Friday Night Lights has enough juicy relationship drama to fill a year's worth of Soap Opera Digest magazines, yet the show's romances never veer off into melodrama. The characters are grounded, gritty, and relatable. The viewer feels like these people could be friends, neighbors, teammates...who just happen to have the steamiest love lives ever. That's what the whole show is about, right? The romance? Aren't the football scenes just buffers meant to give the audience an emotional break from all the longing and heartbreak?
No, that would be a disservice to Coach Taylor and the hardworking football players of the Dillon Panthers and East Dillon Lions. The game scenes are intense, emotional, and fascinating to even those who are totally clueless about the sport. That's what makes Friday Night Lights one of the best contemporary shows ever. It's engrossing both on and off the field. But really, at the end of the two-a-day, the relationships are what make the show. In terms of ship-worthy couples, which ones would thrive at sea and which would sink? Here are Friday Night Lights: 5 Best (And 5 Worst) Relationships.
10 Worst - Matt & Carlotta
Season 2 is without question the show's worst season, both for its outlandish storylines and its sluggish ones. Matt and Carlotta definitely belong in the latter camp. Even though their relationship is duller than a rubber knife, it makes sense why they would connect. Carlotta is a live-in nurse who cares for Matt's grandmother Lorraine, who has dementia. Up until this point, Matt has been Lorraine's primary caregiver. He largely keeps his home life a secret from his friends and teammates, so few people know how hard his life really is. But Carlotta gets it. Matt can let his guard down around her. That's especially comforting because Matt is still heartbroken about his breakup with Julie. Still, while Carlotta may understand Matt's situation, watching these two together is less exciting than watching field paint dry.
9 Best - Vince & Jess
Hollywood has a long, embarrassing history of the good girl who falls for the bad boy and "fixes" him with her love and devotion. Well, Jess Merriweather doesn't play that game. Vince spends a lot of time acting out, both on and off the field. Jess wants nothing to do with him, even though there's palpable chemistry. But when Vince pulls himself together and shows a softer side, that's when Jess lets him into her heart. Vince has a terrible home life, with a drug-addicted mother and absent father, and Jess welcomes him into her big, loving family. She expects the best from Vince and he delivers, discovering that he's not an arrogant teenage boy, but a loving, dependable man. Vince doesn't need fixing because he was never broken.
8 Worst - Lyla & Jason
This is your classic "makes sense on paper" couple. She's a gorgeous cheerleader, he's a studly quarterback, it's written in the high school stars—the golden couple. And when things are golden, Lyla and Jason are great together. But there's nothing like a cataclysmic event to test a relationship, and, when Jason gets a serious injury that ends his football career, it proves that he and Lyla aren't meant to go the distance. When Lyla isn't by Jason's side drowning him in optimism that he'll walk again, she's having a passionate affair with his best friend, Tim. Jason finds out and breaks up with Lyla. Makes sense. What doesn't make sense is him proposing to her about five minutes later—okay, maybe a little bit longer. But seriously, what are these two smoking? Maybe they buy their own hype along with everybody else, but they clearly do not work. Lyla has the good sense to end the engagement. She should be with somebody more compatible—and also finish high school.
7 Best - Matt & Julie
This is a hot take. Most people hate them together. Or to be more specific, most people hate Julie. Can she be annoying? Needy? Cries way too much? Yes, yes, and yes. But c'mon, she's not a bad person. She just happens to be significantly less mature than Matt. Guess what? So are most teenagers. With his dad in the military, mom MIA, and having to tend to his grandmother, Matt is forced to grow up quickly. Any teenage girlfriend looks frivolous next to him. If people can put aside their Julie hatred for a moment, they can see that Matt and Julie have incredible chemistry. Their connection is sweet and simple. Even through their ups and downs, there's real love there. Julie may not be pleasing to viewers, but she sure makes Matt happy.
6 Worst - Becky & Luke
If anyone deserves the whiny teen girl label, it's Becky. For too long her main storyline was following Tim Riggins around like a puppy. When anybody over the age of six tries to act precocious, it's beyond annoying. Becky's need to always say Tim's full name was like nails on a chalkboard. Then there's Luke. He's a nice farm kid...and that's about it.
Despite Luke's busy farm schedule and Becky's busy Tim-stalking schedule, the two find time to hook up. This leads to a pregnancy, and Becky chooses to get an abortion. This plotline is handled with deftness and sensitivity. Moving forward, Becky sheds her crush on Tim and begins a relationship with Luke. Admittedly, they're kind of sweet together, but they're also nobody's favorite characters.
5 Best - Tim & Lyla
What initially starts as a red-hot physical relationship blooms into a thriving romance. Both Tim and Lyla share a level of authenticity they don't tend to show to the public. Tim puts on the front of a dangerous bad boy, and Lyla plays the part of Miss Perfect. This is part of who they are, but around each other, they can be vulnerable—and no couple on TV has ever made vulnerability look so sensual.
They also both come from strife-ridden families. Tim's parents are out of the picture, and even though Lyla seemingly has a nuclear family, not all is peaceful behind the white picket fence. Tim and Lyla are used to not relying on families for emotional support and instead find that in each other. Like most high school romances, theirs was not destined to go further than Graduation Day. Lyla has big college dreams and Tim will always be Texas, Forever.
4 Worst - Buddy & Angela
Viewers have likely repressed the short-lived affair between Buddy Garrity and Tyra's mom, Angela. And with good reason. It was all kinds of ick. First of all, this relationship started after Buddy hires Angela as a receptionist at his car dealership. There's no evidence to suggest that Buddy used his power over Angela to coerce her into sleeping with him, but... really, dude? She's a broke, single mom who needs a job. The power imbalance is already there. When they're inevitably discovered—affairs and small towns don't mix—Buddy fires Angela and tries to buy her off with $700. This is so awful that even after Angela publicly confronts Buddy at church, Lyla drives a car through his dealership, and his marriage collapses, it's still not enough of a satisfying comeuppance.
3 Best - Tyra & Landry
You know what they say: those who cover up a murder together stay together. Okay, the murder plot was far-fetched and complete proof that Season 2 suffered an extreme case of the sophomore jinx. But beyond that, Tyra and Landry were all kinds of sweet together. Tyra comes from a long line of women who have been kicked around by rakish men. She deserves someone who treats her like a queen. Landry fits the bill, but he never puts her up on a pedestal. Neither are perfect, but they love each other despite of their flaws, and sometimes because of them. Tyra and Landry may not have ended up together, but they taught each other a valuable lesson; both of them are worthy of the kind of love they shared.
2 Worst - Julie & Derek
The Julie haters of the world love to add this relationship to the long list of Julie crimes. That needs to stop. She's not the one at fault for her tryst with Derek, aka the most boring affair television has ever seen. Yes, Julie is an adult, but in legality only. She's eighteen and he's a T.A. at her college. Married or not, Derek should have shut this down. Then there's also the fact that Derek lied to Julie, claiming he and his wife were separated. How is any of this Julie's fault? After being confronted by Derek's wife and called a slut in front of her whole dorm, this is one instance where Julie deserves to cry. When thinking about how much time this awful plot wasted, the audience sure did.
1 Best - Eric & Tami
They say everything is bigger in Texas. That makes it the perfect state for Eric and Tami because their love for each other is enormous and infinite. Was their marriage a picture-perfect fairy tale? Not by a long shot. But seeing the way Eric and Tami handle their downs proves why they're such a solid couple. For every harsh word and slammed door, there was open dialogue, listening, and understanding.
Tami is happy to play the part of the coach's wife, but she always commands respect, and Eric is nothing but a loving husband in return. At the end of the series, both Eric and Tami are willing to sacrifice their dreams for each other. Ultimately, Eric pays Tami back for years of unwavering support and they start a new life together in Philadelphia where Tami is a college Dean of Admissions. The Panthers' motto can totally be applied to Eric and Tami's marriage: clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.