Jason Katims, the showrunner of Friday night lights, knew he you had to be judicious when it came to rolling out his show’s most famous slogan.
The slogan, of course, is “Clear eyes, a full heart, I can’t lose,” a rallying cry that unites first the Dillon Panthers high school football team, then the East Dillon Lions team of the series, which ran from 2006 to 2011. And good news for both FNL fans and those who haven’t yet watched one of the best teen dramas of all time – all 76 episodes of the series are back on Netflix for your streaming enjoyment.
Of all the elements this stellar streak has given to the world, perhaps none is as enduring as “Clear eyes, full hearts, cannot lose.” This is what you say when your back to the wall and you don’t know what’s coming next, but you know your friends are next to you. And maybe that will be enough. This idea resonated with many people. Even Barack Obama the city.
The first use of “Clear Eyes” is in the pilot of the series, written by Peter Berg, but when the time came for Katims to take charge of the running of the series for the 75 episodes that followed, he and the writers have chosen to keep the slogan on the very back burner. They knew when they needed him, he would be there for them. And it always, always worked.
“You had to find those moments that were important and not use them in every episode and use them all the time,” Katims said when I interviewed him in 2018. “This makes it iconic in a way. Look, these are the words. It’s Kyle Chandler who says these words. These are the faces of these players who repeat them to him. It’s a combination of all of these things.
There are many, many reasons to recommend FNL, but having a great slogan that never goes beyond its reception is quite remarkable. How many other TV shows have done this? What characterizes this slogan as a truly fantastic piece of writing is how “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Cannot Lose” reflects so many other elements that make this show worth recommending. .
For example, consider the tone of the series, which is unique in the history of television. Most of the small town series offer some unusual wonderland that you might want to move around. (Thought: Gilmore Girls, Schitt Creek.) Most teen drama is about either the hottest teen sex complications imaginable (think: Gossip Girl, 90210) or the weirdos and wannabes who always look at these hotties and complain about it (think: Freaks and Geeks, Véronique Mars). And when it comes to sports TV series … well, before FNL, television hadn’t really done a lot of sports drama.
What Friday night lights accomplished tonally is extremely impressive. Dillon, Texas looks like a real place, with all the stress that would exist in a small town in West Texas, but it never goes so far in its realism that it becomes desperate. Her teens have sexy complications and sometimes complain about the hotter teens around them, but they never feel defined by their confidence or awkwardness. They are just teenagers, groping through life and sometimes doing the right thing.
The show’s portrayal of high school football also had a great influence on a host of television series that followed. You don’t need to know a thing about soccer to enjoy the show. (Honestly, if you know too much about football, you might roll your eyes at how many games you won in the last second.) But you have to know a city where everyone cares about a little thing like his life depended on it. above. Dillon, Texas loves high school football almost as much as he loves God or America. Whether you love the team or don’t care, it almost ends up being a political statement.
My “greatness in a small Midwestern town where high school sports were big business” appears here, but: Friday night lights. Much of that can be attributed to Actors, a formidable collection of up and coming artists who included everyone from Michael B. Jordan to Jurnee Smollett, from Taylor Kitsch to Zach Gilford. (Hollywood has never really figured out how to use Gilford’s Jimmy Stewart ‘aw shucks’ energy since FNL finished, but that energy is increased to 11 as quarterback Matt Saracen’s unlikely hero.)
This show isn’t just about teens either. It’s also one of the best televised representations of the ins and outs of a long and successful marriage. Like Eric and Tami Taylor, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are perfect as two people who love each other very much and sometimes express it best by bickering affectionately. The secret sauce that makes FNL work is that it’s a sneaky family drama, where the Taylors are father and mother to a multitude of teenagers whose lives intersect with theirs. Is Coach Taylor the original Ted Lasso? I’m not going to say that, but you could!
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Friday night lights is perfect. It really is not. The second season, in particular, has some disastrous storylines, one of which actually involves a character committing murder. However, this season is ending strong, and in a marathon watch the bad things will be over before you know it.
The other four seasons are all surprisingly good, and the series finale is one of the best in television history (and one of the few where I don’t mind an ending that leaves no room for it). ‘ambiguity). Chandler and Katims won Emmys for their work this past season, and the accolades were well deserved.
Whether you’ve never seen it or just want to see it again, Friday night lights is the perfect treat for late summer television. Soon, high school football pitches across the country will be shining after dark at the end of another long week. Off the pitch, the world’s problems remain. But in the field, they can be shifted a few hours each week. Clear eyes, full hearts, you know the rest.
Friday night lights airs on Netflix. These are 76 episodes, most of which are around 45 minutes long.
For more recommendations from the world of culture, check out the A good thing archives.