TV to Watch: Friday Night Lights

Sky Atlantic had its first anniversary last week, and in that time the channel has shown a wide range of critically acclaimed US shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Six Feet Under and Game of Thrones. Starting on Sky Atlantic tomorrow (14th) is probably my favourite US show of all time (bold statement I know), and that is Friday Night Lights. The show previously aired it’s first two seasons on ITV4 but now you will be able to watch the complete series for the first time in the UK (outside of watching the Region 1 DVDs as I did). Spanning five seasons Friday Night Lights explores the world of high school football in Dillon, Texas; a small town that thrives on football and worships the teenagers that play for the Dillon Panthers. So why should you watch it?

First of all it doesn’t matter if you have zero knowledge or interest in American football. I knew very little about the sport when I started watching the show, and five seasons later I know not much more about the rules of the game. Take it like this; you don’t need to be an expert in drug distribution or police surveillance work to enjoy The Wire and the same goes for the American football backdrop in FNL. It is part of the fabric of the show but it isn’t necessarily the real focus; the community, the kids in the team and family life is what matters here.

Friday Night Lights began as a book that tells the story of a high school team in Odessa, Texas in 1988 that was then adapted for the big screen by Peter Berg in 2004. The film scored an impressive five stars from Empire Magazine but didn’t even make $1 million in the UK (it made $61 million in the US). This is likely through poor distribution thanks to the American sport centric theme and a similar pattern can be seen with the recent baseball movie Moneyball, which despite awards buzz and a big name star with Brad Pitt, only made just over $1 million in the UK (and $75 million in the US). Sports themed movies are a hard sell if the sport isn’t popular, and this is probably why it has taken so long for FNL to properly hit UK screens at primetime. The show struggled for ratings in the US even, despite being a critical darling. It was only in its fifth and final season that the award nominations finally starting coming in, with Kyle Chandler (Super 8, King Kong) winning Best Actor at the 2011 Emmys for his role as Coach Eric Taylor.

At the centre of it all is Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami Taylor (Connie Britton -Spin City, American Horror Story) who are one of the best representations of a married couple to grace the screen, big or small. They fight, they laugh, they talk like real people and they also care about their jobs and the kids that they work with. Connie Britton played the role of the coach’s wife in the film Friday Night Lights and didn’t want to initially take the TV role, as her part in the film had been cut to shreds. Creator and director Peter Berg assured her this wouldn’t happen again, and he was correct as Tami Taylor is one of the strongest female characters that TV has ever seen. Coach Taylor is often a man of very few words, but when it comes to inspirational speeches he is king, and they will possibly leave you a little misty eyed.

The show is shot in a somewhat documentarian style, with the first episode really evoking this method. It’s not all shaky cam though so don’t worry about that. It is just something that adds to the realism. Shot on location in Austin, Texas, you get the sense of what this community is like and several of the minor speaking roles are played by non-actors; including the pastor and a jewellery shop owner adding to the authentic Texan feeling.

As it is set in a high school, you would expect a roster of stereotypical characters; the lead quarterback douchebag, the head cheerleader bitch, the bad boy, the arrogant one, the arty one, the one who doesn’t care about football, the slut and the nerd. While elements of all these characters exist, they play on these stereotypical elements; turning them on their head rather than having it as a central characteristic. Certain high school experiences are featured such as first loves won and lost, as well as social issues such as racism, financial woes and abortion. Don’t worry, it’s not an after school special and doesn’t lean towards the preachy.

Will you be watching? Have you seen the show before and want to watch it all over again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Friday Night Lights begins on Sky Atlantic Tuesday, February 14 at 8pm and you can watch the trailer here.

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!”

Boardwalk Empire

It is fitting that when Sky launched their new channel Sky Atlantic on Tuesday, the show that headlined the evening was set in Atlantic City. Boardwalk Empire, depicting the vast social changes in 1920s America hit the small screen this week and did so with all the pomp and flair of an illicit prohibition era party.


Films Spoiled by Simpson References

Beyond its genius writing, clever jokes and unique characters, The Simpsons has another trait that makes it stand out among other sitcoms – it’s pop culture references. I grew up on The Simpsons, which also means when I watched the show as a child, I missed every third or fourth clever joke. It was only in later life that I’d pick up on what the writers were referring to.

bart and tits

This posed a bit of a problem. For while the cult references are fun for those that get them the downside is there are several classic films that have been slightly, if not entirely spoiled for me by Simpsons episodes.
Damn you Groening!

Here’s a few. Obviously, Beware Spoliers!

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
As soon as I was introduced to Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest I thought he seemed vaguely familiar. Then when Jack Nicholson’s character tried to lift the water fountain my suspicions were confirmed. I had seen the Chief in ‘The Old Man and the ‘C’ Student’ where Bart takes over the retirement home. In the parody scene Chief Bromden throws a water cooler through the window to gain access both in and out of a room. Once I made the connection I knew that the Chief would ultimately use the water cooler to escape from the hospital. ENDING RUINED!


This Is England ’86: The Greatest UK TV Show For A Generation


Last night I did an almost unprecedented thing. Midway through the fourth and final part of a programme that I was looking forward to since its inception and ridiculously emotionally involved with from the first episode on, I switched off the TV and walked away. I simply couldn’t handle watching it. That programme was Shane Meadows This Is England ’86.

this is england

Thankfully this morning I summoned up the courage to continue and finished off what was quite possibly the greatest UK television programme of a generation.


The A-Team Review

Over the years, Hollywood has ransacked the television archives for inspiration, with varying degrees of success. From the awful (I Spy, Wild Wild West, Dukes of Hazzard etc) to the distinctly average (Get Smart, Land of the Lost, Miami Vice etc). Very few have managed to really pull off a reimagining that pleases cinemagoers without alientating the die hard fans. Then last year, a TV mogul came and raised the bar. J.J Abram’s Star Trek reboot was, as you’d expect, hotly anticipated and as such most expected it to fail.

The A-team substitutes

I was stunned by what proved to be a sleak, contemporary thrill ride. Sadly A-team does not continue this asscendancy.


Brooklyn’s Finest And Why Cinema Can’t Be HBO

The Wire has been given a lot of press attention and critical acclaim. And rightly so. It’s ridiculously great storytelling, impeccably put together and as addictive as heron. But it’s also had a rather adverse effect on the world of film. It’s not The Wire‘s fault but over the past few years certain films (Pride and Glory, American Gangster) have tried to ape the maginificent show, and also many of it’s network’s (HBO) product. The most obvious example of this, Brooklyn’s Finest is in cinemas now.


The biggest reason why Cinema can’t be HBO, at almost almost 60 hours, almost 3853 minutes, The Wire has literally days to tell it’s complete story. Brooklyn’s Finest has a little over two hours. But it doesn’t stop deluded film-makers trying.


BAFTA’s 2010 Red Carpet

Carey Mulligan at last nights BAFTA’s not only took home the Best Female award but also wowed audiences with her innovative choice of gown. For me she was the best dressed of the evening in her beautiful Vionnet floral monochrome gown and this I would say is her best appearance on the red carpet in this current award season where she has always looked good but last night this dress made her look like the winning actress that she is:

Carey-Mulligan-on-the-Baf-001.jpg picture by emskilou


Coming soon to a small screen near you: The Pacific

The 14th of March is the tentative date for the start of the new miniseries ‘The Pacific’, a HBO production that will air on Sky Movies in the UK (advert free).  The Pacific sees Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks providing us with another look at events in WWII, this time from the view of the battle being fought with Japan.

After the success of Band of Brothers (which is by far one of my favourite television series of all time) The Pacific has been highly anticipated since the first trailer was released last summer and early reports suggest that it will not disappoint.

The $128  million price tag for the series indicates that they will not be holding back on the fight sequences and special effects. Though this is not a show that will be brilliant for spectacle alone, if the story telling is anything like that of Band of Brothers it will be the smaller moments between the characters that will make this TV event special, that this journey that these young men are on is one worth telling beyond the explosions and gun fights.

A familiar face in the trailer is Joseph Mazzello who you probably recognise from another Spielberg hit Jurassic Park in which he played Tim. Looking over his IMDb page his work in film and TV since that childhood role has consisted with bit parts so hopefully this lead role will help reinvigorate his career. Other faces you might also recognise are James Badge Dale who was Chase in 24 and also starred in The Departed and Aussie actress Isabella Lucas who was in Transformers 2 and most recently Daybreakers. Hopefully this means that there will be some female involvement in this series that goes beyond the HBO required boob count.

The Edge Of Darkness

A little while ago a story came out of Hollywood that an A-list actor and director was pulled over by the LAPD so heavily intoxicated that he’d have killed any small child that jumped out in front of his big, moving car.


The celebrity, who shall remain nameless, then proceeded to verbally insult the police with mysogynistic and anti-semitic remarks. But as Mel Gibson’s latest film, The Edge Of Darkness explains, conspiracies are everywhere. So that story that I just told you was probably all made up. Like the holocaust, hey Mel, Hey? Hey?!

Like an erstwhile Dr. Sam Beckett, Mel Gibson is trying to put right what once went wrong by standing in front of the camera (for the first time since his arrest) and playing such a thoroughly likeable chap, that you can’t help but root for him. For chrissakes his daughter’s been murdered! Therefore Mel must be a nice guy and couldn’t have possibly said stuff that would have made Hitler blush. Well, that’s the theory.


Star Trek

There aren’t many people that would want George Lucas to have any more cash, and even fewer that would want him to earn it on the back of ‘The Phantom Menace’, but Hollywood owes the guy at least a pint or two for making the notion of the prequel such a draw. Because from Bond to this week’s ‘Wolverine’, cinema-goers are lapping up the idea of where their favourite franchise characters originated. ‘Star Trek’ (11) takes this idea to warp factor 9. (Bad Pun Number 1).


Kicking off with an incredibly tense and surprisingly emotional pre-credits sequence, the 11th Trek film then jumps from world to world encompassing Iowa and Vulcan and transporting (Bad Pun Number 2) between several time zones from Baby Kirk to Teenage Spock to where the heart of this movie lies, Young Adult Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk (Chris Pine). The former fighting his eternal battle with Bjork’s idiom that there is definitely, definitely, definitely no logic to human behaviour and the latter drinking heavily, bar-fighting and trying to lay Uhura. Apart from the last part it’s clear this is a new, ’00s Trek. (more…)

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