Earlier this week my husband and I finished watching Friday Night Lights. We’d been working our way through the five-season series on Hulu all summer and it seemed appropriate, on this holiday weekend before the chaos of our Fall started, to stay up and finish the remaining episodes. It was a delightful binge.
Throughout the summer, I’ve shared with people that we are watching/re-watching the show. When I mention Friday Night Lights, I get an array of reactions. Most of them sound something like this.
“Ahhh, I love that show!”
“I failed so many finals because of that show.”
“It’s the best, isn’t it?”
“We should watch that one again.”
These comments come from people of a wide variety of ages, careers, and stages in life. As a writer, it makes me wonder what made this show so great. How was it able to reel in so many different people? I’ll try to digest this in the points below.
When my oldest son was born, we began watching Friday Night Lights as a way to pass time between baby feedings and baby wakings. We made it through three seasons before the end of our maternity/paternity leave and watched the fourth season once it released. We never (up until this summer) saw the final season. In need of a mutual-interest-hobby and some together time, we started over at the beginning this summer and have enjoyed countless lazy hours on the couch enjoying one episode after the next, sometimes one at a time, and others as many as four in a row.
Since re-starting the show, my husband and I debate who our favorite character is. On long car rides back and forth to summer adventures we discussed these fictional people’s futures, their choices, their mistakes, who we’d likely be friends with in real life… if they actually existed. The creators of the show crafted characters that are dynamic, flawed, and interesting. Through their backstories and quirks, we came to love and root for them in each trial and obstacle they faced. In an article about the series that appeared in the Atlantic, Megan Garber put it this way, “The show took the everyone-has-a-story premise of the soap opera and turned it into high art.” And in my opinion, it worked, like a charm. Also, the actors casted did a damn fine job bringing the written personas to life. That fact is not lost on me.
Lesson Learned: Even if your story line lacks dramatic action and adventure, compelling characters will pull your story along, because your reader/viewer will care what happens next. Simply put, they will stick around because they are invested in your character’s fate.
For us, part of the appeal of FNL was that we lived in a small town. Granted we were in Wisconsin, not Texas, but many of the show’s aspects rang true to our lives. We both worked in a school, we both coached sports (baseball and gymnastics), and in the fall, our little town loved Friday night. EVERYONE went to the football game. Heck, we even sat in the same spots in the bleachers each week. Our friends were coaches and coaches’ wives and the drama of the show seemed so real, because it was real. It was our lives.
I distinctly remember going to a fall festival at a local grocery store one Saturday morning. The high school choir performed, the head coach participated in a pumpkin pie eating contest, players walked around in jerseys doing community service and being congratulated by community members on the win from the prior night. I looked at my husband and asked, “Where are the cameras? Are we on set?”
But the show wasn’t just relatable for high schoolers and the people who interacted with them on a daily basis.
Thus, the wide appeal, and the reason everyone from my college aged cousin to my baby boomer parents loved this show.
Lesson Learned: Include aspects of everyday life with which your viewers/readers can connect. Sometimes the stories featuring mundane day to day activities are more impactful than the bourgeoise and fancy lives we all think we want to see and ultimately lead for ourselves.
At the very center of the show is the sport football. We are a sports kind of family. Sports bring drama and excitement and entertainment for us like nothing else. Including this key element to the story line was an important aspect for us, because it was a topic that both of us enjoyed. For us, the drama of the game, the buildup, the stakes, the opponent, the game strategy… takes a great show and makes it even better.
Lesson Learned: Include a solid fan base for your story. A niche audience will be pulled in purely because the plot line boasts their favorite hobby, pastime, topic of interest and this is something you definitely want on your side. For example, one of my books features geocaching and a soon to be released title intentionally includes bookstores and military families for this exact reason.
A Few Fun Facts
The roles of the enthusiastic booster (Buddy Garrity) and Mrs. Coach (Tami Taylor) were played by the same actors, Brad Leland and Connie Britton, in the movie adaptation as well!
Taylor Kitsch, aka: the beloved Tim Riggins, was a hockey player, not a football player. Also, he drank two beers in his audition. Sounds about right.
Like any good starving artist, the actors for this show were working other regular jobs right up until or sometimes even during filming. Kyle Chandler (Eric Taylor) was a volunteer fire fighter, Zach Gifford (Matt Saracen) was working at a sports store and Minka Kelly (Lila Garrity) was a scrub nurse!
Here’s the bottom line. My husband and I started watching the show as a way to spend time together. Prior to settling in on the same couch for nightly episodes, we’d be stationed separately, still in the same room, but me on my computer and him watching sports. The simple act of paying attention to the same thing at the same time has been a nice way for us to connect and spend time together. For anyone feeling like they never see their spouse, or that their life is magnificently crazy and they need an excuse to sit down and relax… the choice to spend an hour a day watching this show is one I would highly recommend.
** If you liked what you read on my blog today (or are in search of weekly word nerd goodness) and would like to have it delivered to your inbox every Wednesday morning, you can sign up HERE. As always, feel free to share this post with others you think might be interested via email, Facebook or Pinterest. **
Affiliate marketing is promoting a product or service in return for a commission. When you purchase a product or service through one of my links, I earn a small part of the sale. There is NEVER any extra cost to you. If you looked up the same product on the same site through another source besides my website, the price will still be exactly the same. 100% of the time.
I also NEVER link to products or services that I don't 100% believe in. I will never tout a company or their goods if they are disreputable or if I don't believe them to be worthy of your hard-earned money. In no way are my affiliate links a scam. (Language borrowed with permission from Kristen Kieffer on Well-Storied.com)