Season 2 of Friday Night Lights opens as if it were a pilot for its own spin-off. Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) has left for a college gig, and his pregnant wife (Connie Britton), his daughter (Aimee Teegarden), and his ex-team are coming unhinged. Then there’s the birth, the assault, and the murder. Football? Not so much.
No wonder fans were up in arms. So what do the show’s creators have to say for themselves? Exec producer Jason Katims’ commentary ain’t exactly a mea culpa: The murder cover-up plot involving Landry (Jesse Plemons) and Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) was not, as many surmised, the idea of NBC co-chair Ben Silverman; the producers just wanted to put two less developed characters in an ”intimate situation.” They’d even shot a version of it for season 1 but delayed the story line — a tidbit confirmed in another entertaining track with the two actors.
If the melodrama sent you fleeing, you missed the good that came of this plot device: It furthered Landry’s and Tyra’s transcendence of their nerd and sexpot stereotypes, making them more multifaceted characters. Did we need Lyla’s ex-con charity case, or that heinous crystal-meth dealer? No, but in these times of network desperation, loving rich, complex characters means being willing to accept their flaws — and those of the show. It helps that Chandler still says more with a few words (”Damn, Julie. Damn”) than most actors say with a monologue.
Knowing what we know now — that FNL will return on DirecTV in October, then on NBC in early 2009 — it’s clear: Like our friends in Dillon, Tex., FNL is inspiring in its resilience. B+