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?