February 12, 2011

When I Watch a Television Show...

...I get into the characters lives and interactions in a way that makes them feel less like fictional entities and more like real life friends. I think that that is why I prefer drama to almost any other genre of television, movie, or literature. You can hold my attention for a little while if you make me laugh, but you can hold my attention for years if you give me a chance to watch a group of characters grow, develop, and interact in a realistic and meaningful way.

A few years ago I came across a show called Friday Night Lights on Netflix watch instantly. I was pretty skeptical at the time. There's nothing like a good sports movie when you want to see that underdog work like hell, fall, cry, fight their way back from the brink of defeat, and finally triumph over their big bad enemy in a cloud of euphoric victory. I like that kind of thing as much as the next girl (don't get me started on my childhood Mighty Ducks obsession or the number of times I watched Remember the Titans when it first came out) but a whole television series? About football? Really?
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I added the show to my queue in spite of my reservations because it had high ratings and one day when I didn't have any current episodes to watch on Hulu I broke down and gave Friday Night Lights season 1 a shot. It was amazing.

The show is set in Dillon, Texas where, like many southern towns, football is a big deal. The show follows Coach Eric Taylor, his family, their friends, and of course the football team he coaches as they go through a season of Texas high school football. That is the premise of the show, but I found it to be so much more than that. For starters, the character development in this show is unreal. By the end of the first season you have gotten to know the series regulars. You have seen into their lives, their problems, their triumphs, you know what motivates them, and they remind you of people you know because of it.

I think that that feeling comes partially from a well written script and partially from the filming techniques used in the show. You never get that scripted feel when you watch this show. The dialogue flows naturally and never tends towards unrealistic lines and false drama. The filming techniques also add to the organic feel of the show. The best way I can describe it is to compare it to a documentary that you know is fiction. As a viewer it feels as though you are following real people as they live their lives. I don't remember ever seeing a show filmed in that style and I found that it added to my experience of the characters.

I sat down to write this post because I finished the last episode of season 5 (and most likely the series finale) a few minutes ago and I am still amazed by how consistently good this show has been across every season. With a lot of shows I find myself getting bored by the end of the series, but that never happened with Friday Night Lights. I cared about the show and the characters from the very beginning to the very end. Even if sports aren't your thing, even if, unlike me, you did not grow up in a southern town and have never experienced the phenomenon of high school sports, I still recommend this show. There is something about this show, about the way it involves the viewer in the story and makes you feel every victory and every defeat, every triumph and every tragedy, that makes it worthwhile. I never thought I would love a show like Friday Night Lights, but it had my attention to the very last scene.

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