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PartnersMarch 26, 2015

Inside the Lightbox: Let’s Go Sports!

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Inside the Lightbox is a new sponsored feature where we mine the extensive Lightbox catalogue for cool shows you might like to watch. This week, after the nail biting CWC semi final last night, we gathered together some sporty shows to tide you over before Sunday. 

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights is the Canterbury of sports TV shows, a quiet, slightly old-fashioned machine that finishes every season at some kind of peak, replete with a trophy cabinet filled with Emmys, Peabodys, Writer’s Guild of America Awards and dozens of others. It was America’s favourite TV show during its five year run, with both critics and fans rooting for it with equal fervour. The show centres around the Taylor family, all American sweethearts who basically spend their entire lives making the small town folk around them better and more fulfilled humans. It sounds as numbingly clichéd as most depictions of sporting culture on TV and film, and the bare plot elements (teams wins/loses championship, basically) are pretty familiar. But every element of the FNL universe – from Buzz Bissinger’s incredible book, to Peter Berg’s film, to this show – has featured ridiculously great writing.

Listening to Coach Taylor’s speeches, full of homespun wisdom and nobody-believes-in-us testifying, makes you feel like you can run through a wall. They’re riveting and inspiring and I’m pretty sure you become a better person just by hearing them. The whole show is like that, a warm blanket and cup of tea that doesn’t flinch at the mistakes of its protagonists but doesn’t write them off either. The show never was much of a hit outside of America, probably because the concept sounds hopelessly cheesy, and the sport at its heart has no international audience. But it should have been, because Friday Night Lights really isn’t about the game. It’s about life, dammit. /DG

Dance Moms
The world of competitive child dancing is one that deserves equal, if not more, attention than the cricket. Dance Moms shines a light on this dark, yet somehow sequin and glitter-filled world, world. Filming the daily goings on inside Pittsburgh’s Abby Lee Miller Dance Company, we meet a terrifying dance instructor (Abby Lee Miller) and her dutiful dancing minions as they work towards the National Dance title.

The show charts their progress, but the more interesting dynamic is that between the dancers, their mothers, and Abby Lee. In the stressful environment of Dance Moms, something’s got to give – and civility is the first to go. As described in this piece by Eleanor Robertson, it’s quite possible that Abby Lee Miller is one of the worst people in the world. Shouting at talented kids (including the bright young mini-Sia) seems to be her main skill. Making them cry is her second. If you want impressive athleticism, competition tension and kids with nerves of steel – Dance Moms is for you. /AC

Blue Mountain State

If you walk away from Dillon, Texas a little dewy eyed and emotionally fatigued, maybe take a trip up north to Wyoming and Blue Mountain State. The show features almost exactly the same subject matter (how obsessed middle America is with football, basically), but has a very different response to the phenomenon. Basically it’s Friday Night Lights Goes to College, a frat pack-style depiction of the way college football players spend most of their time off the field drinkin’ and doin’ it.

So if you wished the American Pie franchise hadn’t stalled in 2012, or want a show where every character could have been played by Sean William Scott, then Blue Mountain State is for you. Like a drunk football player, it’s dumb, but undeniably charismatic, and if you wind up spending a few hot and heavy nights with it, nobody has to know. / DG

Lady Hoggers

Is hogging a sport? I guess it’s hunting, and we all know how much of a joyous, family friendly sport that is. Doesn’t attract any weirdos at all. If it’s hog-related sport you are after, I can highly recommend spending some time with the A&E reality series Lady Hoggers. Following a two Florida women who are hopelessly devoted to Hog Hunting, it’s like no occupation-based reality show I’ve ever seen before. Apart from maybe Dog the Bounty Hunter, another wonderful export by the same network (also available here on Lightbox).

lady hoggers

Christie Chreen and Julie Snead (both real names, I swear) have “movie-star good looks that can turn heads faster than one of their hunting dogs can catch a hog”, which I suppose is a depressing, but necessary part of the show’s appeal. They don’t look like hunters, but don’t let that fool you – they fight tooth and manicured nail to contain the boars that terrorise Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. Taking calls from concerned locals, the pair are joined by veteran hogger Gary to protect private properties from the ferocious beasts. Aside from being action-packed, it’s educational too. You’ll learn a lot about hogs in heat. Possibly too much. /AC

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