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Texas on the Small Screen

Written by , published December 16, 2010

I’m not really a football fan. Those are fighting words, I realize, in some parts of Texas, where pigskin rivalries divide families, coworkers, and even strangers in line at the grocery store. I do look forward to the Super Bowl every year (so I’ve marked my calendar for this year’s 45th anniversary game up in Arlington on February 6), but that’s mostly because it’s my annual excuse to eat lots of Velveeta-and-Rotel queso.

So for those who know me well, it’s always a surprise that I adore the television show Friday Night Lights, that sleeper quasi-hit show that won raves from the critics but never really took off with television audiences. My non-expert opinion is that it suffers an identity crisis: Most people think of it as a sports drama, whereas truly it’s a story about relationships, and it’s perhaps one of the of the most authentic depictions of small-town Texas since Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show.

It doesn’t hurt that the show is set in Austin and surrounding areas. There’s the Continental Club! Fran’s Hamburgers! The Landing Strip of all places! That megalachurch near my house! It’s fun to try to figure out where each shot was filmed.

Location-spotting: This, along with the curious charms of actor Bradley Whitford (you know, the guy who played Josh Lyman on The West Wing, and Danny Tripp on the rollicking Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) is what drew me to the new Fox buddy-police-comedy The Good Guys, which is set in Dallas and filmed in Dallas. The plots are gossamer-thin, but Whitford plays a pratfalling rogue Texas cop with gum-smacking panache (with Tom Hanks’ son Colin as the straight-guy sidekick). Never mind; the true star of the show is Dallas—sleek office buildings and tony downtown restaurants, Fair Park in all its Art-Deco glory, rough-around-the-edges barbecue joints along Riverside (formerly Industrial)…. I wonder if Dallasites have the same fun trying to identify filming locations for The Good Guys as I do for Friday Night Lights.

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