Monday, July 18, 2011

TV and Teenagers

Even with a DVR, I'm terrible about watching television shows. Generally what happens is that I'll set the DVR to record a series I'm interested in, then forget about it until there's a huge backlog of episodes to watch. Then I'll either give up and delete them all or gorge myself to get through them and then repeat the process. For example, the third season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars ended in March, and there are still episodes on my DVR, waiting for me to be ready to watch them.

I was interested in the Friday Night Lights series when it started in 2006. I enjoyed both the book by Buzz Bissinger and the movie based on it, and as readers of this blog already know, I'm all for just about anything dealing with high school football. However, it was one of those series that ended up getting backlogged on the DVR. It never made it to decision time, though; I did manage to watch the pilot episode, but at a certain point that DVR went on the fritz and had to be replaced, and all the recorded episodes went with it.

As a sidenote, I have to mention that NBC did this series no favors right from the start. With a show about high school football, you'd figure that a sizable portion of the potential audience would be people who like high school football. I mean, that stands to reason, yes? Well, if so, then why did they schedule it to air on Friday nights in the fall? I guess it might seem a little silly to air a show called Friday Night Lights on any night other than Friday, but on Friday nights in the fall, people who like high school football are at high school football games. So it's no wonder that ratings weren't so hot, even though the show did well with critics and reviewers.

Anyway, last Friday I read something about the Friday Night Lights series finale, which was airing that night, which reminded me that I had wanted to watch the series at one time. A glance at the calendar informed me that it was also six weeks to the start of the football season. So I checked Netflix to see if Friday Night Lights was available for streaming, and indeed it was. Over the course of the weekend, I watched the first three episodes (yes, I had seen the pilot before, but it was almost six years ago, so I opted for the refresher).

The verdict after three episodes: great show. Of course, the frequent pans of the stadium and a town obviously gearing up for game night would probably be enough to keep me watching, but thankfully, it goes way beyond that. I really like the character of Coach Taylor, who shows just the right touch of disgust and bemusement with all the attention surrounding his program. I like how the show mixes both the positive and negative aspects of football fandom. I like the way it portrays the home and school lives of the characters in such a way that the actual games are almost secondary. And I like that the football footage isn't completely over the top, as fictionalized football has a tendency to be: a lot of the hits look to be harder than you generally see in high school football, but there aren't any players doing flips or being knocked ten yards downfield, or anything like that.

But there's more to it too, at least for me. Back in my halcyon days as an undergraduate student taking creative writing classes, I somehow came across the advice (I can't remember now if it was something I read or something someone told me) that you shouldn't make a habit of featuring characters in high school or college because readers didn't want to read about those types of characters. While I can see where that comes from--there comes a point in time when most adults stop being able to identify with students--I don't really understand it. Personally, I love stories about high school kids, as long as they're well done (which, admittedly, is at least somewhat rare). What's not to like? Characters at that age, for the most part, are inherently dynamic; there's conflict and drama built into their lives; and they feel everything so intensely.

Granted, I identify with teenagers more than most people my age probably do, but that's why I love shows like Friday Night Lights and Glee (another show relegated to DVR limbo and eventually forgotten), not to mention books/movies like Harry Potter. It's a way to relive the thoughts and emotions of those days, without actually having to relive the days themselves.

Actually, as Brandi and I were waiting to see the final Harry Potter film yesterday afternoon, I was telling her about the first time I got in to see an R-rated movie (The People Under the Stairs...ugh) in a theater, which happened when I was 14. I sat there for a second after finishing the story, then said, "Wow. That was twenty years ago." Hard to believe, at least for me.

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