FNL and the Red StatesComplications Ensue
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Thursday, October 19, 2006

All the critics everywhere are jumping up and down about Friday Night Lights. Here's CNN. It's not clear to me yet whether the audience is building or not, though.

Ron M writes in to say why it might not catch on in the Red States:
This is a show which shows underage drinking, implies underage sex, and *gasp* implies interracial sex. (It's nice to imagine that the later is not a big deal anymore, but my mixed-race stepdaughter, a 13-year old living in Austin - the liberal, well-educated part of Texas - was recently in a car when her best friend's (white) dad commented that he didn't think people should date outside their race).

Admitting that teens do stuff like drink and have sex (without turning it into a morality play) is something that conservative groups in the U.S. simply refuse to do. This is why they're fighting an HPV vaccine (better that your daughters get cervical cancer 30 years from now than talk to them honestly about sex today) and why they'll fight an HIV vaccine, should somebody manage to develop one.
Excellent point. FNL is reality-based TV. It is not faith-based -- a term I could apply to my beloved West Wing. It does not show people uniformly at their best. The good girl organizes a prayer meeting for her hospitalized boyfriend, and later on in the same episode ... she slips.

One reason I love watching the show is the way confrontations are allowed to build. Coach Taylor is irked when the town bigshot proposes recruiting a new quarterback. The kid is a Katrina refugee with a 50-yard arm and a thousand-yard stare, and drafting him would involve relocating his whole family to Dillon, TX, giving them a house and giving his father a job, and some money to help get them settled -- basically the town is buying itself a new QB for a high school football team. It might be a recruiting violation. It certainly won't help morale to bring an outsider into a team made up of kids who have been playing football with each other since grade school. On another show, Coach Taylor would make a Principled Stand, and the episode would be about that.

But Coach Taylor lives in the real world. He's not pleased how the bigshot is stepping on his Astroturf, but he needs a win more than anyone. One more loss and he's surely out of a job. And why not have the best team you can? So he restricts himself to refusing to promise the kid a starting position -- you have to earn that on the field, he says.

Which means that you don't know where the episodes are going.

Which makes for interesting television, but there's the other reason why the audience might not flock to this show. Not everyone's watching in order to be surprised and challenged. Lots of people are watching to relax. If you're watching Law and Order, you're comforted by knowing that they will surely get their guy. You know the shape of the episode, you can even guess who the perp is sometimes. It's comfort TV.

FNL is not comfort TV.

On the other hand, if the liberal conspiracy intelligentsia keep raving about it, the show could wind up with superb democraphics. (Liberals are the heart of the Demographic Party.) What saved West Wing from its lowish ratings were its superb demographics. If you're pitching Lexus SUV's, you don't do it on SVU, you do it on West Wing... and now, I'm hoping, on FNL.


I just thought I'd say something in defense of my state. As an interracial person myself, I've actually experienced more subtle racism regarding interracial relationships from people from the Northeast and Northwest than I have from locals. Clearly every individual's experience is different, but I don't think there's any more rednecks here than there are in Pennsylvania.

By Blogger VJ, at 3:09 PM  

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