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He's Back, Baby!

MacGregor is out and Taylor is in. Chris Mulkey by Bill Records/NBC

Episode Recap: "Backfire"Who didn't have a little flutter in his (or her) heart when Coach Taylor, back in his Dillon Panther blues, stood up in front of that room like nothing had changed and said, "Let's go. Let's have some fun today"? What a way to end an episode that already just seemed to fly by.Aside from that weird, Mafia-like threat from Coach MacGregor ("I have a family, too, and you just remember that. I'll be seeing you again"), Eric's homecoming was nothing less than joyous. Julie and Tami are well on their way to patching things up, especially now that it looks like the grungy Swede might be out of the picture. Matt Saracen has someone back on his side again, and Buddy should probably be considered the town hero.Ah, Buddy. We may have just been witness to the only game in Panther history that Buddy honestly wanted his beloved team to lose. It was quite a sight to watch him hold back a grin as Smash got blocked again and again, leaving Dillon with a humiliating loss on t... read more

Brawls On and Off the Field

Eric hopes he can get his old job back. Kyle Chandler by Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

Episode Recap: "Are You Ready for Friday Night?"Is this show about football or hockey? There was so many smackdowns (verbal and physical) tonight, that I think I'm forming bruises in sympathy. What does it say about a show when the characters who are doing the best at the moment are the ones who recently committed murder?That's right, you Tyra and Landry fans — the deed has been done, is probably going to be done again. And it seems like they're genuinely in love. Dillon's former bad girl — who seems to have passed on her particular brand of anger to Julie, but more on which later — is in a relationship with a guy that respects her and won't take advantage, so it's just too bad that the entire foundation of their love is that they killed someone. Their watch-shopping scene was the sweetest and lightest of the night ("it really doesn't look anything like [the old watch] except that they are both watches and have hands and tell time"). Definitely a welcome respite fro... read more

A Plague of Consequences Strikes Dillon

Matt tries to figure out how to deal with the women in his life. Zach Gilford by Bill Records/NBC

Episode Recap: "Bad Things"Regular readers of this blog know that this show make me cry on a pretty regular basis. Tonight's episode was no exception, though I'm not sure what part was most affecting. You'd think it would be Jason still coming to terms with his paralysis after recovering some muscle function, but that's really just par for the course on this show. As usual, Connie Britton's flawless portrayal of a new mother with a crumbling psyche was wrenching to watch. Was there any scene in which she wasn't desperately trying to swallow her sobs? And the thing is, it all seemed so completely organic — there was no screaming or a melodramatic "Why me?" moment. It's hard not to love a show that allows its characters to fully comprehend the ridiculousness of their choices, and when Glenn (the guidance counselor in need of guidance) asked Tami why exactly she and Eric were living apart, her acknowledgement of, "I don't know, that was just my idea, it was just a stupid idea," wa... read more

Murder Joins a Crowded Friday Club

Angie Harmon in Women's Murder Club by Danny Feld/ABC

My loyalties are so divided on Friday nights. I want ABC’s so-so new crime drama Women’s Murder Club to do well enough to bring some much-needed eyeballs to the charming romantic comedy Men in Trees, which finally returns from a cruel nearly eight-month hiatus. With James Patterson’s name as a selling point for Murder Club (though he’s not writing this series any more than he appears to be penning half of the books that go out with co-writers’ names on his ubiquitous book jackets), the show certainly has a shot at commercial success, even on a night that’s widely considered a graveyard. Remember: This same night, and this same time period (9 pm/ET), is where the original CSI launched to even less fanfare, and the rest is TV history.But I also don’t want anything to take audience away from Murder Club’s competition, most notably NBC’s ever-fragile Friday Night Lights, which offers another superb episode this week. Even if like many observe... read more

I've been a fan of yours for ...

Question: I've been a fan of yours for a long time. Your columns are must-reads for me. I started watching Friday Night Lights over the summer largely based on your praise of the show. I became addicted. So thank you for that. But I have a huge problem with the murder in the season-opener. And not just the murder, but the disposing of the body. It's the first time I can recall this show being over-the-top melodramatic and unrealistic, and it's also the first time I can't see how a problem can get resolved without incredibly dark, depressing results. Please tell me I'm missing some option, that the show can get past this and I can look forward to enjoying future episodes.  Answer: This is pretty much the universal first reaction from everyone I know about the Landry-Tyra storyline in the season-opener. I think most fans can wish this simply hadn't happened, or that at the very least they would have just left the body where it fell after Landry's attack and justifiably claimed ... read more

A New Job, a New Coach and a New Baby

The Taylors adjust to their new situation. Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden, Kyle Chandler by Bill Records/NBC

Episode Recap: "Last Days of Summer""Welcome back to another glorious year of Panther football." I'm not ready to classify the football as glorious just yet, what with this new Coach McGregor (the anti-Eric Taylor) and all, but the show itself is certainly back and in sublime form.Let us first welcome into the world Miss Grace Taylor, second daughter of Eric and Tami, sister to suddenly moody teen, Julie. Now Eric has another daughter to defend against football players and Swedes; too bad he's a plane ride away in Austin. His new coaching job at TMU is having a deleterious effect on his family and (I'm not even being dramatic when I say this) the entire football-loving community in Dillon, but more about that in a bit. Julie won't talk to him because she considers him to have been an absentee father for the last 8 months, and Tami — Connie Britton, proving yet again how wrong the Emmy voters got it with her incredible performance tonight — is absolutely destroyed that he c... read more

It's Friday. Keep the Lights On.

Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights by Bill Records/NBC Photo

What more can its devoted critics say about NBC’s Friday Night Lights except to celebrate the fact that it’s back for a second season, which means it has already beaten the odds, at least for now. Not that the odds aren’t still incredibly steep for this eternal underdog in its new Friday time period: 9 pm/ET, when many of those who might savor this wonderful drama’s small-town football backdrop are out enjoying their own high school football matches this time of year. No matter how you watch it — in real time, in your own time via recording or online viewing — you really don’t want to miss it.Friday Night Lights is powerfully entertaining drama, and returning to Dillon, Texas, is like going home again. The characters are instantly familiar as they recapture your heart, especially the Taylors. That would be Coach Eric and wife Tami, unhappily maintaining a long-distance relationship as he adjusts to a new college job while Tami copes with a new baby... read more

Preseason

Just think of each of the following as exhibition games:The first-season DVD goes on sale this Tuesday, Aug. 28, and if you order it through Amazon.com, it'll be only $19.99. (Buy one for a friend — or 12, while you're at it.) For all those who've wondered what would happen if Connie Britton and Zach Gilford were together in a horror film, their movie, The Last Winter, comes on out Sept. 19. Finally, show some love for IHOP because Miss Julie Taylor herself (Aimee Teegarden) appears in one of their commercials.Season 2 premieres Friday, Oct. 5, at 9pm/ET. Order some wings, drink a beer, and pray that Buddy Garrity doesn't show up with the word "Panthers" painted across his chest. read more

I've got to say I'm ...

Question: I've got to say I'm disappointed over the lack of nominations for Friday Night Lights, which is one of the best shows on TV right now. That Boston Legal is nominated over FNL is wrong on many levels. First of all, BL is more of a comedy. It's also wildly uneven in tone, jumping from drama to absurdist comedy to breaking the fourth wall (which I always find so forced). Despite these faults, I actually like BL quite a bit; I just don't think it's one of the best shows on TV, and certainly not one of the best dramas. I can't help but wonder if the left-leaning Emmy voters were prejudiced against a show that takes place in small-town Texas (FNL) and more inclined to make a statement by nominating one that wears its liberal heart on its sleeve (BL), despite its questionable quality. It's nominations like these that make it really hard to take the Emmys seriously. Oh, and I think Connie Britton was robbed, too, as well as Lost. Answer: I do sometimes wonder if the pandering nature ... read more

TCA Awards: Correcting the Emmys

Alec Baldwin courtesy NBC Photo

No awards system is perfect, and the TCA Awards is no exception. But arriving two days after the often-inexplicable results of the Emmy nominations, Saturday night's low-key, good-time TCA Awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton was a welcome course correction to several especially egregious Emmy oversights. (And, lo and behold, nary a mention of Boston Legal anywhere.)First up: Michael C. Hall, ignored by the Emmys but cited by the TCA for “Individual Achievement in Drama,” for his mesmerizing performance in Showtime's Dexter as a serial killer targeting Miami's lowest forms of criminal life. (Other contenders in this category included Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, also shamefully snubbed at the Emmys.)Friday Night Lights, a near shutout at the Emmys despite its status as a first-year critics’ darling (and recipient of Peabody and AFI awards), was later named Outstanding New Program. (The field also included 30 Rock, Dexter, Heroes and Ugly Bet... read more

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