Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The plan for 'Friday Night Lights'

Okay, after a lot of thought, and reading the comments here, and talking to other critics, I've decided that the only proper way to deal with the "Friday Night Lights" dilemma is to review the episodes as they air on DirecTV, rather than waiting to comment when the NBC run begins in February (or later; you never know with a Ben Silverman-run network, do you?).

After the jump, I'll explain why I decided to go this way, how this will work, and offer up a brief, 100% spoiler-free review of the third season premiere.

Like I said, I gave this a lot of thought, and talked to a lot of people, and what it came down to was this: these episodes will be airing, legally, in the United States. They'll be out there. This is not a situation like when a "Doctor Who" season would air in England months before it showed up on Sci Fi; this is here. I have some readers who have DirecTV, and many who don't, but to not write about a show I've cared so much about, and written so much about in the past, until it's available to 100 percent of the audience, doesn't feel right. It's like when even mainstream movies used to begin life in limited release before gradually rolling out to every part of the country; newspapers and magazines didn't wait until they were playing in Peoria to write about them, but often did it as soon as they premiered in New York and LA.

And even more importantly, it's not like my reviewing them now will in any way prevent non-DirecTV people from reading these posts once the episodes have aired on NBC, whenever that is. You'll still be getting my thoughts about the episodes as they aired originally, and considering the complaints I sometimes get where I watch a whole season of a show in advance before writing about it (say, "The Wire" season four), you'll probably be happier with the way these are written.

Now, I've seen the season premiere in advance, and I'm hoping to get as many other episodes as I can from DirecTV, but I may not get them all from them, or in advance, and I may have to call on some of my friends and neighbors with satellite dishes to help me out in weeks when I don't have a screener. The episodes are going to debut every Wednesday night at 9 Eastern; in an ideal world, I'd have a review ready to go by Wednesday night at 10, but I suspect the schedule is going to be a lot more unpredictable than that. As with so many other shows in my week, I'll post about each episode when I post about it.

As always, the posts will be spoiler-protected. Nobody looking at the main page is going to see anything that gives away anything. At the moment, I don't even have any season three photos, and the DVDs are watermarked in such a way that make doing screencaps pointless, so I may run them without art altogether. Because this version of the blog publishes each post in its entirety on its RSS feed, I'm actually going to make the bulk of my review into the first comment of the post; that way, if you're skimming the blog on Google Reader or whatever, you won't accidentally find out that Landry has killed again. (Whoops... I mean...) As the NJ.com version of the blog only publishes the first, pre-spoiler lines, the reviews will be right there in the body of each post; if you prefer the way that looks, you can always go read them over there and then comment at either location.

Whenever the episodes actually wind up airing on NBC, I will repost each review as the episodes air. I'm open to suggestions from the non-DirecTV viewers about whether you would rather I just bump up the old posts, complete with all the comments, or whether you'd rather I go with duplicate posts, the way I did when AMC re-aired "Mad Men" earlier this year, so you can start fresh. I suppose it may depend on whether people go back to comment on earlier episodes based on what they know from later ones; if there's a lot of that, I'll have to either delete those comments or start from scratch.

Now, as for my opinion of the season premiere itself, I liked it. A lot. There weren't any mythical, spine-chilling moments like you would get from time to time during season one, but other than that, it felt very much like a return to those good old days. Characters acted like themselves, interacted with each other rather than being lost in their own subplots, and the football team was front and center, as it should be.

I'm looking forward to watching, and writing about, the season, and I hope you enjoy what I have to say, whenever it is you're able to read it. Sound good?

14 comments:

Jefferson said...

sweet jebus! good news all around. will be watching (and reading) right along with you...

David said...

The first episode of Chuck is available already on Hulu, maybe drop a post early on that one too?

Alan Sepinwall said...

The first episode of Chuck is available already on Hulu, maybe drop a post early on that one too?

No, because that'll be readily available to everyone within a few days (as opposed to months), and we can all wait until then. It's the same approach I took with the last two seasons of The Wire; I reviewed the episodes after they aired, not after they were made available On Demand a week earlier than the airdate.

memphish said...

The only spoiler problem is that if you are subscribed to your RSS feed you get the entire post, not just your first page. But I feel confident I can avoid reading it. In fact post S2 I'm not sure I want to keep watching this show. S2 did not work for me. It felt like it reset several times through the course of the season.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The only spoiler problem is that if you are subscribed to your RSS feed you get the entire post, not just your first page.

Which is why, as I said above, I'm going to place the actual review as the first comment (comments aren't part of the RSS feed) and not in the body of the post.

Hadleigh said...

I hate to bust into this, but I can't find your email Alan and wanted to ask you a question. What does The Bunk drink. I know they drink Jameson all the time, but I remember a line that goes something like "Jimmy on the Jamie and Bunk on the____" when McNulty is sober and won't go out for a taste with The Bunk.

It has been killing me! Your help would be much appreciated. I bow to your knowledge.

Chris Littmann said...

Woohoo! Now I won't be alone when posting reviews. I was gushing with praise and ended up writing about 1,300 words on that premiere. Very interested to hear your thoughts. Also, have you had a chance to speak with Peter Berg? I know you often speak to various showrunners for premieres.

Anonymous said...

Is there a way to turn off commenting after 7 days so that you could just reuse the reviews come February without the risk of spoilers in the comments?

J-bone said...

Hadleigh, I'm pretty sure Bunk's on the Glenlivet.

mj said...

Alan - I have to admit that at times during your season 2 FNL reviews I wondered about your incentives to maximize the number of comments at your blog (and let's face it, if you ever did rankings of the shows that attracted the most commenters to your blog, then Lost, FNL Season 2, HIMYM, 30 Rock, Mad Men, and The Office are your flagship shows). But it is also true that your reviews are thoughtful, insightful, and provocative in a way that I've not seen *anywhere* else. If your reviews weren't available to accompany first-airings of FNL 3, the experience just wouldn't be the same. Thank you for taking the time to care and write about FNL.

zodin2008 said...

As someone who does NOT have DirecTV (like most of America) I respect your decision. It's your TV column and you should cover the show as you see fit. Since it's actually airing here in the United States on some Televisions, this seems like the fair and right decision.

I am one of those old fashioned, 30-something TV fans who can patiently avoid that particular column of yours when you post and simply wait for FNL to air on NBC in January. It is what it is.

I don't really understand the benefit of the DirecTV deal for the show, but I'm just happy that by January, I get 24, Lost, Dollhouse, Scrubs and Friday Night Lights ALL added to my schedule.

I was never a "Wire" watcher until I started Netflixing the DVDs in the Summer, so when I was in the midst of either season 3 or 4 and season 5 arrived on HBO, I simply avoided those columns of yours because I was not caught up. Hey, it was my own fault for waiting so long to delve into one of the best shows of all time.

Matt said...

Question--are episodes going up legally (e.g., on Hulu) once the episodes air on DTV101, or will they not go up on Hulu till after they air on NBC proper?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Matt, "exclusive" means exclusive in this case. No Hulu, no iTunes, no nothing; DirecTV or nothing.

Evie Garland said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your plan! I watched seasons 1 and 2 on hulu and went back and read your old posts as I watched (which, a bit of constructive criticism--would have been easier to find if you had a list of labels on the side of the blog).
I do think you're forgetting an important point, too. If your reviews get anyone who has Direct TV to start watching, so much the better for the show! I don't like not being able to see it on network until Feb, but I'd rather that than nothing...we need Direct TV to keep it on!