Wednesday, October 28, 2009

'Friday Night Lights' season four review - Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review "Friday Night Lights'" fourth season, which is as terrific as I expected it to be, based on the clever ending of season three. After the jump, I'm going to briefly explain how I intend to cover the show this season.

Because the show is going to air on DirecTV's 101 Network now, and not on NBC until sometime midway through 2010 (at the moment, the plan isn't to air it until summer, and it therefore won't be legally available online anywhere until then), I'm going to take the same approach that I did last season, which is as follows:

1)Because the episodes are, in fact, airing now, in a form where at least some of the audience (myself included) can see them, I'm going to review them as they air, rather than writing reviews months from now, colored by my impressions of the season as a whole.

2)I'm going to post these reviews as they air, usually (but not always) right after the episode finishes airing. Because this version of the blog publishes a full RSS feed, last year I initially published the after-the-jump part of the review as the first comment, which RSS won't publish. That proved to be something of a hassle (among other things, I had to manually publish each post so I'd be there to publish the comment, rather than just doing it in advance, and that meant I sometimes didn't get to post until sometime the following day), so unless anyone strenuously objects, I'm not going to do that this time. (The way I figure it, if you follow me via RSS or XML, there are going to be times where I have posts for shows you haven't gotten to yet, and if you want to stay spoiler-free, you've figured out ways to do so.)

3)Sometime close to the premiere on NBC, I'm going to pull all the reviews off the blog - this time with plenty of advance warning for anybody who wants to save them for some reason - and re-publish them one at a time as NBC shows them. I'll also make sure and check the comments first to be sure nobody put a spoiler for, say, episode 7 in the post for episode 2. (And DirecTV viewers, please try to be courteous of the NBC viewers in that way, okay?)

So my review of the premiere, "East of Dillon," should go live tonight at 10, and then it'll go live again months from now when NBC airs it. That way, all the comments stay in one place, even if some will be separated by a long stretch of time.

29 comments:

Mandy said...

Sounds like a great plan, especially since I'm one of the lucky ones who gets to watch along with you this time around. Can't wait!

Art McGregor said...

Just made my day with news of Wallace from "The Wire" being a new regular on this show.

Don't have DirecTV but will use various other "methods" to watch the show this week. ;)

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for this to come back on. I know nothing about American Football (I'm from London, England) but this is quite simply the best ensemble drama currently airing

Nicole said...

I can't believe the premiere is today!! I am in Canada and don't have access to Direct TV, but I can't wait until summer. I'll also be using various "methods" to watch now like I did last season. However, I also watched it and/or dvr'd it when it aired on NBC. I want to promote the ratings, but I just can't wait that long. If the delay was a few weeks, I could do it, but not half a year.

As others have said, this is absolutely the best drama on television right now. Clear eyes, full hearts...

Tania said...

I love this show, and it breaks my heart that i don't have DirectTV and won't be able to watch it until the summer. Really, it completely breaks my heart.

Andrew L said...

Alan, what do you think the chances are of the show coming back to NBC earlier, especially with the hole left by Southland? Obviously NBC is not going to air the show until the entire season has aired on DirectTV, but might they bring one of their Spring shows to fall and ad FNL to the spring? Does the idea of airing it in the summer suggest that NBC has no interest in trying to build a following for the show since Direct TV has guarenteed them that the show won't cost much for them to produce?

Alan Sepinwall said...

The season 3 ratings were too low for NBC to want to air seasons 4 or 5 in-season if they can help it. Right now, they view it as low-cost (since DirecTV pays for so much) summer programming, and also something they can make money on with DVDs and legal downloads. Given the Leno situation and the accompanying lack of primetime real estate, things would have to get really, really desperate for FNL to show up sooner.

Stephen said...

Great that it's back and seemingly on top form. The only option for me is torrenting since I'm in the UK - only the first season is out on DVD - the other two seasons and future seasons don't seem likely to be released over here.

So in this instance I feel fully justified getting FNL through unsavoury channels - as soon as they release them I'll buy them. Though to be honest if the show is having a hard time finding an audience in the US it will be nigh-on impossible here, where American football is rarely watched or even understood.

bsangs said...

Going to be strange rooting against Dillon, but if that douche McCoy is running the show, then it'll be really easy.

And let me just say that The 101 Network on Directv is fabulous. There is A LOT of wonderful programming on that channel. Including Deadwood repeats in all its HD glory. The 101 is also where I discovered "Party Down" - which is only one of the funniest shows on TV. (Actually, Alan helped me get on board the "Party Down" ship also.)

Not to sound like a Directv commercial, but between The 101 and NFL Sunday Ticket, I can never seem myself leaving for cable or FIOS.

J said...

Here's a general question for the FNL-loving population: I recently watched the first season, which I had mixed-to-positive feelings about. I remember seeing frustration from everyone over the second season, so I figured I'd better not proceed. But...

1. Does it ever get better than the first season?

2. If so, and if a big chunk of the second season is as bad as everyone seemed to be saying at the time, at what point should I give it another go? Specific episode, please.

GracieGirl said...

Alan, a friend of mine who's also a fan of the show is under the impression that, though DirectTV will continue airing the show, NBC will no longer run it. Have you heard any rumors to this effect? I'm not super familiar with the specs of the deal between DirectTV and NBC, so I'm unsure if NBC is allowed to drop it while DTV continues to carry it.

Sorry if that's confusing!
Thanks!

Sharon said...

Two things that don't make sense to me about the new setup:

1. We've seen Dillon as an economically depressed nowheresville all along -- how much worse could East Dillon be? And how big is Dillon supposed to be anyway?

2. We've been told all along that small-town Texas is football obsessed. It's easy to believe that some programs would be better funded than others, but not so easy to believe that an entire high school would have no decent football players at all, as we're led to believe that young Dillon boys do nothing but play football throughout their childhoods. Hard to believe that even the less fortunate half of a generally less fortunate town systematically doesn't enjoy football.

Anonymous said...

J - I would say give the whole second season a spin. While it had several storylines that were brutally bad and seemed the result of network meddling, there were still parts of every episode that felt like season 1, those spine-tingling moments that remind you why you loved the show in the first place.

The third season, I thought, had stuff as good or in some cases better than the first.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sharon, the gerrymandering subplot from late in season three explains both those problems. Buddy, Joe McCoy and the other boosters made sure that all the legit football prospects - i.e., the ones who had been raised on Pop Warner, who had been trained by the machine all these years for the sole purpose of being Dillon Panthers - would still be in the Dillon district. All the non-prospects - many of them from the even more economically-disadvantaged part of town (and Dillon's not supposed to be as dirt-poor as the town from the FNL book/movie, as witnessed by people like Buddy and the McCoys) got shunted off to East Dillon.

Alan Sepinwall said...

J, I'd say the first season is the show at its best. If you didn't love it there, you're not gonna. But if you want to give it another try, skip over season two altogether (which did have some brilliant moments, but surrounded by too much silliness) and start with season three.

Andrew L said...

From Alan's blog about the second episode of FNLs first season "I've already resigned myself to the show's failure, based on the miniscule premiere ratings, but I'm going to enjoy this while I can." Good to be wrong, ain't it? Every episode of this show feels like a little miracle.

Peter said...

What is sounds like is they are turning the Panthers into the bad guys after we have cheered them on for the past 3 season. A lesser show would be afraid to pull the trigger on such a fundamental aspect of a series.

Eileen said...

Alan, are the episodes shown on Direct TV going to be longer than the ones shown later on NBC (as was done last season)?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dunno, Eileen. The premiere was about 42 minutes, which isn't significantly longer than a network show. But I didn't bother clocking the second one.

mj said...

Alan - I searched your blog and found a posting with upfront schedules showing that Southland was programmed for 9pm Fridays on NBC in Spring 2010. Given that NBC has recently cancelled Southland, do you know what is replacing it? (FNL ran at 9pm Fridays on NBC last Spring, starting in January)

Anonymous said...

Getting psyched up for Dillon: The Poor Side of Town.
Waiting for that FNL cast acting high.
And let's not forget the wonderful soundtrack by Explosions In The Sky.

Oh and Coach and Mrs. Coach, best marriage on television.

Puff

fgmerchant said...

So psyched for the episode! It's been on my calendar for weeks! Even more excited now that I know Wallace is going to be on! GAAAAH!!!!

Larry said...

Bummed to read about JD McCoy turning into a over-the-top obnoxious jerk. I liked how they handled his character last season. I also have been watching Clubhouse on Universal HD. My wife realized that he was in that show right away.

John Tegan said...

I got DirecTV solely for FNL but have been fretting about the extra cost since I also kept cable.

That just ended a few minutes ago. I want to be articulate, but all I can really say is wow. What a terrific episode, following up on last year's perfect ending.

Go Big Red!

John Tegan said...

I got DirecTV solely for FNL but have been fretting about the extra cost since I also kept cable.

That just ended a few minutes ago. I want to be articulate, but all I can really say is wow. What a terrific episode, following up on last year's perfect ending.

Go Big Red!

Alan Sepinwall said...

You can read about/discuss the premiere here.

Troy Olson said...

Decided to start watching this finally, but I was wondering -- I DVR'ed last night's episode, but before I watch it, should I go back and catch the first three seasons immediately, or is this episode a good jumping on point?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Troy, it's certainly not a bad jumping-on point. The exit of a bunch of characters last year and the introduction of a new school and new students makes this about as good a time to begin as you can get outside of beginning at the beginning.

That said, you're going to miss some stuff about the characters and the relationships, and the first season is so damn good that I think it's where anyone interested in the show should ideally start, if they have the time. (Season two, again, is largely skippable, and season three is up and down, but mostly up, and pretty short.)

J said...

Thanks Alan, Anonymous. Maybe I'll give the start of the third season a whirl at some point.