So Dan Fienberg opened the "Friday Night Lights" press tour session by asking Jason Katims whether he would understand why fans of the show who don't have DirecTV -- and therefore will be out of the loop when new episodes begin airing in October (the NBC run won't be until February) -- might feel compelled to illegally download those episodes to avoid getting spoiled on when Landry kills again.
“I would like to think that I would be patient and wait and watch the real version when it was available to you,” Katims told him.
Zach Gilford had a more realistic idea: “If I were such a good fan, I would go ahead and download it, but then in good conscience, turn your TV onto NBC when it comes on."
The press conference itself focused a lot on the DirecTV deal, but afterwards I was in the scrum with Katims to get a lot of details about the 13-episode season three, which will pick up at the start of the next school/football year. Some excerpts after the jump...
On some of the upcoming storylines:
Tami Taylor is going to become principal of the school. We think that's going to be a really great story. From the beginning, we've tried to find stories for Connie, because we think she's wonderful, find ways for her to be as much in the show as a driving story as possible and not just being the coach's wife. But we also think that can be a really good way to turn it around and bring it back to the marriage, where she turns around and finds herself on the opposite sides of some issues.
Tim and Lyla are in a serious relationship... We think it'll be a tremendously fun storyline that could also become very moving. It's one thing to have this passionate, secret relationship, but once they're in a real relationship, they see how different they are. They're like an odd couple, from different sides of the tracks. They have different ideas of the future. They have different ideas of personal hygiene. I think it's going to be really fun to watch that. And we talked a lot about it being senior year. Lyla and Tim are both seniors, and it's a question of where they're headed. Lyla tries to get Tim to be the best merchant of himself -- get into college, get a scholarship -- but the question is whether these two are destined to stay together.
(Note: When I asked Katims during the session how Riggins, Lyla and Tyra have yet to graduate, given that they were all written as the same age as Street at the beginning, he laughed nervously and said that it's the third season, and it's finally time for them to get serious about small details like what grade people are in. In the scrum, he said that those three and Saracen are seniors; somebody asked whether Landry was as well, but he was distracted by another question and didn't answer.)
On writing out Street and Smash after the first few episodes:
The further and further (Street) got away from the team, the more it just seemed natural that the show has to evolve and continue to move on. With these characters leaving, there's going to be an opportunity to bring more people in. I love Scott Porter and Gaius Charles, as actors and as people, but there's also an opportunity that we need to start thinking about. The show needs to evolve and stay fresh.
Both of their storylines are two of the most powerful stories we're doing this year. We're not doing this in an unceremonious way, and we very much want to leave the door open for both of these actors to come back to the show.
Will Mama Smash stick around?
We're going to do everything we can to keep her on the show.
On lessons learned from season two:
What I liked about last season was watching these characters spread out and grow and evolve. What I want to do this season is bring everybody back to the nucleus and have stories more with each other. We have a few really great new characters, but we're really taking care to, first and foremost, make our characters interact with our other regular characters.
There also won't be any murders.
We're going to try to do those stories we do best, those intimate stories about adolescence, relationships, marriage, parenthood. I really think we're going to hit our stride this year. I'm very excited about these stories.
On a quarterback controversy for the Panthers:
We're introducing a new character named JD McCoy, who's a freshman quarterback, and is a phenomenal quarterback. In the first episode of the season, there becomes a controversy over who's going to become the freshman quarterback for the Panthers.
Both of his parents are also in the story. They've actually moved from Dallas. His father's a very successful beer distributor, and they've moved from Dallas for him to play on the Panthers. Not only is it about the son, JD, but about the pressure this very successful father is trying to put on the coach to play his son. That's the kind of story we've always wanted to tell on the show.
On when we'll find out how the previous football season finished up for the Panthers:
We're going to find out in the teaser of the first episode.
On the state of the other teenage romances:
Matt and Julie, we want to very slowly, in baby steps, have them start to be friends again and we'll see how it goes from there.
Tyra, in the intervening eight months, has felt that while she loves Landry, she kind of feels like he's not really the guy. And so it becomes a story about are htey going to be able to be friends and is Landry going to be able to accept that.
So they're over?
Depends on if you ask Tyra or if you ask Landry. They had a conversation, but after the conversation, Tyra's interpretation was 'We broke up,' and Landry's was 'We're taking a break.' So it's going to get pretty tense, especially when she meets this other new character we're introducing a few episodes in: Cash, who's an old friend of Billy Riggins, who's a local rodeo star.
Is Santiago still on the show?
No, but we have a lot of great story for Buddy. One of the things is dealing with this relationship that his daughter has gotten herself into. The other thing is dealing with his new best friend, Principal Taylor, which he has to do on a regular basis as head of the booster club. Tami loves it! Loves every second!
On the Landry/Saracen friendship:
One of my regrets about last season was with that intense secret thing between Landry and Tyra, we lost a little bit of Landry as Matt's buddy, sidekick, friend, and we're going to get that back.
Is Landry still on the team?
On whether the new characters are there to prepare for the possibility of a fourth season of the show where Riggins and the other seniors have graduated:
We're going to introduce new characters slowly, but one or two other people on the team and other students as well. The intention is to hopefully, in a graceful way, set it up so that, as some people leave, new people come in, and we believe that we can do that. And we have the best casting directors on this show, so we're excited.
When will the decision be made on renewal?
It will be after we shoot, and frankly after all those episodes have already aired on DirecTV
So how do you write the 13th episode?
I'm certainly not going to write it as a series finale. I'm going to write it as something that hopefully will have equal shares of things that you feel are satisfied and resolved but also cliffhangers and things that make you wonder what's going to happen now.
We're going to be done with these episodes before Christmas, and they don't air on NBC until February. Our strategy is going to be to try to do great episodes, and hopefully, that will be good enough to bring people back.
Why not continue with the school year from season two?
I think that the football season provides, for me, the spine of the season of TV. It's the engine for the whole year. So if you were to start in the playoffs, and you get to however you get, and they weren't supposed to get very far last year, you get to wherever they get to, you're a few episodes into it, it just doesn't make sense to me to continue the story that way.
But doesn't skipping the non-football part of the school year mean we miss a lot, particularly in terms of the teen romances?
We are talking about, in this year, of having the final football game maybe being the penultimate episode of the season, and then having the next episode be a time cut so we're able to do what you're talking about. We're playing around with that a little.
But to have the majority of the season have be the off-season for football would be too much. Especially since -- I read you guys, and one of the comments about the second season was 'Not enough football,' and we want to correct that this year.