A year ago my 22 year old cousin suffered a pretty serious injury to his shoulder that reduced his daily routine to feeble physical therapy exercises and sitting in a special chair in front of the TV. For him it hurts to even walk. Recovery is steady yet very slow. Consequently, in the course of the past few months his house has become a Temple of Netflix. Just about every other day I come over to ease his (and my) boredom and we indulge in hours-long marathons of watching bad movies and shows, since, in his words, “good movies make him depressed”.
“We even watched a pilot of Xena, though the experience was so harrowing we chose not to continue down that path. It was good to know we had limits, though our limits apparently allowed for watching ‘Cougar Hunter’, a flick about three guys going to Aspen to have sex with ‘coogs’.
We have trudged through some seriously bad bits of cinematography in the months spent in his movie room, with our each new excursion reinforcing my belief in abstinence from Cable or Netflix account ownership. We would blast through seasons of random shows, becoming dumber by the minute, making fun of the characters and their lines, while fully realizing the joke was on us for watching the shows to begin with. At one point we weren’t even trying. We even watched a pilot of Xena, though the experience was so harrowing we chose not to continue down that path. It was good to know we had limits, though our limits apparently allowed for watching “Cougar Hunter”, a flick about three guys going to Aspen to have sex with “coogs”.
Imagine time as a tangible, material object. Now imagine it as toilet paper. What we were doing was putting the end of the roll in the toilet bowl, pressing flush, and watching the roll unravel and disappear into the whirlpool. That’s what we were doing with our time.
One day I came over and my cousin informed me he had a new show for us to watch. I facetiously groaned because obviously it was going to be something terrible and asked him what the name of it was. “Friday Night Lights” was the answer. The show is about a high school football team in a made-up small Texas town of Dillon. The center of the show is the team’s coach and his family, though the focus of its narrative is generously spread out among numerous other characters. I made fun of my cousin for what a complete tool he was for watching this jock nonsense, yet did not protest. As we began watching it together, we engaged in our usual routine of hearty slander against the show and its characters, how cheesy they were, how unrealistic some situations seemed, and so on. Most of the trash-talk was inertia from denigrating the shows we had watched previously, yet it seemed well placed.
“The whole plotline of such shows consists of characters merely dealing with the fallout of some haphazard circumstances, and them going through the motions to stabilize until another storm rocks their little boat. The characters often appear empty, as if strung up by an invisible puppeteer.”
By the time we were close to the end of the first season, I began to get an ill feeling in the pit of my stomach, a feeling of trepidation, of concern… I began to realize that I like this show. I like most of the characters, I like the storyline, and I like to guess what will happen next. None of these things were supposed to happen. I mean… football? rural Texas? high-school? Was I merely entranced by the soundtrack, which was done specifically for the show by Explosions in the Sky?
The complete frivolity of all scenes that involved the actual game of football made me wonder. This show is obviously not about the game of football. So what is it about? Friday Night Lights is about people from many walks of life, the decisions they make in various situations, and the outcomes of those decisions. This statement may seem redundant, so allow me to elaborate. In many shows I have watched, aside from the precious few I thoroughly enjoyed, crap just seems to happen to the characters. The whole plotline of such shows consists of characters merely dealing with the fallout of some haphazard circumstances, and them going through the motions to stabilize until another storm rocks their little boat. The characters often appear empty, as if strung up by an invisible puppeteer.
“The characters aren’t perfect, and they don’t always get what they want. They do, however, feel very much alive and independent on screen, and constantly make decisions that move the plot logically forward.”
A perfect example of such a show is True Blood. Sure, it’s about vampires and other supernatural malarkey, yet that doesn’t excuse the show from having such vapid characters. Perhaps I am merely describing the difference between action-driven and character-driven plotlines, and my reasoning is fallacious. In that case you must forgive me; I am not a Film or English major. I will say this. I could write several paragraphs describing any of the main characters in FNL after only one season; I would be hard pressed to write even a few sentences about the main characters in True Blood after three seasons.
FNL manages to be didactic without the preachiness that is normally concomitant in similar shows. The characters aren’t perfect, and they don’t always get what they want. They do, however, feel very much alive and independent on screen, and constantly make decisions that move the plot logically forward. There are the do-gooders, the try-hards, the squares, the badasses, the losers, the cheaters, the stoic, the erratic… Yet they all feel human, and not merely lines of dialogue assigned to an actor set to play a part. There are no superfluous dramatic moments, and the story arc is pretty level. The endings of episodes are not insecure cliffhangers, yet they leave you wanting more. The real-life narrative of the series is only superficially embellished by drama.
By the beginning of Season 2 my cousin and I were thoroughly addicted. There is something in this show for everyone to like. You should watch it even if you absolutely don’t care about rural Texas, football, or high-school like me. Or if you have a lot of time to waste.
Written by Kiryl B.
Quiet Lunch is a grassroot online publication that seeks to promote various aspects of life and culture with a loving, but brute, educational tinge. When we say, “Creative Sustenance Daily,” we mean it.