Friday Night Lights Season 2

Friday Night Lights Season 2
More football, less parents, more high school, less drama, more drama but less serialised - heads must have been spinning when the creators of critically acclaimed but low rated Texas high school football series Friday Night Lights were gifted with a second season. Everyone weighed in with an opinion, from network execs to fans on the street who’ve found themselves deeply invested in the travails of the coaches, players, families and fans in fictional Dillon, Texas. To be sure, season two is weaker than its near-perfect debut; it’s not so bad it spoils the punch but an ill-advised murder subplot turns out to be about the only misstep looking back on season two’s entirety. And while season one could not — and should not — be recreated, FNL continued to take significant risks in its storytelling, such as turning one of its breakout teen hotties, Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly), into a born-again Christian and then letting that play out naturally without judgment from any camp. There’s less football and more drama in general this year; in a Paley TV Fest group interview shot before season two was green-lit the cast expresses some doubt that more football is a good idea. The group camaraderie is palpable during that featurette (plagued by horrible sound), even as veterans Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton (Coach Taylor and wife Bonnie) warn the young cast to enjoy this unusually positive working experience while it lasts. Given the show’s loose, documentary shooting style and the freedom the actors have, there’s a slew of quality deleted scenes for most of this season’s 22 episodes, sometimes revealing entire missing subplots; in a producers’ commentary it’s revealed that whole chunks of the season opener were retooled after network notes. There’s a surprising lesson in that, given that the show weathers some choppy narrative waters and emerges relatively unscathed: that the balance between staying true to your vision and opening yourself up to potential new viewers is one worth seeking. Having seen innumerable quality TV shows go down in flames with a small cult audience screaming its name (R.I.P., Jericho), it’s refreshing to hear some open-mindedness on the part of FNL insiders who recognise that a great show no one’s watching doesn’t do anyone any good. That spirit of openness seems to extend to the cast as well, several of whom offer their own gripes during paired-up commentary tracks about story direction, character choices and what they would do instead. Given their generally snoozy comments, I wouldn’t open the writers’ room just yet. I would however join the chorus entreating people to give this show a chance, now that it’s received a unique deal for a truncated third season. As producer/co-creator Peter Berg says, he’s only met two types of people regarding this show: those who’ve never seen it and those who love it. Seeing an episode and not loving it just doesn’t seem to be an option. (Universal)