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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Friday Night Lights is a sports drama that -- like the movie it's based on -- centers on the coach and players of an elite high school football team in small-town Texas. There's constant tension between the community's desire to win games and the coach's goal of helping his players understand the inner strength they need to truly be winners. Racial tensions, underage drinking, and sexual tension are prevalent, and some of the football scenes can get pretty intense. Other mature issues include infidelity, abusive relationships, divorce, going to war, and more.
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What's the story?
Centered on the world of elite high school football, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS follows the trials and tribulations of coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and the Dillon Panthers, the number-one team in Texas. When star quarterback, Jason Street (Scott Porter), is sidelined in the first season, Taylor is left with inexperienced second-string QB Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford). The coach struggles with the community's desire to win the state championship and the need for his players to understand that football isn't just a game, but also a journey of self-discovery. And the players -- including running backs Brian "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles) and Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) -- must learn how to behave as a team both on and off the field. The guys' romantic interests, including Jason's devoted cheerleader girlfriend Lyla (Minka Kelly) and the flirtatious Tyra (Adrianne Palicki), add to the drama. And Coach Taylor is both supported and pressured by his wife, Tami (Connie Britton).
Is it any good?
Even if you aren't a football fan, it isn't hard to get caught up in some of the show's dramatic storylines, which include teen romance, strong friendship, personal rivalry, and family unity. For sports fans though, Friday Night Lights is full of football lingo and pre- and post-game rituals that have become part of high school football culture.
The show also deals with some weightier, more controversial issues, including underage drinking, racial tensions, murder, abusive relationships, and the serious risks involved in playing contact sports -- all of which are relevant to (and will probably interest) a lot of older middle schoolers and high schoolers. As long as these heavier topics are taken in context -- ideally, with some parental explanation -- the show is a well-executed drama for teens and up. Because, in the end, Friday Night Lights is about a whole lot more than just winning football games.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of sports in their community and how it compares to Friday Night Lights. Are high school games as big a deal in your town as they are on the show? What kind of pressures do the athletes (both the ones on TV and the ones in real life) face? What are some of the consequences of those pressures?
How do parents and other adult role models help kids learn what success means? What defines success in your community?
Are the teen characters on the show realistic? Why or why not?
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