If you’re a fan of “Friday Night Lights,” you probably only need one reason to tune in to the show’s fourth-season premiere Wednesday (Oct. 28) on DirecTV.
That would be this: It’s “Friday Night Lights,” and it’s one of the best dramas on television. Those of us without DirecTV will have to wait a frustratingly long time for the series to return on NBC — don’t expect it before late spring — but the fact that it’s back at all this season (for two seasons, no less) is a gift for the small but loyal fan base.
“The great irony is here we are, this low-rated show that has to scratch and claw to get on the air every season,” series star Connie Britton said when I talked to her in August. “Then they were like, ‘OK, in fact not only do you not have to do that, but go ahead and plan for two seasons.’ Who gets to do that?”
Britton thinks knowing that they have two seasons in pocket will allow for “really specific writing and stories,” and that shows up in the season premiere, which finds Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife, Tami (Britton), working on either side of a divided Dillon. Here are some other reasons to watch/anticipate the coming season.
East vs. West. Last season ended with the Dillon school district splitting in two, Eric getting fired from his coaching job at Dillon High and being offered the football-coach job at the about-to-reopen East Dillon. The premiere picks up just as school is starting, and it’s quickly clear that East Dillon has a lot of catching up to do.
Britton: “It’s going to give us a lot of stuff to play with. The thing that I just love about the writing and on our show is that all the conflict that evolves from that will be really subtle and layered. … We’re really going to be torn in this town we love, and it’s going to really kind of blow everything we know as normal and familiar to smithereens.”
A real underdog. The East Dillon Lions, as you might expect, are a pretty ragtag team as the season starts. Eric is going to have to do the best coaching job he’s ever done just to keep the team in games. If you like watching Kyle Chandler do the fuming, lip-chewing thing he does when Coach is upset, you’re in for a treat.
New characters … The premiere introduces two new members of the cast: Michael B. Jordan as Vince Howard, a talented running back with a bit of a checkered past who gets a chance to play at East Dillon; and Madison Burge as Becky Sproles, a high-schooler who in the premiere meets Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) in a rather unusual way. Jurnee Smollett and Matt Lauria will join later in the season.
And old ones. In addition to Riggins, Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) will also be around for multiple episodes this season, and Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly) is scheduled to appear in two episodes.
Britton: “It’s great that [the writers] can be organic and authentic to the school and not have these kids be there till they’re 50. But at the same time, it’s a small town, so they really can come back.” She adds that while Adrianne Palicki won’t appear this season as Tyra, there are plans to bring her back in season five.
Tim Riggins shirtless. Just sayin’.
Britton: “From what I hear he doesn’t make it far out of Dillon. So yeah — the ladies will be happy.”
Peter Berg. With showrunner Jason Katims also committed to NBC’s midseason show “Parenthood,” Berg — who directed the 2004 “Friday Night Lights” movie and developed the TV show, says he’s going to be more involved with the series this season. He directed the season premiere.
We’ll give the last word to Britton, talking about the show’s new direction and how that changes Eric and Tami’s relationship: “You know how we are. … It’s not like we’re going to come to blows or anything — I think you can quote me on that. But I imagine there will be sort of inherent inner conflicts. So I’m really looking forward to seeing how that unfolds.”
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