DVDs: Bonus Points Movies

Early Review

A 'Friday Night' Guaranteed to Please

By JEN CHANEY
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007

It's very rare, if not unprecedented, for a DVD box set to come with a money-back guarantee. But that is how confident the suits at Universal Home Entertainment are about "Friday Night Lights: The Complete First Season": If you are not completely satisfied with this compelling drama about life in football-obsessed Dillon, Tex., the studio will refund every penny of the DVD's $29.98 retail price, minus shipping and handling charges. Go to www.fnlguarantee.com if you think I'm lying.

Tempting though that offer might be, it seems unlikely that many honest TV lovers will exercise the cashback option. Although this critically acclaimed series, which comes to DVD next Tuesday, ranked 95th overall in last season's primetime ratings, "Friday Night Lights" is so beautifully shot and convincingly acted that anyone -- football fan or not -- should easily fall in love with its documentary-style portrait of a community bound together by tragedies and touchdowns.

Given all the critical acclaim the show has received, including the Television Critics Association award for Outstanding New Program, it's criminal that "Lights" earned so few Emmy nominations. It picked up just two, for casting and direction, but not a single nod for anyone in its first-rate cast. Fortunately, the deleted scenes in this five-disc set provide further evidence of the solid work consistently done by the actors, particularly leading man Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton and Adrianne Palicki, who plays the troubled Tyra.

Stalwart fans of the show -- yes, there are a few of us out there -- may be a little disappointed in the collection's generally limited extras. A 22-minute making-of featurette, filmed with the same handheld-camera-technique often used on the show, is the only bonus feature aside from the aforementioned deleted scenes. That's a shame, especially when audio commentaries or a documentary on howthe many football face-offs are filmed would have made such natural, welcome additions.

Of course, the real point of putting "Friday Night Lights" on DVD is to encourage more people to watch come Oct. 5, when the show's second season begins in its new, 9 p.m.-on-Friday time slot. Since that is historically one of the least watched nights on television, I am dubious about the show's future ratings prospects. But at least we'll always have this DVD set to remind us that primetime isn't all about "Singing Bees" and America having "talent." "Lights" proves that sometimes TV can be bracingly honest, uplifting, even glorious. And that's a guarantee.

Best Bonus Point Featuring a "Friends" Cameo: The deleted scenes on episode two, "Eyes Wide Open," include an appearance by Maggie Wheeler, the actress formerly known as Janice from "Friends." She also pops up in a subsequent episode entitled, "It's Different for Girls."

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Media Mix serves up snappy takes on the latest DVDs, CDs and more.

Also Available This Week

This year's Academy Award winner for Best Language Film, "The Lives of Others," is now available, along with Parker Posey's engaging indie, "Broken English." For more, check out this full list of today's DVD debuts.

Coming Next Week

Save the cheerleader ... or just buy the DVD of "Heroes: Season One," which will be reviewed next week in the Bonus Points column. Also coming next week: The unconventional and occasionally heartbreaking "Year of the Dog." For a full calendar of what's coming to DVD in the weeks ahead, click here.

Recently Announced

Releases worth marking on the calendar:

  • The summer's big comedy hit, "Knocked Up," comes to DVD Sept. 25 in rated and unrated editions, including a two-disc option with additional extras.
  • The double-feature "Grindhouse" will literally get sawed in two for its DVD release. First comes Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" on Sept. 18, followed Oct. 16 by Robert Rodriguez's "Planet Terror."
  • John Cusack will undoubtedly post a negative review on Trip Advisor after his hotel stay in "1408." The horror flick arrives Oct. 2.
  • With excitement already building over next summer's Indiana Jones movie, it's no surprise that "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles -- Vol. 1" brings its adventures to DVD Oct. 23.
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PHOTOS: 'Friday Night Lights' -- Universal Home Entertainment/'The Lives of Others' -- Sony

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