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THE BIG THING : TV THIS WEEK

Back in the game

September 30, 2007|Mary McNamara

The little show that could is back to show you that it can. Last season "Friday Night Lights" may have had more critics raving about it than it had people watching it, but it's back to prove that you can have a show without the presence of a nerd, a superpower or a nerd with superpowers. Instead you get Texan youth, many of them football players of surprising emotional depth, and a quiet sustained drama that only lacks the presence of Robert Duvall to lift it to iconic status.

Instead, Kyle Chandler is the anchor, as Coach Eric Taylor. Or rather, former coach; last season, he took a job in Austin and the good folks of Dillon have not recovered. This season opens with several problems his absence has caused: wife Tami (Connie Britton) goes into early labor, daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden) is distant, mouthy and sort of cheating on her boyfriend, and the new coach is not handling the Dillon Panthers well; meanwhile, fast girl Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) and shy Landry (Jesse Plemons) get closer, while Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland) attempts to hold onto what little stability is left for him. But mainly what's missing is the coach's support of the Panthers.

If this sounds soap-operatic, it isn't. With any luck, popular success will follow the critical, because pretty much everyone who sees "Friday Night Lights" falls hard. With its fuzzy lighting and slow-as-a-summer-night cadence, it's the antithesis of many of the slick hyper-dramas ruling the airways. It attempts to show life for folks who live without a freeway or a subway, complete with ugly violence and choked-back silence.

And, of course, some pretty great football.

(NBC, 9 p.m. Friday)

-- Mary McNamara

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