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Friday Night Lights

After critics raved but ratings fizzled, now's not the time for "Friday Night Lights" to play prevent defense storywise and congratulate itself for surviving but, rather, the writers and cast must strive to make sure nobody gets complacent reading press clippings. Consider it mission accomplished.

With:
Eric Taylor – Kyle Chandler Tami Taylor – Connie Britton Juli Taylor – Aimee Teegarden Matt Saracen – Zach Gilford Jason Street – Scott Porter "Smash" Williams – Gaius Charles Tim Riggins – Taylor Kitsch Lyla Garrity – Minka Kelly Landry Clarke – Jesse Plemons Tyra Collette – Adrianne Palicki

The Panther football team quickly finds out that Lone Star football glory only lasts so long in the season premiere of the show NBC is hoping will find a broader, and much larger, audience on its new night. After critics raved but ratings fizzled, now’s not the time for “Friday Night Lights” to play prevent defense storywise and congratulate itself for surviving but, rather, the writers and cast must strive to make sure nobody gets complacent reading press clippings. Consider it mission accomplished.

Season two begins in the oppressive Texas heat, the players laying around poolside when they’re not practicing on the field, gearing up to defend their state title.

Much of the action thoughout the episode stays clear of the gridiron, focusing on where the characters stand after last season’s triumph: Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden) is making goo-goo eyes for a hunky older guy, completing dissing her boyfriend, QB1 Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford); Lyla (Minka Kelly) has found religion; Jason Street (Scott Porter) is concerned new coach Jack MacGregor (Chris Mulkey) is tinkering with a team that already knows how to win; and ex-coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is having a difficult time splitting his time between Dillon, where his wife (Connie Britton) has just had a baby, and Austin.

Longtime character actor Mulkey looks to be a great addition, playing a hardass who only knows one way to win football games — his way.

In one scene, Chandler, listening to Porter explain his concerns for the way the team is being treated, doesn’t say a word but the actor’s eyes and jaw clearly express his disappointment for the direction these new Panthers are headed. Later on, he has a touching heart-to-heart with his daughter on her disdain for him being away from home. His exclusion from the list of Emmy noms feels even more reprehensible now.

One highly dramatic storyline that involves Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) and Landry (Jesse Plemons) might worry some hardcore fans that the show is heading in a direction that could feel more “CSI: Dillon” than anything else. But faith should be shown in showrunner/writer Jason Katims in that he’s setting a device to see how this budding couple react under trying circumstances.

Handheld lensing remains one of the show’s signature elements and might take new viewers an episode or two to become acquainted with the visual style.

Popular on Variety

Friday Night Lights

NBC, Fri., Oct. 5, 10 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Austin, Texas, by Imagine Entertainment in association with Universal Media Studios and Film 44. Executive producers, Peter Berg, Jason Katims, David Nevins, Brian Grazer, Sarah Aubrey, Jeffrey Reiner; producers, Nan Berstein Freed, Carter Harris, Bridget Carpenter, David Hudgins, Kerry Ehrin, Patrick Massett, John Zinman; co-producer, Chad Savage; associate producer, Cindy Kerber; director, Jeffrey Reiner; writer, Jason Katims.

Crew: Director of photography, Todd McMullen; costume designer, Kathleen Kiatta; editors, Peter Ellis, Ron Rosen, Stephen Michael, Louise Innes; casting, Linda Lowy, John Brace, Beth Sepko. RUNNING TIME: 60 mins.

With: Eric Taylor – Kyle Chandler Tami Taylor – Connie Britton Juli Taylor – Aimee Teegarden Matt Saracen – Zach Gilford Jason Street – Scott Porter "Smash" Williams – Gaius Charles Tim Riggins – Taylor Kitsch Lyla Garrity – Minka Kelly Landry Clarke – Jesse Plemons Tyra Collette – Adrianne Palicki

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