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Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Friday Night Lights" starts fourth season: For the love of God, watch it!

Every so often, a TV show has a truly spectacular season -- a season in which a good show seems even better, or when a show that had previously just been decent becomes truly exceptional. NBC's high school football drama "Friday Night Lights" has long been a strong show. At best, it's a warm-hearted, moving depiction of small town life. At its worst (as in the fairly ridiculous second season) it still has moments that put most shows focusing on teenagers to shame.
But the show's fourth season, which begins Friday night at 8 on NBC, is by far its best. I've already had a chance to watch the season during its run on DirecTV, and I can tell you that it's excellent. When we last left Texas football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler, as stoically brilliant as ever), he had been booted out of his job as coach of the Dillon Panthers, and shunted over to a position at the poorer, less amply appointed East Dillon High.
Meanwhile, his  wife Tami (Connie Britton, every inch Chandler's match), is still principal at Dillon, and dealing with Joe McCoy (D.W. Moffett), the egotistical rich dad who had her husband forced out as coach. Most of Eric's former players are also in dire straits, with Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) struggling at college, Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) resenting his decision to stay in Dillon and Landry (Jesse Plemons) toughing it out as (seemingly) the lone former Panther to make it over to East Dillon.
It's grim stuff, but the gift of "Friday Night Lights" is that it manages to be realistic and entertaining at the same time. The relationship between Tami and Eric is wonderfully real and sweet, as is their relationship with their daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden). And Tim Riggins is probably one of the best characters on TV. He's one of those guys who can never get anything right, yet he's not a bad guy. He's just kind of aimless and lazy, yet he has a good heart and a sense of humor.
"Friday Night Lights" can be heart-breaking at times (if you finish the mid-season episode "The Son" without getting even a little misty, you have no soul), but when it works, it's worth the anguish. This season works. Don't miss it.

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