It’s not just about football.
That’s what I tell non-football fans when I urge them to watch NBC’s sophomore drama “Friday Night Lights .” Sure, it’s set in
But the beating heart and soul of this critically-acclaimed, yet ratings-challenged drama is the Taylor family, comprised of Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler, the bomb squad guy from “Grey’s Anatomy ,” his high school guidance counselor wife Tami Taylor (Connie Britton, from “Spin City ”), their teenaged daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden) and their newborn Gracie. It’s through the
Taylor family that viewers can see a glimpse of everyday examples of the push-and-pull of work, family and sacrifice.
This season, for example, commenced with Eric Taylor living four hours away from his pregnant wife and daughter so he could pursue his dream of coaching at the collegiate level. Tami and Julie stayed behind so Tami could keep her job and Julie could remain in her high school. Though everyone tried to act like this arrangement was working, it took a serious toll on the
Taylor family. Eric nearly missed the birth of his daughter. Julie was becoming belligerent toward her mother because she missed her father and was jealous of her new sister. Tami felt abandoned and overwhelmed by her rebellious teen and her colicky newborn, whom she had to rush to the Emergency Room one night after the baby fell ill. As the ER doctor told Tami to feed the baby once an hour -- first breastfeed, then formula feed – in order to get Gracie’s strength up, the doctor suggested that Tami take turns with her husband in order to keep up the pace, only Tami had to do it on her own. It eventually took one of Eric’s friends to tell him that his family was lost and falling apart without him. Within the span of one episode, Eric quit his college job and was back home coaching the high school football team again.
Still think the show’s only about football?
As the second season has progressed and Eric returned to the family fold, Tami returned to work, placing her newborn in the hands of her sister Shelley (Jessalyn Gilsig) who offered to stay at the
Taylor home and watch Gracie. The intersection of family and career was comically depicted in a subsequent scene where a troubled high school football player and his uncle were waiting for Tami in her office and started fiddling with the breast pump equipment she’d left on her desk, musing about how it’s used, and in another episode when one of Tami’s colleagues noticed that she had dried baby spit-up down the back of her blouse.
Their idyllic world collapsed, however, when Shelley left the Taylor house (she’d become an overbearing houseguest) and the
Taylors had to decide whether to put Gracie into daycare. In one of the most family-centered episodes thus far this season, both Tami and Eric traversed a gamut of mixed emotions. During a football tape reviewing session with a Neanderthal assistant coach (who said no wife of his would be allowed to work if she had kids at home), Eric said aloud what I’d venture to guess many dads of newborns have felt at one time or another: “Sometimes I wish Tami’d just stay home, raise Gracie and quit the damn job. Hell if I’m gonna say that to her.”
“You got a right to your opinion,” the assistant coach replied.
“I’m not so sure I do,” Eric said. “I’m not gonna ask her to do something I wouldn’t be able to do myself.”
As the other coach prattled on and on about how moms are built to stay home with kids while the men folk are biologically driven to go out and become masters of the universe, Eric, who was completely ignoring his colleague, asked, “What the hell am I ‘sposed to do? She’s got a career. She loves her work. She just spent 16 years at home with the first kid.”
So when Tami – who couldn’t bring herself to leave Gracie at daycare for three consecutive days and instead brought the baby to school with her -- offered to quit and become an at-home mom again, those who think that “Friday Night Lights” is simply some meat-headed, testosterone-filled football show would assume that Eric would jump at the opportunity. Only he didn’t. While telling Tami that mother-baby separation anxiety was normal (he’d done some internet research), Eric said: “You’re a damn good mother. You are a damn good counselor. And you are a helluva hot wife . . . [If] it turns out that daycare screwed her up, she’s always got you for counseling . . . [If we] stick together, it all works out.”
The last scene was at the daycare center. After Eric handed the childcare staffer Gracie’s bag and her stuffed “Mr. Noodles,” the baby was brought inside, leaving her parents standing alone outside the door. “She didn’t even turn around and look at me,” Tami said kind of stunned. “I think she’s totally over me.” And with that, the
Taylors left the daycare center and drove to work together . . . and proved that “Friday Night Lights” is about a lot more than just football.
(There are a handful of new “Friday Night Lights” episodes remaining, the ones filmed before the writers’ strike . In the meantime, free, full episodes are available online at the NBC web site . The daycare episode is episode 212.)