Congratulations! Friday Night Lights has leveled up.

>> Monday, February 22, 2010

I have no actual proof that Peter Berg, Brian Grazer and David Nevins—the production team responsible for the NBC drama Friday Night Lights—play role playing games, but having watched the first season of their show, I have a hard time believing that they don't. Solid narrative involves character development, that's a given; but rarely is that development so abrupt that it seems as if the characters have reached a new level. For example, when the paralyzed former quarterback, Jason Street, teaches the new quarterback, Matt Saracen, a fade pattern that Saracen insists he lacks the arm strength to throw, his first two attempts prove that he does, in fact, lack the arm strength to throw that outside fade. Then, as if throwing it two times earned him enough experience points to level up, Saracen hits his receiver's outside shoulder not once, not twice, but consistently, and for the remainder of the season.

I initially thought this phenomenon was limited to the acquisition of greater physical gifts, and chalked it up to the production team's desire to show improvement without having to regularly resort to montages; but as the season progressed, it became clear that this logic also applied to the character's emotional and intellectual development. For example, when the wildly irresponsible Tim Riggins first encounters the annoying son of the single mother who moved in next door, he treats the child like all wildly irresponsible teenagers treat annoying third-graders; then, on a day when he is spectacularly hungover, Riggins converses with the boy and temporarily fortifies his Intelligence attribute enough to provide him the mana required to cast an ensouling spell, which he does, resulting in a permanent +1 bump to his total magicka.

Has there ever been another series in which character development was this aggressively tiered?


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