Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Though "Friday Night Lights" is probably the most critically acclaimed show on television right now, it suffered from anemic ratings during its first season. (I haven't managed to fit it into my viewing schedule though maybe I'll check out the DVD's in the future.) The show may now be trying to draw in Christian viewers through one particular character. Based on this piece on "National Review Online," this isn't a matter of pandering to a religious audience. It's integrating a part of life that's important to many people into a show about life in rural Texas. And it even seems to be done in a respectful way.

This season, one character experiences what the producers call “a religious conversion.” In short, Lyla, who has suffered and sinned as much as any character on the show, joins a church and becomes baptized. For the first few episodes she is insufferable, boldly proclaiming her faith and sneering at Riggins’ hedonistic lifestyle. This constitutes an ironic twist in the story because she was his secret lover when her boyfriend, Street, was in the hospital. Now Lyla has turned away from sex and partying for a new found faith, but hasn’t yet found a way to lovingly convey that to others. However, by the third episode this season, she softens and begins to better reflect the love of her new Savior. Part of the action takes place in a church, portrayed beautifully. It’s a place evangelicals would recognize, full of fervent worship and a passionate message about God’s love and grace. Lyla’s journey to faith is messy, but faith, church, and Christianity are treated with respect by the show. And this respectful treatment of Christianity is intentionally done. Executive Producer and Director Jeffrey Reiner, a self proclaimed New Yorker, announced that the producers went to Texas and met many people as research for the show, saying:
One of the characters is going to find God. And I think a lot of shows would use that to kind of poke fun at it, but I find that I meet the preachers, and I meet people somebody might call kind of weird or zealous. But they're not, you know, and we just end up meeting them as people.
Maybe it’s a revelation into the mind of many people in Hollywood that Mr. Reiner was surprised to find Texas Evangelicals normal, but hats off to him. He was willing to go, to explore, and to create an excellent show that addresses and respects Christianity. Moreover, he created a show that realistically depicts the struggle and the beauty of family life, as well as the toil of high school years lived without parental love and support. In doing so he glorifies what others shows scoff at, and in doing so he offers something remarkably fresh and original. Hollywood would be a better and more interesting place if others followed his example.

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