I was reading an article recently that quoted Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee. He was discussing the budding relationship between Kurt and Blaine, and stated, “It’s my job as showrunner to keep them apart as long as possible.”Now look, people, I don’t watch Glee (apologies if you do, but I find it to be an insufferably twee show with poor character development and generally bad writing, but I digress). The quote itself, even separated from who it came from, struck me. Plenty of shows rely on creating and maintaining tension with seasons-long “will-they-or-won’t-they” storylines. Two in particular immediately come to mind: Law and Order: SVU and Bones. Both shows have maintained a giant question mark – replete with sexual tension – over their two protagonists. The latter has made it a defining and motivating element of the narrative. And that’s fine. The shows succeed in what they set out to do.
But Ryan Murphy’s quote still rubs me the wrong way. It is not your job as showrunner to keep two people apart. It’s your job as showrunner to tell good stories, with strong characters (Murphy fails at this, too, but once again I digress). Squeezing the life out of a relationship by dragging any potential pay-off out for as long as possible isn’t good storytelling. It’s lazy storytelling. It tells us nothing except that you are not innovative enough, or good enough, to create a compelling, dynamic partership.
Which brings me to Friday Night Lights. First, let us observe a moment of silence, for this past Wednesday, February 9th marked the series finale of this show, once the best on television. Period. I will fight you if you disagree.* You will be hard-pressed to find an article about the show that doesn’t praise its “realness,” and pardon me, but I’m about to hop right on that bandwagon. The show’s strength has always been its sense of authenticity, from its writing to its cinematography. But the heart of the show, and what lent it its true “realness,” was the characters, none more so than Tami and Eric Taylor.
This couple is consistently mentioned as one of the best portrayals of marriage on television. Now, as a single 21-year-old, I cannot speak to this statement’s truth, but I can say that holy fuck are they amazing. Throughout the show’s five seasons, they remained the emotional touchstone of Friday Night Lights, deftly portraying the ups and downs, the love and the heartache, and the sacrifices and concessions required in a relationship. Most importantly, however, they were able to be the most compelling and engaging partnership on television while staying together. No cheating scandals. No dastardly secrets. No illegitimate love-children coming out of the woodwork. The writers of Friday Night Lights, along with Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton (who deserve every Golden Globe and Emmy ever, but have somehow not won any), show that you don’t need to rely on cheap tricks and hollow suspense to keep people watching. That’s easy. It’s far harder, but oh-so-much-more rewarding, to create an honest and compelling relationship.
*This is patently untrue. I will likely just mope.
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