Friday Night Lights wrapped filming this past summer, aired its series finale (season 5, episode 13) to a tiny slice of the American population Wednesday night on DirecTV, and will grace the rest of your televisions this summer on NBC. It's an achingly fitting, drawn-out farewell tour for the little show that died hard. Who could ever have guessed that something brought forth from the creative loins of Buzz Bissinger would resonate in so many lives?
There's no real sense in eulogizing a five-season run that still felt five seasons too short. It's done been gone. The sets are long since struck in Austin and elsewhere, the cast and crew on to other shows. But FNL was (oh, the "was" hurts) one of those stories that you could pick up midway through, with no introduction, and immediately just get what it was about, with every shot telling a story, or savor every minute of every hour.
It gave red-blooded American males Minka Kelly in a cheerleading getup, red-blooded American women a sweaty Taylor Kitsch in football pants, and a gleeful internet a Mike Leach cameo that will live in mumbly infamy. It gave Kyle Chandler's voice a television home, which is probably what earned the show its Peabody award and Humanitas Prize in the first place. It has earned your allegiance a hundred times over, Real America.
It says something about us that even when it's crammed full of decidedly not-real football loaded with questionable calls (don't analyze the gameplay, you'll go mad), we cannot turn away. It says something far, far sadder about the American zeitgeist that the show never got better legs. It's a hollow melancholy that would fit right in in Dillon, Texas. But here again: Don't be sad. It's already over, and its light is just now reaching us, like the last rays of a dead star. That it existed this long at all is a miracle.