Here’s an article I wrote for inside beat in today‘s Targum. This is the unedited version, it varies quite a bit from the printed version, which can be found HERE.

Right now there is a show that features some of the best acting, writing, directing, cinematography and music on television, and odds are, you don’t watch it. It’s not on HBO or Showtime, and you didn’t see its cast crowding onto the stage at the Emmys. It is “Friday Night Lights,” the NBC drama about a small town in Texas and its football team, and it is as close to perfect as a TV show can get.

The first season of “FNL,” which is now available on DVD, dealt with the small town of Dillon, Texas. Dillon is your traditional Texas high school football power, a community whose identity is solely based around their team. The devotion to their squad and their idolization of the state championship ring is at times frightening, but the truth is that these towns are very common in Texas.

The show was plagued by low viewership in its remarkable first season, but the core base of fans, populated by every TV critic in America, was so devoted to their show that they did everything in their power to bring it back. Fan support on various websites and petitions helped inspire NBC execs to renew it for a second season, though their decision was also based on their personal love of the series. Almost never is the case where a show is renewed despite poor performance simply because of its quality – but “FNL” really, truly, is that above and beyond.

The town of Dillon is a microcosm of American life, and it is perfect in its accuracy. Critics have long hailed the show’s ability to depict a realistic town filled with such realistic people that you might think you grew up there. No aspect of the lives of these teenagers are exaggerated or glorified, and the same goes for the adults. They encounter problems, and they struggle through them. There’s never a point where you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy what you are seeing.

Television critics across the nation shamed the Emmys this year for their exclusion of two actors, Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler, from their best actor nominations. On “FNL” they play coach Eric Taylor and his wife, Tami. Though the acting is brilliant in every role on the show, these two stand out in the crowd. The moments of interaction between them are so unflinching, so honest and believable, that they elevate even the simplest conversation to a fantastic scene.

The direction and cinematography are a point of controversy for the show. People unaccustomed to the style may at first find the hand-held cameras to be a bit shaky, though for me that became trivial after the first 20 minutes of the first episode. Others love they style, such as NY Times television critic Ginia Bellafante, who wrote last week, “There are no cameras in Hollywood at this particular cultural moment more efficiently deployed than the ones overseen by the cinematographer working on ‘Friday Night Lights.’” The show specializes in beautiful, broad shots of a barren Texas landscape, set to haunting, empty post-rock riffs played by “Explosions In The Sky.” This, like the writing and acting, is absolutely nailed, so much so that you’ll get chills down your spine each time it happens.

“FNL” maybe appear to be nothing more than a TV adaptation of the film that bears the same name, which was in turn adapted from a book by H.G. Bissinger. After one episode, though, it becomes clear that the show is it’s own entity, separate from the film and the novel, and superior in every way. If you are one of the many folks who haven’t seen it yet, please start watching. You’ll be amazed at what this little show has accomplished, and what it will continue to do this season.

“Friday Night Lights” airs Fridays, 9 p.m. on NBC.

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