Are you ready for some … football?

Friday Night LightsSeems like every television critic out there is jumping on the Save Friday Night Lights bandwagon now that NBC’s football drama is posting some of the lower ratings this fall. Last week, 6.6 million viewers tuned in to the show, which meant it was thoroughly trounced by ABC’s Dancing With the Stars (21.3 million) and CBS’ NCIS (15.9 million) in the same time slot. Some of you might think that a show about high school football in small-town Dillon, Texas, wouldn’t hold much appeal for women or, for that matter, queer folks. But as of Tuesday night’s episode, I am officially jumping on the Save Friday Night Lights bandwagon, too. Why? Here are some reasons:

1. Tuesday night’s episode featured a brief scene in the hospital involving paralyzed former quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter), his hospital roomate Herc (Kevin Rankin), and a male nurse. Herc, apparently an obnoxious twerp, makes a derogatory remark using the word “gay.” The nurse says, tiredly, that he is gay and Herc shouldn’t say such things. Herc fires back that he didn’t mean gay as in “homosexual,” but gay as in “retarded.” The nurse then says that he might very well have a retarded son.

An episode of The Office dealt with the word “gay” as a slur a couple of weeks ago, but generally, the word “gay” can be used as a slur without repercussion in American culture today. The scene in Friday Night Lights, though it was over almost before I realized what was happening, was one of the most realistic instances of this that I’ve seen on television. It showed me that this drama is about way more than football.

2. Friday Night Lights reminds me that even football is about way more than football. High school football, in this show, is about the ways that teens come to grips with their places in society. It’s about learning how to make sense of absent or ill or imperfect family members. It’s about dealing with race and sexuality and class. It really is one of the best new shows on television.

3. Besides, Connie Britton as Tami Taylor, high school counselor and wife of Coach Taylor, is amazing.

Next week, NBC is running Friday Night Lights in the Studio 60 slot on Monday night at 10 p.m., in hopes of finding an audience. Try it out!