Episode 86: Friday Night Lights (2004)

Film chosen by Gali

Can you be perfect? We step onto the hallowed turf of Permian High School’s cavernous football stadium and soak up the atmosphere of Peter Berg’s 2004 sports drama Friday Night Lights. 

2nd year coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) carries the weight of the post-oil bust town of Odessa’s beleaguered populace on his shoulders. Their pride rests on whether his Permian Panthers can win the State Championship. It seems half the men of the community proudly still sport their ostentatious championship rings while all but ordering the current crop of young athletes – centred around tightly-wound quarterback Mike Winchell (Lucas Black), party boy fullback Don Billingsley (Garrett Hedlund), hard-hitting safety Brian Chavez (Jay Hernandez) and, most vitally, star running back “Boobie” Miles (Derek Luke) – to go get their own. But when a horrendous injury threatens to derail the season, the coach must dig deep to salvage the wins that the die-hard fans demand – demands that come with no lack of implicit threat.

Based on the true life story of the 1988 Permian Panthers, as documented in Buzz Bissinger’s book of the same name, Bissinger’s cousin Berg continued his transition from actor to director with this, his third feature. As the basis for a hugely successful TV drama, the film itself seems to have been somewhat overshadowed, so Gali seeks to rectify this and revisits alongside fellow FNL fans Devlin and Patrick, and novice (and, crucially, American Football agnostic) Matt to see whether the original deserves to take its place among the upper tier of sports movies. Golly bum.

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