Alex Stephenson THE MACGUFFIN MEN: "Texas Forever"

We are heavily affected by the media we experience; this seems to be common knowledge at this point. The level of impact media can have on us, however, is probably not accurately gauged. Some people are surely more susceptible to these things, whereas some are more free thinkers. In post-2000 North America, I really doubt many of the latter remain. Without question, I fall into the former designation, and unless you were raised by Ted Kaczynski or post-Catcher in the Rye JD Salinger, you do too.

At this point, everybody seems to have a few pieces of fictional media that they like as much as they do because they learned something through it, or just passionately care about it without really being able to classify why. I refuse to accept that I would be the same person had I not seen Friday Night Lights upon its release in the fall of 2004: it’s debatable if I would have ever shown interest in the band that primarily scored the film, and it’s doubtful that I ever would have watched the television show that grew out of the film.

The movie version of Friday Night Lights is based on the Buzz Bissinger book about the real-life Permian Panthers’ 1988 season. That true story was then slightly fictionalized for the movie, and while the film is about high school football in small-town Texas, it’s primarily about loss. Not the loss of a game really, but more just loss in general. Throughout the movie, we see the players continually lose hope both individually and as a team, and by the end of the movie most characters have completely changed how they feel about their lives. That was kind of clear to me when I saw Friday Night Lights the first (and second, third, fourth, etc) time back in 2004, but when I began watching the television show based on the movie this past summer, all of that became clear by the five-minute mark of the pilot episode. All I had to hear was some familiar music and see an empty football field in the opening cinema verité-style montage.

Peter Berg (director of the Friday Night Lights film) developed the television version which debuted in September 2006 which aired it's final episode some time back. While the show deals with the theme of loss much like the film did, there are a much greater number of themes covered throughout the series, mostly because the total runtime of the show is approximately 3167 minutes longer than that of the movie.

A television format was perfect for Friday Night Lights, as it allowed for elements that the movie skimmed over to be expanded into full ideas. Quarterback Mike Winchell becomes the infinitely more interesting Matt Saracen, fullback Don Billingsley slims down, drinks more beer and becomes Tim Riggins, and star running back Boobie Miles’ arc is split into both Jason Street and Smash Williams. The coach’s tenuous relationship with the town remains in the television show, as does the focus on the coach as a father figure. The writing is typically good, and with a few exceptions the acting is great, making the best moments of the show nearly perfect.

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