FNL's Five ActsComplications Ensue
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Friday, February 16, 2007

I've noticed over the past few episodes of Friday Night Lights that the Act Four out is really big. So big, in fact, that it feels like the end of the show, and we have to wait to hear if the announcer is going to say, "Stay tuned for more Friday Night Lights!"

/* spoilers */

For example, in the last episode, the big question is whether Mac will get fired for his racist remarks, and if not, will Smash and the other black players come and play. And the Act Four Out is, they do.

But that's not the last act. The last act is where the team goes and plays in another town, and Smash gets repeatedly fouled by white players on the other team, and the white refs ignore it, and a riot starts, and the team barely escapes "Southern justice."

/* end spoilers */

I've wondered how five act structure was going to crystallize. There's a rhythm to four act structure that drama writers have got used to. The act three out is the moment of greatest jeopardy. The act two out is a huge plot twist. But what's your moment of greatest jeopardy in five act structure? The act four out feels too late. The act three out feels early.

Is five act structure just four act structure padded out to five acts? With, likely, one of the act outs (probably the third) being a relatively soft dramatic out, or a B story out?

FNL seems to me to be solving the question by telling a regular, satisfying four act story and then taking the A story one twist further.

Is this a better way to deal with five acts?

How do you find other five acters are solving this conundrum? Discuss.




the whole 5 act structure is really interesting. With FNL...I really cant think of any show that feels as crammed with story as story as this, yet never sacrifices or loses sight of the characters. It's emotional..it's complex...it's rooted in reality and... it's entertaining... this is the highlight of the year if you ask me. (PLEASE LET THERE BE A SECOND SEASON)

Before we get into 5 act structure... out of interest alex...what are the act breaks on your side of the pond... obviously the version that 'found' its way to me was missing the advert breaks for some reason!!!!!

Would I be right in guessing...

ACT 1 out - TAYLOR is told to sack his 2nd in command

ACT II out - 2nd in command resigns

ACT III out - SMASH is told to lead the striking players back by his grandma

ACT IV out - the striking players turn up at the bus...

Because if I'm right (stranger things have happened....no stranger things have not happened) These all seem to be A story outs...


By Blogger moreblankpages, at 7:23 PM  

That "stay tuned" lady always catches me by surprise.

I think another reason FNL is able to rock the five act structure is that it's, essentially, a soap. So we care about the episode dilemma, but even when that's done we want to stay tuned for more on the overarching storylines. Will the Panthers go to State? Will Matt and Julie find true love?

Tangentially, do you happen to know if the show is as improvised as Entertainment Weekly implied that it is?

By Blogger nadia*, at 4:03 PM  

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