Are you ready for some football? 'Friday Night Lights' returns

conniebrittonkylechandler_fridaynightlights_240.jpgI feel like we've know each other long enough that I can tell you I waved at the TV when Tim Riggins first appeared during the fourth season premiere of "Friday Night Lights" (Wednesday at 9 p.m. on DirectTV's 101 Network). Yes I know deep down he's a fictional character but I was just so happy to see him. (And he still represents my only exception to the "no long hair on male TV characters" rule).

Besides getting to spend some much needed quality time with the ever dreamy Tim Riggins, what I love about "Friday Night Lights" is its ability to constantly mine real, nail-biting drama with high school football and small town Texas life as a back-drop. It's the only show I can think of that is able to so seamlessly weave in new characters and exit old ones. Because, like in life, every year some high school students graduate and others begin their freshman year.

Last season, the series shook up its formula by introducing rookie quarterback J.D. McCoy (Jeremy Sumpter) and his terror of a father Joe McCoy (D.W. Moffett). J.D. is back this season but the shy, insecure football player is not. Sumpter is utterly believable as the football player who suddenly finds himself to be the big man on campus and uses his new social status for all its worth.

As the season kicks off, Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is now the coach of East Dillon High which doesn't have the money, the resources or the players that West Dillon High did. A new school and a new year means the introduction of new players. Michael B. Jordan (who I remember as Wallace on "The Wire") joins the cast as Vince Howard, a troubled student show joins the football team after the police strongly encourage him to do so. The new team doesn't exactly take to Eric's coaching style. But as a viewer, it's exciting to see Coach Taylor build up a whole new team and interact with new players. When he tells the team "Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose," I got a little misty. And as always, with "Friday Night Lights," the results of the games are never predictable. The game in the premiere ended in a way I definitely did not expect.

While the town is divided in a whole East Dillon/West Dillon brouhaha, Matt (Zach Gilford) and Tim (Taylor Kitsch) are dealing with life post high school. "So what's it like being the guy who used to be Tim Riggins," he's asked. Both men are trying to establish what their life will be like now and both are struggling with what to do next. And Riggins is definitely back to his old ways. The series is easily able to fuse the new characters with the old, the drama of a high school football with the drama of moving on after football. And yes, Eric and Tami (Connie Britton) still have the best and most realistic marriage on TV.

Honestly, I couldn't love this show more. It remains one of the absolute best shows on television. Five out of five stars. My only regret is that most of you will have to wait until next year to see it when it airs on NBC. I'll probably hold off on talking more about the show until we are all able to enjoy "Friday Night Lights." But if you have DirectTV, definitely let me know what you think of the fourth season premiere after you've seen the show.

On the opposite end of the football spectrum, FX premieres its new series "The League" this Thursday at 10:30 p.m. The comedy follows a group of friends all in a fantasy football league. Peter (Mark Duplass) is the reigning league champion. Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) desperately wants to win and often turns to his wife Jenny (Katie Aselton) for advice. Ruxin (Nick Kroll) and his wife (played by Nadine Velazquez, Catalina on "My Name is Earl," so happy to see her again) just had a baby. Andre (Paul Scheer) keeps picking players who have retired and Kevin's younger brother Taco (Jon Lajoie) isn't quite ever sure why he's there. I turned to my in house expert, my husband who is in a fantasy football league every year, to vouch for the show's authenticity. He says the show definitely captures the trash talking, trades and draft picks of a real league. I can tell you there were moments on the show that I thought were absolutely hilarious. Like "Rescue Me" and "My Boys" the show captures the hilarious banter that can occur between friends. And, don't worry, you don't have to follow football to think it's funny. But there were other times when I thought the show was unnecessarily vulgar. The show has the potential to be extremely funny. It doesn't need the crutch of being crass. I'm also a little concerned that I thought the pilot was stronger than the second episode available for review. For now, three and a half out of five stars.

Highlights of the Week Ahead

All times listed are Eastern Standard Time for October 26 -November 1

"Greek" has its mid-season finale next Monday which means Thanksgiving comes a little earlier to the students at Cyprus Rhodes. Casey hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for all the college students left behind at 9 p.m. on ABC Family. I know this show wants to drag out the academic year as much as possible and I don't want Cappie, Ashleigh, Casey or Evan to graduate any time soon but it's a little ridiculous that it's only Thanksgiving, don't you think? Think of it - since September Rusty fell for another guy's girl, dated her, fell in love with, and then watched her leave for New York. The whole Frannie faux sorority happened this year too. By the way, is there anybody out there who doesn't want Cappie and Casey to get back together? Anyone? 

Shows are all about Halloween this week. Castle and Beckett investigate the death of a man found in a graveyard with fangs and a stake through his heart on "Castle" (Monday, ABC, 10 p.m.).

No matter how many times I've seen it, I still want to watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (Tuesday, ABC, 8 p.m.) every time it airs.

With Meredith on bed rest and Izzie MIA, McDreamy takes center stage on "Grey's Anatomy" this week (Thursday, ABC, 9 p.m.). Chandra Wilson, Dr. Bailey to you and me, directed the episode. I know it just started but I already think I'm just about ready for the whole merger story line to be wrapped up. It's making me think they're all bad doctors. Seriously after last week's episode, if I was ever injured in Seattle, I would insist on being airlifted to another state.

I know I complain early and often about "Private Practice" (Thursday, ABC, 10 p.m.) but I have to say I do like the way the show is handling the Violet story line so far. One of the things that irks me the most on a TV series is when a character suffers a major trauma and is back to normal within a few episodes. Violet should still be traumatized. It makes sense to me that she wouldn't be able to bond with her baby. The current story line almost makes up for the horror movie ending of last season - almost. This week, Violet faces Katie (Amanda Foreman) in court and a story line from last season returns. Remember the two patients whose embryos were switched? They're back.

You definitely want to tune into "Medium" (Friday, CBS, 9 p.m.) this week. Patricia Arquette is inserted into the movie "Night of the Living Dead" just in time for Halloween.

How do you know it's November sweeps? Familiar faces start to return to their old TV stomping grounds. That means Tommy is back on "Brothers & Sisters" this Sunday at 10 p.m. on ABC. Also is anyone else having trouble taking Roxy Olin seriously as Michelle considering she's also on "The City" or is that a problem only I suffer from?

For those of you who have complained that not enough happens on "Mad Men" (Sunday, AMC, 10 p.m.) or that the plots move too slowly, I hope you tuned into last night's episode. In one hour, Betty confronted Don about his past and Don confessed everything. I really like that this long kept secret is out in the open because I don't see Betty just brushing this aside, do you? And I was thrilled (thrilled!) that Joan smashed a vase over her husband's head. Now I just hope she takes it one more step and leaves him.And that wasn't even the biggest surprise. Who knew Roger would want to remain faithful to Jane. I'm not going to lie to you. It's kind of stressing me out that we only have two episodes left.

That's all for today. I'm back on Friday with a review of the new ABC series "V," a round-up of some of the most exciting events coming our way during November sweeps, quotes of the week, familiar faces and more. Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com or follow me on Twitter. Have a great weekend. Talk to you on Friday.

Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal®

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