives of the characters. I can only hope that I’m taking it all in by osmosis and can apply what this series is teaching me in my own writing.
And now because Taylor Kitsch is gorgeous and horribly underrated as an actor, here’s a pic of him to ogle at.