Welcome back to Pop Pedestal, a series dedicated to the pop culture personalities we most admire! Up today: Tami and Eric Taylor of Friday Night Lights. (Attention Netflix Instant viewers: This post contains no spoilers past season one!)
The Pedestal Profile: Eric and Tami Taylor are the married couple at the center of Friday Night Lights, which—for those who haven’t had the pleasure of watching it yet—is about a small town (Dillon, Texas) and their football team. Eric is the team’s head coach, and Tami is an administrator at the local high school. They have two daughters together: teenager Julie and toddler Gracie Belle (born during show’s second season). FNL is terrific for a number of reasons (great acting, beautiful cinematography, compelling drama), and the Taylor marriage is chief among them.
Admirable qualities: Television marriages are often extreme in one of two ways: The husband and wife are unrealistically happy together, smiling through life with nary a care in the world; or they are on opposite sides of a never-ending fight, making mean-spirited jokes at one another’s expense. Of course there are exceptions to this (Claire and Cliff Huxtable, Graham and Patty Chase), but to my mind, no television couple has as realistic and nuanced of an onscreen relationship as Tami and Eric.
Though life throws plenty of curveballs at these two, they never turn on one another. Sure, they get pissed off about stuff and they get into fights (realistic!), but they never lose respect for each other and they always remain on the same winning husband/wife team. It’s surprisingly refreshing to see a married couple on TV bicker about who’s going to fold the laundry or change the baby or take their daughter to high school without it turning into a huge deal that drives one of them to substance abuse or adultery. Sometimes people just fight and then they get over it, you know?
Interestingly enough for a show about a small-town football coach and his wife, the Taylor marriage is grounded in mutual respect and shared decision-making—defying traditional gender stereotypes that would have the woman overly emotional and the man stoic and removed. Tami and Eric are both shown as vulnerable human beings trying to balance work and home life. It’s not just the wife in this marriage who wants to talk about her feelings or needs help resolving a conflict at work—more often than not, Eric is the one turning to Tami for support and advice. They share in parenting duties and make major decisions together, even if that means making sacrifices (hello, real life!).
Another aspect of the Tami/Eric power couple that I love is how into each other they are. These aren’t two people in their forties who have been beaten down by life and marital drudgery—no sir! These are two people in their forties who are interested in one another’s lives, supportive of each other’s careers, and still totally hot for each other. After 18 years of marriage! Who even knew it was possible to see that on television!? (Bonus: The Taylors, by being roughly the same age and in the same league lookswise, avoid the pitfalls of schlubby-dude-hot-younger-wife TV couples.)
To illustrate my point, here’s a brief clip from Season One where, after a fight, Eric tells Tami how all about her he is. What’s missing from this clip (I couldn’t find a longer version) is Tami’s response, which is to tell him that she is unwilling to move to Austin and leave her job in Dillon. Love! Conflict! Compromise! The Taylors have it all!
Their influence: I’m not the only one who finds Tami and Eric’s relationship both believable and inspirational. Says Maria Elena Fernandez of The LA Times:
Where other TV series tend to focus either on the bickering or the saccharine, “Friday Night Lights” has thrived on nuance, creating domestic moments that simultaneously reflect adoration and frustration; tenderness and sarcasm; respect and fatigue.
Eric and Tami’s relationship has spawned not only Julie and Gracie Belle Taylor (zing!) but a series of Tumblrs, a Live Journal community, and, of course, tons of fan videos. Though the music is a little cheesy, here’s one I like because you get a sense of Tami and Eric’s (OK, Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler’s) onscreen chemistry:
That’s not all: The actors on Friday Night Lights have had a remarkable say in the direction of the show. Apparently, Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler asked the show’s producers early on to allow their characters’ marriage to remain a focal point, and to “have a strong union that would be challenged but not destroyed by life’s turns.” Thank the Dillon Panthers the producers agreed!
Think of them when: You find yourself in a conflict with your own partner (or friend, or coworker, or whoever), especially if it’s about parenting, making a career decision, or hosting the football booster club barbecue at your house for the 18th year in a row. Eric and Tami can show you that if you love and respect each other as equals, you can get through a lot. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!