Question: I still have chills from last week's Friday Night Lights. When Coach Taylor stood before his team again, I got choked up, and I swear my tough-guy husband had tears in his eyes! However, I am getting concerned with the show's portrayal of Lyla as a born-again Christian. Most shows don't even attempt to show Christians in a positive light, but I figured if any show could portray Christians with dignity, it would be FNL. But as soon as Lyla drove her car into the men's prison, I knew the show was treading on dangerous ground. I have been involved in evangelistic work, and Lyla should have been going to a women's prison to share Jesus, not a men's prison, where she would be seen as a beautiful young woman and potential target! As far as I know, no reputable Christian organization would send a young woman (especially such a lovely young lady) into a men's prison to evangelize, and vice versa. This storyline cannot end well — and as funny as it was to see Buddy try to win Lyla's affection back by hiring her new "friend," I fear for the credibility of the show. Am I the only one who feels this way?
Answer: No doubt others share your concerns, and I think that credibility is the biggest issue the show's detractors are grappling with right now. Because Friday Night Lights in so many ways feels so authentic, the stories that play out like conventional TV fare come off phonier than they would on a lesser, more escapist soap opera. I hadn't thought about your particular concern, but you're right that to basically send a babe like Lyla into this pack of wolves doesn't make much sense. In regard to the show's depiction of religion, here's a spirited defense from Sayer:

"I just wanted to say that I disagree with everybody's criticism of Lyla finding religion on Friday Night Lights. I myself am an agnostic, but I was raised Catholic, continued to explore my faith at a Lutheran college in Iowa and still have religious relatives. I have definitely seen Lyla's type before, and Friday Night Lights is writing it to perfection. I remember girls who would go out drinking the night before and then speak the next day during worship; at the same time, I had Christian friends who didn't drink at all but were still a ton of fun. At this point, it's hard to tell which side Lyla will end up falling on — one could argue that she hasn't truly found religion yet, but rather an escape from her family problems. My point is this: Exploring faith is an incredibly complex issue, whether it's dived into headfirst like Lyla or simply tested a bit like Tim Riggins. Add in how confusing it can be to know what the right thing is when you're young and you get a storyline that's incredibly true to real life. I hope that if Lyla does make a mistake that contradicts her new religion, people don't get up in arms against Friday Night Lights. Struggles with faith and values are worth exploring, and are rarely portrayed on television."

Too true, and finally, since I ended the last column with a rant about the current season of Friday Night Lights, here's an equal-time response from Dan:

"Responding to some of the comments from Kylie in your last column, I vehemently disagree. I'll grant that the show is using a few contrived plot devices this season, perhaps more than average, but I disagree that this is altogether out of character. Remember last season, when Tim Riggins had an affair with his neighbor? Or even earlier in the season, with Lyla and Tim's affair on the heels of Jason Street's injury? This show has never really been about bold and original plot directions. FNL is about realistic characters and community. What's remarkable about the show is that it is able to use these same "tired" soap and sports plots we've seen so many times yet keep us utterly engrossed through the sheer strength of its characters and the performances of the actors who portray them. In that sense, it reminds me of my old favorite show, Freaks and Geeks. What kept us coming back to that show was not necessarily wanting to see what happened to the characters, but merely wanting to see them at all. The best television shows create characters so deep and lifelike that we miss them when they're gone. And I can truly say that when Dillon goes dark every Friday night, I feel the slightest pang of homesickness to think that I won't see these people or live in this town again for another week. Maybe that sounds a little pathetic. I mean, it's only TV, right? Not on this show."

Well said.