"There's this really popular TV series on Netflix," Kevin said to me when he came in from work one evening. "Oh yeah?" My eyes lit up, I am always on the look out for a new binge-worthy series. "What's it about?"
"Oh." I am not interested in football. Normal, English football, so I couldn't imagine that this new series was aimed at the likes of me or would even hold my attention. In fact, I am unaffected and immune to most competitive sports. I just don't care.
"I don't think it's for me," I told him and went back to Instagram.
Curiosity got the better of me. Or perhaps it was boredom, but for some reason I eventually clicked on Season 1 Episode 1 of Friday Night Lights. It started with shaky footage, like something off an in-depth Al-Jazeera news report. Was this a documentary? I watched, waiting to see what would happen. It wasn't a documentary but it had my attention. It followed different characters. The coach of a high school football team. The team players. The girlfriends of the players. The parents. I was intrigued. They all had something hidden beneath the surface and there was this underlying tension, I could feel that if I stayed with them, I was going to find out their deepest, darkest secret. By episode 3, I still hadn't moved off the couch and I realised that even if I didn't want to admit it, I was sort of into this show. How? How could a drama about FOOTBALL have held MY interest for longer than 10 minutes? Here's why:
1. It starts with the Antagonist *the adversary of the hero or protagonist.* One of the very first things we hear before we even get into the story is someone on the radio saying "Who does this new coach think he is?" or words to that effect, while on screen we see the coach. Immediately we are asked as an audience to make a decision about him. Do we like him or not? Is the woman on the radio right in her scathing tone? What has he done to make her say this anyway? We see the hero *we assume he is the hero because he is on screen first thing being talked about on the news* faced with the antagonism of...well, everyone it seems. So our curiosity is peaked.
2. We are introduced to each character whilst instantly being given a glimpse into their life which makes us ask more questions. We want to know more even before we know who they are. Why is there that shot of the boy asleep on the couch surrounded by beer bottles? Why is this young man having to look after his elderly grandmother and why does he look stressed about it?
3. Obstacles. The audience is put on edge from day one. New coach, can he get this team together and working? Can he prove himself? Can the team players play with all the drama in their life? I am currently on episode 12 and every time things start to even out again, something else crashes in putting everyone in jeopardy. That's good drama. Squishing your characters into impossible situations while the audience sits there screaming, "Don't do it! Stop! Just get out now!"
4. The cast is excellent. There have been several emotional performances so far and they are performed with great subtlety and grace. The shouting is only when you would expect there to be shouting and the tears are rare but timely. Zach Gilford is one of my favourite's in this series.
5. The series continuously asks moral questions. It's based in Texas so that would make sense, but I like stories which still have some kind of moral stance. Productions such as Pretty Little Liars (as much as I was hooked) would have us all believing that drug abuse, murder and illegal surveillance are all commonplace actions but Friday Night Lights deals with issues and themes without accepting that everything is just ok.
6. Each character is given as much weight and dimension as the next. Once the main characters are established (and there are quite a few) you really get to know and love them. Even the ones you thought were shallow at the start become creatures full of confusion and pain. The ones who in the beginning just seemed like they were out to be idiots for the sake of it, gradually become like your own family, and you start understand why they are the way they are. You have compassion on them.
These are just a few of the reasons I have found myself slowly becoming addicted to this fresh, gritty yet soulful series. What else can I say? I hate football but I like Friday Night Lights.