Back to Heartbreak With 'Friday Night Lights'
by Stephanie Earp, posted Apr 11th 2011 5:00PM
As the final season debut of 'Friday Night Lights' approaches on Friday, April 15, my joy at the chance to return to Dillon is mixed with sadness and frustration.
I'm pissed that almost no one watched this show during its four miraculous seasons and that almost no one will be watching its swan song. Like 'Veronica Mars' and 'Arrested Development' before it, it will become a weird quirk of conversation for the people who watched it. At parties and chance meetings, fans of the show will reminisce about the beauty of it while other people will avoid the freaks talking about fictional, canceled characters as if they were real.
The whole thing wears me out. I'm tired of being a huge fan of the shows that don't make it. It reminds me of dating in your 20s -- the people you want to see again never want to see you. They're all like, 'You're smart and witty, but I'm really looking for something more comfortable and traditional.' I always assumed these guys liked to watch '24' and 'Family Guy.'
Actually, a better metaphor is an election, although that's probably jumping to mind because we're about to have one here in Canada. I'm always voting for my beliefs and I always come out a big loser. My guy gets canceled, so to speak, and I watch in wonder as the bozo who got the popular vote turns out to make as much sense as a recent episode of 'Desperate Housewives.'
The truth is TV is a democracy, and works about as well as can be expected from that ancient and revered form of government. If you have a TV, you can vote, and you do so with your remote. The things we watch -- and by we, I mean millions of us -- stay on the air and the things we don't watch get the axe.
In light of that grim reality, the continued existence of 'Friday Night Lights' is a bit of a socialist triumph. Back when the abysmal season one ratings had the show heading towards the dust bin of history, fans sent NBC 100 boxes of footballs to protest. In fact, NBC really gave the show every chance it could. A schedule of reruns on sister networks had worked for 'The West Wing' but didn't help 'FNL.' Finally, thanks to a cost-sharing deal with DirecTV that saw them get first-run rights, a show that wasn't supposed to make it past episode 13 has come to enjoy five seasons. If that isn't special interest, I don't know is.
But like disappointing results on election night, the whole thing has me wondering what's wrong with the TV viewing population. Why doesn't everyone want to watch shows with fine acting, meaningful writing and big themes? Why do shows like 'Grey's Anatomy' capture the public imagination and drag on for term after term when feisty girl detectives and curmudgeonly football coaches can't get more than a few thousand votes? What I'm really wondering, of course, is why I'm so different from everyone else. Everyone else is perfectly happy with a diet of 'Idol,' 'Loser' and 'L&O,' clearly. But I'm not.
Is it me? Or us, I should say, because I know you're out there, you viewers like me who flip from channel to channel, dying to connect with something and finding a wasteland of garbage. Are we wrong about these shows we love? Are they actually depressing? Bad? Boring? I remember arguing fruitlessly with my sister over 'Arrested Development' in its second season. She didn't like it. "They're all jerks," she said of the Bluths. I couldn't argue with that -- it's unassailably true. It was one of those 'Eureka!' moments where I pictured an entire nation of viewers tuning in to see this show the critics were all raving about and shaking their heads in consternation, much like I do when the judges praise the off-key karaoke stylings of the latest 'Idol' darling.
It's enough to make you want to never care again. I think I might be back to my dating metaphor now. It's like I've had my heart broken too many times, and I have resolved to harden it. After 'FNL' I'm not going to fall in love with any more quirky, original shows.
I guess that makes season 5 of 'Friday Night Lights' my last summer romance with network TV. No wonder it feels so bittersweet.
'Friday Night Lights' final season debuts on Friday, April 15 at 8PM on NBC in the US and on Global in Canada.