Friday Night Lights Turns 10: All the Legacies Left by the Decade's Best Drama

Texas forever.

By Seija Rankin Oct 03, 2016 11:00 AMTags

Yeah, we said it. Friday Night Lights is the best drama of the decade. It might even be the best drama of all time.

It's certainly one of the few shows that has managed to leave a lasting impression on its fans and our pop culture world. Nothing made us cry harder than the Dillon, Texas gang. But that's exactly what we wanted from the show: A good, cathartic cry. 

From the very first episode, Coach Taylor and his ragtag group of misfit football players sucked us in with their all-too-difficult lives, their vulnerabilities, and their motivational speech montages spliced over scenes of Dillon High students comforting each other during times of strife.

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Okay, so that last one was really more Coach Taylor than anyone else. But damn if we weren't all suckers for lines like "That's what character is: It's in the try" and "What makes a man a man is that in the midst of a battle he does not lose himself." Pair that with his piercing eyes and we're all just putty in Kyle Chandler's hands. 

Now that Friday Night Lights is but a distant memory, it's the show's legacy that's most important. Plenty of shows have come and gone in the list of our collective favorites—SeinfeldERFriends—but not all popular series change pop culture. Just look at the sheer existence of Parenthood or this season's This Is Us and you'll see what FNL has contributed. Besides these obvious examples, society has a lot of reasons to thank Friday Night Lights.

The Careers of Kyle Chandler and Michael B. Jordan

Now sure, one could argue that pretty much every actor who appeared on the show benefited from their time there, but it's that of one Coach Taylor and one Vince Howard that stick out the most. Neither of them were Hollywood slouches before they slipped on their Dillon gear, for certain—Jordan had appeared in The Wire and Chandler had done parts in a myriad of shows like Early Edition. But once they starred in this perennial favorite it was no turning back.

Chandler, for his part, was the single biggest breakout star (or should we say, one-half of the single biggest breakout couple), and FNL afforded him cult status. He got dedicated blogs, social media pages and countless YouTube tributes (the most notable of which are set to the tune of sappy love songs like "Everything" by Lifehouse). He also moved up to the Hollywood big leagues. He won an Emmy. He got parts in major movies like Argo and Zero Dark Thirty and The Wolf of Wall Street. And he even carved out a brand new niche for himself: Hot Government Employee. That could mean he's an FBI agent, it could mean he's a member of the CIA, it could mean he's a prosecutor. No matter which side of law or order he's on, Kyle Chandler is there for you.

Michael B. Jordan, after a brief stop on Parenthood, shot straight into movies from FNL. Merely two years after the series finale he was starring in the Oscar-nominated Fruitvale Station. Sure, it was still indie territory, but it scored him major industry street cred. Cut to today, and MBJ is a bona fide movie star, with several blockbusters under his belt and an upcoming part in a Marvel movie. We don't want to completely imply that starring on Friday Night Lights had everything to do with his success, but it's not a notion we're comfortable dismissing, either. Regardless, we thank our lucky Dillon stars every day that we have these two in our lives regularly.

An Onscreen Couple Worth Looking Up To

For decades, and especially in the '90s, flipping through the channels and observing the husband and wife pairings was as disheartening as watching the nightly news. There's no sense in pointing fingers, but there were plenty of mismatches and more stay-at-home wife tropes than a person could count. TV wives were merely set pieces, there to set up jokes for their husbands or, worse, to be the butt of their jokes. Not Tami Taylor. She and Eric were 100% equals in life and their relationship, and the show was able to balance their adorable feelings for each other with very real marital hardships. 

She was never afraid to call him on mistakes he made on (or off) the football field, and he was an active participant in their marriage. When she thinks they're focusing too much on his career over hers, she tells him. They respect each other and our each other's biggest fans. It's truly sad that a couple who, realistically speaking, act the way all people in a relationship should stand out as such a special case on television, but that's the world we live in. We're just happy to have you, Taylors. 

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Connie Britton's Hair

Dear Peter Berg, Jason Katims, Connie Britton's on-set hairstylist, and whatever brand of shampoo Connie Britton uses: Thank you for bringing her hair into our lives. We are not worthy of such a bountiful gift, but we will accept it and we will love it forever. Whenever we experience a dark and gloomy day, we will think of its sheen. Whenever we're feeling low or zapped, we will think of its bounciness. Whenever we wonder whether we should die our own hair strawberry blonde, we will think of its strawberry blonde-ness. We will give thanks each day that we see a new photo of Connie Britton's hair; we are forever grateful to Friday Night Lights to bringing these locks into our lives and we are forever changed because each and every one of them. 

Wine GIFs

Not to get all millennial on ya, but GIFs are pretty amazing. Sometimes they exactly what we wanted to say; they convey a message that no words could. And specifically, wine GIFs. There are so many uses for wine GIFs. When you are stressed out from a long day. When you're hungover and the only thing that will cure you is more wine. When you want to celebrate even the tiniest of life's accomplishments. 

Now sure, there were wine GIFs before Tami Taylor. There have been wine GIFs after Tami Taylor. But none have the class or the coziness or the hair of Tami Taylor. She drank wine at any occasion. She drank wine during dinner. She drank wine during book club amongst insufferable Dillon High moms. She drank wine while she did the laundry. She drank wine when her job was annoying. She drank wine when her husband was annoying. She drank wine when her daughter was annoying. Tami Taylor is our wine queen, and her GIFs are exhibits in the Internet's everlasting museum.