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HTF DVD Review: Friday Night Lights Season 1

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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   Scott McAllister

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Posted September 11 2007 - 07:00 AM

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Studio: Universal Studios
Year: 2006-2007
Film Length: 955 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Enhanced Widescreen (1.78:1)
Languages: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH
MSRP: $29.99
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden, Scott Porter, Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki, Zach Gilford, Gaius Charles, Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons




The Show

NBC made plenty of new additions to its prime time TV roster in 2006. While some of those programs went on to garner huge viewership numbers, one in particular struggled throughout the regular TV season. Friday Night Lights spent much of the last year on many critics “Top 10 Best” lists but yet could never seem to gather a large number of weekly viewers. Articles were written in Entertainment Weekly asking the question “Why is nobody watching this show?” Sadly, it spent a good portion of last year in the “will-it-be-renewed” category. After spending three straight days watching Friday Night Lights: Season 1, the question is: How could it not be?

The first noticeable difference in Friday Night Lights is the way it presents its material to the viewer. There are no grand panoramics and no sweeping camera moves. The entire show is filmed with handheld cameras, giving it a very raw and direct feel. This lets the viewer experience the show as if they were in the room with the characters instead of just watching actors interact from across the living room.

Secondly, while the title may be Friday Night Lights, this is not a show about football. Rather it’s a show about normal people who live in a small, tightly knit football community. The stereotypical “jocks” driving Porsches are nowhere to be found in Dillon, TX. Instead they are replaced by high schoolers usually driving cars older than they themselves are, and parents who manage families that are very much middle class. When the star quarterback is injured in his first game, the replacement player is not a hunky athelete but a shy, quiet boy who has no clue how to deal with his new spotlight. The first season tracks the Dillon Panthers as they try to progress to the state championship game that the entire community expects them to reach. The show, however, is driven not by the football team but by the conflicts, trials, and emotional experiences of the people of this small Texas town.

Here are all of the episodes of the first season, almost all of which have at least one deleted scene.

1.Pilot
2.Eyes Wide Open
3.Wind Sprints
4.Who’s Your Daddy?
5.Git’Er Done
6.El Accidente
7.Homecoming
8.Crossing the Line
9.Full Hearts
10.It’s Different for Girls
11.Nevermind
12.What to do While You’re Waiting
13.Little Girl I Wanna Marry You
14.Upping the Ante
15.Blinders
16.Black Eyes and Broken Hearts
17.I Think We Should Have Sex
18.Extended Families
19.Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
20.Mud Bowl
21.Best Laid Plans
22.State




Picture Quality

The series, much like most of NBC’s primetime lineup, is broadcast in high-definition format. This DVD release is only a widescreen standard 480p release, but it does a great job of capturing the sights and sounds of living and playing in a small football town. Even though the episodes are filmed by handheld cameras, the quality of the picture is not degraded as we are treated to rainy nights, early morning sunrises, evening sunsets, and (naturally) nighttime game lights. The only negative that viewers might dislike is the very nature of handheld filming. It does bring you closer to the action, but there is a noticeable shake to everything, the action doesn’t always stay in the frame of vision, and there are (intentional) focus errors where the screen will not have a target to look at. These aren’t strikes against the quality of the picture, just a warning to potential buyers.

Audio Quality

Friday Night Lights is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it does a convincing job of delivering the experience of football games. During the non-game segments, the vast majority of the sound is broadcast through the center channel. The surround element doesn’t really start coming into play until either game time or some other action sequence of some type. All in all, the sound delivery is adequate and gets the message across.

Special Features

Here is one area where Friday Night Lights doesn’t deliver. In comparison to some other high profile season sets recently released, this series offers only a twenty one minute “Behind the Scenes”, previews of other TV shows, and deleted scenes for almost every episode. There aren’t any commentary tracks, outtakes, or informational goodies. For such a promising show, it’s disappointing to see the supplemental extras not fulfilled to the quality of the series itself.

Summary

During Friday Night Lights’ original run, I was one of those people who kept hearing that the show was getting great reviews but I never bothered to tune in. After watching this entire season on DVD, I find myself wishing I had paid more attention. I was engrossed and fascinated by the lives of these characters. The roles were incredibly fleshed out and extremely well developed, even when the episode’s plot covered topics that have already been seen before. Ultimately, this is Friday Night Light’s greatest strength. They aren’t presenting the viewer with conflicts that haven’t been experienced already, but they are doing it in an original and creative manner that makes these plot points feel fresh. I will be waiting and looking forward to the second season. I give Friday Night Lights: Season 1 my full recommendation.
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#2 of 9 OFFLINE   JakeLip

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Posted September 11 2007 - 01:06 PM

I too just discovered this one and LOVE it. But I am quite content with the extras, such as they are. Sure, it would have been nice to have more, but this set is going for $20 in-store, and I don't really think it's fair to expect a fully decked-out special edition if they're giving away so much content for so little money. This is a tactic to get new viewers and from what I've heard it's working, so I think that's fine.
 

 


#3 of 9 OFFLINE   pitchman

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Posted September 12 2007 - 01:41 AM

I agree with Jake.

In particular, I was very impressed with the quality of the deleted scenes. Unlike many other sets that give you extended trims of scenes that are included in the episode proper, in almost every instance here, the viewer is treated to valuable (and sometimes startling dramatic) footage that greatly enhances the episode you have just seen.

Also, I really enjoyed the featurette. It does a good job of laying out the genesis of the program and the overall creative approach of the series.

One important caveat -- Although the featurette is on disc one and you may be tempted to watch it, if you are new to the show, I strongly suggest you wait until you have viewed the entire season, since the featurette contains a couple of MAJOR SPOILERS.
Gary

#4 of 9 OFFLINE   Southpaw

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Posted September 12 2007 - 02:30 AM

Thanks for the review.
This was a show that last September, I meant to watch. I loved the movie and I love football so I pretty much knew I would at least like the show. I got so involved with other shows (most that didn't make it) that "FNL" was left off my viewing list.
Within a couple months, reviews were pouring in and like you stated in your review of the season, almost all were very positive. I could have kicked myself. What to do. Try to pick up the show where it was at that point and figure out who was who? I could of. But I decided to wait for the DVD release. As the season ended, there was tons of speculation as to whether the show would get picked up for a 2nd season. Even without watching one minute of the show, I was biting my nails, hoping it would get renewed. I couldn't wait to watch the season on DVD and then be a regular viewer for season 2.
Well, not to my surprise, I loooooooooooooved it. I love the relationships, the drama, the storylines. It has made me cry and it has made me laugh. In fact, I didn't expect to laugh as much as I have. Most episodes are sprinkled with subtle humor. I absolutely adore Coach Taylor and wife Tami. How they weren't nominated for an Emmy, I'll never know. They are so perfect I don't even see them as Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. To me, all I see is Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. The Matt Saracen character was done perfectly and even when the Jason accident storyline could have gotten sappy, they threw the viewer a curveball.
All in all, if you are on the fence about getting this show, jump off quick! You will love it!

#5 of 9 OFFLINE   Marty M

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Posted September 12 2007 - 03:02 AM

I started watching this series after about the fourth episode. Like mentioned in the review, I quickly found out this is way more than just a TV show about football. The Kyle Chandler/Connie Britton chemistry is one of the best I have seen in a long time on TV.

One of my favorite scenes in the Pilot episode is the conversation that the Mayor of Dillon has with Jason about how he should prepare for the first game of the season. She said...
he should listen to Black Sabbath to get psyched up for the game.

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#6 of 9 OFFLINE   Jon Martin

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Posted September 12 2007 - 03:04 AM

I also have to disagree about the extras.

The deleted scenes on each episode are better than the deleted scenes on most shows or films. These really build up the characters, even explain what happened to some supporting characters. They were all most likely cut for time rather than because they didn't work in the show.

I couldn't care less about football, yet I LOVED this show.

#7 of 9 OFFLINE   Scott McAllister

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Posted September 12 2007 - 08:22 AM

I should probably preface my disapointment in the extras by saying that the quality of the included goodies is of a very high level. I found that the deleted scenes in particular were excellent and often times would have changed the tone of an entire section of the show had they been left in.

I'd like to think that the pricing of the set itself is not being looked at as an "out" by the producers of the DVD. Personally, I don't think commentary tracks sprinkled throughout the series would have been too tall of an order, even with the $29.99 MSRP.

As always, thanks for the feedback. Posted Image

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#8 of 9 OFFLINE   JakeLip

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Posted September 12 2007 - 08:26 AM

Yeah, they could have done commentaries too and probably should have. Considering that Peter Berg did one on the film, I am surprised he didn't at least do one for the pilot, which he directed. But I still am more than satisfied with what we did get. Perhaps there will be more on future releases (Season 2 at least will have a release I'm sure, and then let's hope it's renewed beyond that.)
 

 


#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Rob P S

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Posted October 08 2007 - 02:03 PM

I love this show and these characters - I bought it for $15 at Best Buy this week. The deleted scenes are good - a few commentaries would have been nice, but if they were too busy working on Season 2, then so be it. Only complaint is that some scenes are too dark.