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Complications Ensue:
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Saturday, October 07, 2006

We just watched Tuesday's pilot of Friday Night Lights. Hot damn that is some amazing television. I was swept up in a world I'm not familiar with, but felt real and true. The characters felt so concrete, so-un-tv. Rather than feeling like there were A stories and B stories and C stories, it felt like there were a bunch of people who had a web of relationships, and we were watching their lives. Of course it all built up to a hell of a bang in the end.

Yeah, as Denis says: football and West Texas isn't a big part of my life. But it felt much more real and close to my own life than Shark, or Grey's Anatomy, or Studio 60. Which is odd, 'cause I have friends who are prosecutors and doctors and comedy writers, and I probably couldn't live in that small Texas town without getting beat up on a regular basis.

The storytelling was so rich and dense, I kept worrying I wasn't watching a hour pilot. It felt like it must be a two hour pilot, and damn if my PVR wasn't going to cut off before the resolution. But it was all squeezed into the one hour. (Forgive me if my grammar has gone all Texas on y'all; it does that whenever I'm exposed to the axayunt.)

It felt like 6 acts. Bridget, was it 6 acts? Sure as hell wudn't no 4 acts.

And I am glad to see a TV show where people believe in God. Quite a few people believe in God, but I see very few characters on TV who seem to have a spiritual life without it becoming a Story Point. Sorkin has one Christian on his show, and it's worth writing home about. But in FNL, the whole town is folk who take it for granted that Jesus Christ is a part of their lives. I grew up among atheist Jews, and my own spiritual path isn't mainstream. But religion seems to me too big a part of our cultural life to leave it out of so many of the stories we tell.

Nice work, guys. I'm signing on for the season.

Labels: ,


Unfortunately, it might be a short season.

By Blogger Diane Kristine Wild, at 2:18 AM  

Studio 60 is only doing 8-9m viewers; it won't last long either.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:25 AM  

Uh, Alex, wasn't there a TV show called Seventh Heaven that ran for at least ten years about people that believed in God?

Touched by an Angel? Highway to Heaven? Joan of Arcada (okay, that one didn't last) -

I grew up in an almost incredibly similar environment to that of FNL (and have seen the film as well) and while I don't have a problem with someone depicted that world view, I see it almost everywhere - I mean, the Christian viewpoint to me is oppressively everywhere, countless episodes of shows take place in churches with priests and preachers as characters, etc.

I think we could all do with a little less christian flavor, but perhaps that's just me.

By Blogger Joshua James, at 10:12 AM  

Joshua, the difference is that those shows are ABOUT faith. This is a show about football. The religion isn't a supernatural element here, it's just part of the way of life.

I went to high school in a town very much like the one on the show, and the show gets everything right. (Well, except for the two "teenage" actresses who have California accents.)

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 10:56 AM  

I loved FNL too. I'm a Pantheist, but I totally dug the praying.

I'm interested how the season develops. Does each episode end with a game? This is sort of a format I was toying with for my own sports related spec show.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:13 AM  

Well Lisa, all I can say that there are a multitude of shows that feature praying and / advice from a pastor or priest in time of trouble, shows that are not about faith but generally work it in whenever there's a crisis - to list the number of shows that feature such, as part of the life, would be difficult, don't you think?

And most all sports movies feature praying (from Hoosiers onward) so that's not really new, either.

I'm not saying that FNL is bad, I'm just saying that featuring rural people who talk and believe in christianity is not really original.

By Blogger Joshua James, at 7:33 PM  

Alex, I agree with just about everything you said re: FNL, Studio 60 and Shark. But just because its real, doesn't mean its a reality I think I want to sign on for every week.

Don't get me wrong ... huge professional crush on Peter Berg and what he's done with the show. I can admire it for its craft but as a viewer and writer, it isn't quite my cup of tea.

Joshua, I take your point about 7th Heaven and Touched by An Angel. If we are honest, we will agree that they are all pretty lousy shows in just about every way possible (plot, storytelling, even most of the acting) but they stayed on the air. I suspect because they were filling some kind of spiritual void, however badly. BTW, Touched by an Angel wasn't overtly Christian. They never actually referred to Jesus, just God. There is a difference. I take you point on different points of view, and things are changing in the reality world (Rabbi Schmuley on TLC is a ratings hit) but sadly, I don't think America is ready for a spiritual series about Muslims or Hindus or even Native Americans.

I consider myself to be a person of faith, if not religion -- I was raised in 8 of them (I could possibly be the living poster girl for diversity, but that's another story for another day). And I think we are way overdue for a series that treats spirituality in a meaningful way, not as some bad punchline like Book of Daniel did.

Is this a good time to mention I'm in development on a killer series set in the world of televangelism?

Happy Turkey Day everyone, and blessed be you and yours.

By Blogger ME, at 1:26 AM  

It was so accurate, too. I haven't lived in Texas, but the town I used to teach in in NC was just like the one on the show. People pray before all big events there. They don't understand why anyone wouldn't. Word has started to spread about how good this show is. I think it will stick around.

And for the record, 7th Heaven may have been about faith and it may still be dragging its plotlines into infinity, but that doesn't change the fact that it blows goat chunks.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:56 PM  

Emily, my long-distance non-stalking crush upon you grows by leaps and bounds.

And can I add that praying before a school sponsored event (which I also did in high school football) is a direct violation of this country's constitution.

By Blogger Joshua James, at 10:47 AM  

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