Friday, October 12, 2007

More to Life Than Books?

Book talk. Day in, day out. Sometimes even us publishing professionals get tired of it. So when we stop jawing about the deals we’re negotiating or the article we read in PW, we veer into giggle sessions on Dwight Schrute’s recent antics to get ahead at The Office or debates on the practicality of Justin Bobby’s combat boots at a clambake on The Hills. (I’m sure Nathan Bransford could make an enthusiastic argument on this one.)

One of my roommates once told me that I sucked all of the fun out of television shows and movies. I tend to dissect their stories like I would a manuscript. Quite frankly, Rose and Jack didn’t have enough depth for me to care that they were submerged in Titanic. But hey—the special effects were cool! And I love all of the forensic stuff on C.S.I., but I stopped watching regularly when I realized that everyone on the team felt like a cardboard cut-out to me.

Every now and then there’s a show with characters that surprise me. In fact, sometimes I almost feel more invested in their lives than in those of my own family members or neighbors. Shhhhhh . . . don’t tell! It just so happens that the same show has hooked both Jessica and I with its deft characterization (and we’ll make Jacky a cheerleader by the end of the season, too!).

Friday Night Lights is not a show about football. Trust this football widow . . . I get about all of the huddles and interceptions I can handle in my living room from September to January. FNL is about a community that just comes alive on the screen. Coach Taylor is the loving husband that wants to do right by his family, but often gets it wrong. Tami Taylor is the mother who’s scared, but manages to say all the right things we wish we could say to our teenagers (and every one of her heart-to-hearts makes me cry like a baby). Matt Saracen is the boy you hope your daughter will bring home someday and Tim Riggins is the bad boy who makes you wish you were eighteen again. Every character is sympathetic, but flawed. Each one is brilliantly written and acted. These are the types of characters I look for in the submission pile.

It’s on tonight at 9:00 on NBC. Give it a shot. They could use the ratings, and maybe you’ll feel inspired afterward!

Don’t touch that dial. I’ll be back in a later post to discuss the show I watch for incredible ingenuity. . . . In the meantime, let me know what television show you think demonstrates great characterization!