I watched the series finale of Friday Night Lights last night, and I’m still feeling the loss of such an amazing television show. It was such a perfectly FNL ending: plenty of hope for the future, but not everything wrapped up in a falsely perfect bow. Through five seasons, the writing, directing, acting, cinematography, and editing came together seamlessly to create a something that felt more real than any show I’ve ever watched. I often felt uncomfortable while watching because I felt like some creeper peering through the windows at these people’s lives.
I think part of the reason it felt so real to me is that I grew up in Summerville, SC, where Green Wave football was more important than just about anything. I don’t know if Coach John McKissick is the molder of men that Eric Taylor was, but I do know that McKissick is the all-time winningest high school football coach ever. I spent many Friday nights under those bright lights screaming my head off for our team (that is when I wasn’t awkwardly trying to be cool).
But it wasn’t just familiarity that made these characters so authentic. A magical combination of acting and writing truly made them feel like friends. I laughed with them, worried for them, and I cried for them, oh man, how I cried for them, both at their joy and at their pain. It actually got to be kind of ridiculous, since I apparently developed a Pavlovian response to the FNL theme song – it would start playing and my eyes would start watering.
As a writer and filmmaker, I know I will pull out my DVDs again and again to enjoy and appreciate what the FNL team did, as well as study how they did it so I can learn to create characters that feel so incredibly real.
Were you a fan of Friday Night Lights? Can you suggest other shows with characters who feel so authentic? For the writers - did you pick up any techniques to improve the characters in your writing?