I have a hard time watching Friday Night Lights. This isn’t because of their often ridiculous football, or even because of often ridiculous plot contrivances like murders or Tami Taylor, Girl Principal (“Hi, y’all! I’m Tami Taylor, and I’ve been working at this school for a couple of years now, but I had no idea we had so many money troubles! My sweet Lord!”). Heck, it isn’t even because of their inability to decide who is a senior in high school when (Tim Riggins is apparently in this sixth year of eligibility).
The reason I have a hard time watching Friday Night Lights is because they get the emotional details so right that following this show is like begging for a weekly punch in the gut. These people might live in a Devil Town, but they understand that all they really have is each other, so they are devoted to Figuring This Out. They are committed to figuring out how to get Brian Williams back to being Smash again, or figuring out how to save Tyra Collette from her preordained family fate, or figuring out how to maintain marriages in the face of work demands or figuring out how to make Tim Riggins less like Tim Riggins or figuring out how to let Matt Saracen down lightly when a better quarterback comes along (oh, please, please, let Coach Taylor love JD McCoy but hate his dad).
And I guess that’s why I can make it through watching this show, no matter how hard it is–because these characters are so devoted to each other and to Figuring This Out, I can trust them to turn lemons into lemonade, one way or the other. Or maybe they turn them into lemon bars for the bake sale they’re going to need to afford that JumboTron now. This premiere episode had some of the lumpiness that comes from trying to explain months of off-screen developments, and that will probably smooth out over subsequent episodes. But even it doesn’t, FNL has such a good track record of getting those tiny emotional details right that we’ll be back for more.