I’ve resisted writing about the TV show Friday Night Lights for two reasons: first, no self-respecting porcher will admit to watching TV, much less singing its praises; and, second, I’ve been waiting to see how the story plays itself out. From its very promising first season, through the trainwreck of season two and the redemption of season three, the show has captured, or at least tried to, something about the persons with whom all of us interact. Season Five has, so far, been superb.

The show has been uneven in its efforts to capture the contours of life in small-town America, a teenage wasteland of narcissism brought on, in no small part, by the utter failure of the town’s adults. In the middle of the chaos and confusion, however, are genuine moments of tenderness, grace, enlightenment, and the effort to construct a real community. For all the ways they fail one another, the citizens of Dillon still manage, on occasion, to come through for one another, and in any case realize their mutual dependence. They may dream beyond Dillon, but they live completely within it. Brimming over with shortcomings, but enjoying those brief instances where their better selves actually shine through, the people of Dillon provide something of a mirror to American life.

The latest New York Times Magazine has a nice little comparison of FNL with the widely watched Glee (which I confess I haven’t seen). The author gets at some of the important elements of the show, even if a New Yorker will never truly get what a show like this is about.

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Jeffrey Polet
Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.


  1. I haven’t seen the show, but I did read the book. What’s interesting is that, to me at least, the book was not really about the kids; it was about west Texas. It’s about tradition and place and economics and abandonment and how they interact. There are a lot of great lessons about the way that traditions unite and conserve community, but can also corrupt and divide.

    For instance, all right thinking people embrace football and eschew soccer. Wait, is that eisegesis? Maybe exegesis? Bland acceptance of tradition? Yes. And delicious acceptance at that. Go Steelers!

    I mean… I like TS Eliot. (Embrace of professional sports would seem to embrace television AND consumer culture. A double offense!)

  2. I was going to post something about the end of season 5 and how it relates to Porcherness but I don’t think I can do so without giving away some important points… so do let us know when you’ve finished it all.

  3. Trying to think of a nice politically correct to say this is painfully hard. I watched a few episodes of ‘Glee’ and just could not bear it. While many shows have your token homosexual, even shows that are indeed ABOUT homosexuals (I.E. Will and Grace) Glee is overtly ‘Gay’. I personally have a theory about the difference between ‘Gays’ and ‘Homosexuals’, but will bypass that now to address the fact that most pop-culture T.V. today is flat hell-bent on destroying ‘male-ness’ in it’s entirety. Glee (from what I have seen) is doing an excellent job, as is apparent from their rating.

  4. Watching the last episodes of the final season, and I have to say, whatever is good in the show is being undermined by the bad elements, which are usually directly opposed to the former (coach’s supplicating relationship with his wife, their handling of their daughter, her willingness to move for the sake of a better job opportunity, the former spirit girl’s desire to become a football coach, and so on).

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