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Sometimes things do turn out right.

April 14, 2009

I’ve spent a lot of time lately complaining about shows that I love not getting a chance. But every once in a while, something happens on network television that surprises you. Right now, that something is Friday Night Lights.

This show is one of my all time favorites. The characters are real, the actors are amazing and the story lines are thought provoking and enjoyable. The first season could rival as one of the most satisfying, complete season of television ever. Unfortunately, this show didn’t do so well in the ratings. It was a favorite of the NBC leadership, so it was given a chance for a second season. And this is when they completely screwed it up. They used stunts and unrealistic situations to try to up the viewership. It didn’t work and it screwed up the show in the process.

But then something magical happened, despite all that went wrong with the show DirectTV and NBC teamed up to continue producing the show. And when it came back on, it was as if the second season did not even happen. All the same magical reasons I loved the show during the first season had returned. The drama was organic again, coming from the relationships of these characters who came from this little town in Texas. This season’s finale was so satisfying. There were so many characters who were now seniors, a common pitfall for shows about high school students who want to continue on. (Well, I believe they were seniors earlier, but I will forgive them for wanting to keep around so many of the actors.) And they played out their stories in ways that showed that they were going for drama, not contrived ways to keep the characters around the next year. Any anxiety I had about them going back to their second season ways was completely alleviated.

They could have easily had Lyla stay home or go to San Antonio State because her father lost her college money. But instead, they found a way to send her to Vanderbilt. They could have had Tim stay to work in his brother’s shop and part of me wanted him too, but Billy’s speech about Tim getting a better life was so beautiful and consistent with his character and I was so happy to see that story play out. I love those Riggins boys. And finally, Matt. The story with how Julie was feeling about Matt leaving was the most accurate portrayal I’ve seen of kids growing up and leaving home. And as much as I wanted Matt to follow his dreams, I knew that he couldn’t. The split screen when they showed Matt leaving his grandmother at the nursing home was a perfect way to show their parallel emotions. And when Matt finally told his grandmother that he wasn’t leaving her because she was the only one who didn’t leave him, I lost it. I couldn’t help but be filled with emotion.

At the end of this season, instead of feeling dread, I am left with a feeling of excited anticipation, wondering how they will continue on the stories of these characters who will have left Dillion.

To feel this strongly about a show and know that it has been picked up for two more seasons is not a feeling I have often.  Maybe some of the other networks can take this deal with DirectTV as a template for continuing high quality programming that may not get huge ratings, but have a loyal following.  It seems to me to be much more successful than letting the networks come in and influence how the show is made as we’ve seen so many times before.

One can only hope.

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