Friday Night Lights

Our favorite more-than-a-football show Friday Night Lights begins its fifth and final season Wednesday (9/8c, DirecTV; the show will air on NBC this spring). Executive producer Jason Katims shares his plans for the folks of Dillon, Texas, as they head toward the final down.

TV Guide Magazine: What are the main stories this season?
Katims: There are a couple. One is about the East Dillon Lions becoming a formidable team, to everyone's surprise. As the team begins to win games, success begins to breed problems. They start to win with a certain kind of swagger. This is a team that challenges Coach Taylor [Kyle Chandler]. Another through line is that Vince's father Ornette [Cress Williams] arrives and affects both Vince [Michael B. Jordan] and Coach. He wants to play a very direct managerial role in his son's football future. But he was in prison, and has a background of drugs and crime. He's really making an effort to come back and change his life. But that's easier said than done.

TV Guide Magazine: What's happening with the Taylor family-Coach, Tami  (Connie Britton) and Julie (Aimee Teegarden)?
Katims: The big question that arises for the Taylor family comes at end of the season. It involves the future of the Lions, but also a very personal question about the Taylor family and some fairly big choices they have to make. Without giving too much away, as wonderful as the Taylor marriage is, it's always been very traditional in the sense that Coach Taylor's career has always led the way. This year, we're dealing with not only his career but Tami's career as well. That creates a challenge to their otherwise seamless marriage. We watch them grapple with that toward the latter part of the season.

TV Guide Magazine: Now that she's been forced out of Dillon High, isn't Tami working at East Dillon?
Katims: Tami starts as a guidance counselor at East Dillon. She shows up expecting to do her job and quickly realizes that there's a lack of resources for that school and a population of students shut down to the possibility of education.

TV Guide Magazine: What happens when Julie goes to college?
Katims: She hits a bump in the road. She gets involved with a guy she shouldn't and that leads to her coming back home shipwrecked.

TV Guide Magazine: Is Tim (Taylor Kitsch) still in prison?
Katims: Yes. But he still leaves his indelible mark on the show. We see him in the first episode then he returns for the last four episodes.

TV Guide Magazine: How is Becky (Madison Burge) coping after her abortion?
Katims: Becky is basically trying to throw herself into high school life. She winds up living with Tim's brother, Billy [Derek Phillips] and his wife, Mindy [Stacey Oristano]. She also slowly reconnects with Luke [Matt Lauria] over the course of the season. As soon as you feel like she's done that, Tim shows back up. And there she is again.

TV Guide Magazine:  What's doing with Jess (Jurnee Smollett) now that's she back with Vince?
Katims: Jess has a great story this year. Following her dream, she becomes an equipment manager on the team. Having his girlfriend in the locker room leads to some tension with Vince. There's a nice bond that develops between Coach Taylor and Jess as he supports this weird pushy girl trying to create a life in football.

TV Guide Magazine: Talk about all the characters returning for the final season.
Katims: It's so great. To be able to really track these characters over time is fulfilling. Everyone's back for the holidays. Jason Street [Scott Porter] is now a young upstart sports agent, who has a nice storyline with Coach. Tyra [Adrianne Palicki] is in Dillon for the holidays and reconnects with Tim at a time when he's going through a lot. And Matt Saracen [Zach Gilford] bonds with Julie when she's at her lowest. They wind up thinking about bringing the relationship to another level.

TV Guide Magazine: It seems like everyone's storyline has a satisfying ending.
Katims: We wanted to give the show a real ending and hopefully a great ending. We wanted to give resolution to all the characters. But in the spirit of the show, we want to do that in a way that would not be sentimental or nostalgic. I'm really happy with the way it came out. I hope that people will respond to it that way.

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