Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Mash Note for Friday Night Lights

We've already discussed the general awesomeness of the NBC high school football drama Friday Night Lights on this blog in the past. But with the show having completed four seasons now, I figure I would talk a bit more about the general importance of the show, rather than just the actual quality of the writing/acting/directing, which remain quite high all around. And of course, it needs to be said - SPOILER WARNING!

1. The Show Has Done Right By the Characters - A lot of shows deal with high school or college and at a certain point either need to do a full on move to college or rotate characters. Most shows screw it up Saved By The Bell style. There are exceptions, Degrassi have been around forever, but these are rare. FNL hasn't been perfect, Matt Saracen doesn't really get a fair shake with his departure this season, but on the whole characters are dealt with pretty well - Smash gets onto a college team, Street gets an agent job in New York, and Tyra and Lyla both make it out of Dillon as well, even if they don't get a full treatment. Even Riggins is given a relatively nuanced portrait as someone who will never really escape Dillon.

2. Changing the Location - Sure, the shift in the show is just from West Dillon to East Dillon, but between the end of Season 3 when Coach Taylor is booted from the Dillon Panthers through to end of Season 4 when the East Dillon Lions beat the Panthers in the final game of the season, we see the show's original setting effectively abandoned and replaced by a new one. It's just a move across town, but given how incredibly difficult it is to maintain the momentum of a school related show like this, it's handled amazingly well. Buddy's evolution over Season 4 really drives home the difficulty of making such a seemingly minor geographic move as he goes from a Panthers uber-booster to the radio announcer for the Lions.

3. Someone Gets An Abortion! - No matter what your stance on abortion, or your feelings on how heated the arguments get in the show, the point remains - in real life people in America do get abortions. And given the number of movies that have avoided what would happen in reality (Hey, Juno!) it's at least important that FNL provides a nuanced discussion and plotline on teen pregnancy, at least until Luke's mom gets overzealous and everything goes to hell.

Season 5 will be an interesting one, since Landry and Julie both theoretically have to leave. That means all the non-adult characters are gone (and Riggins is in jail). Will the show keep plugging along for another few seasons? Hard to say, but what it's already accomplished in four years is inspiring work for a weekly hour of network television. And it's still way better than Mad Men.


B.Graham said...

Aaahh I can't wait til I can read this!

David Pratt said...

I have never seen this show. I kind of feel like I'm missing out now.