Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dispatch from NBC: 'Friday Night Lights' goes to DirecTV

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.


Anonymous said...

Yikes. A lot of those answers make me pretty nervous. More to the point, I'm not sure I'd heard previously it was only getting 13 episodes. Is that 13 with an option for a back nine? Or just straight up 13 and nothing more? I have a feeling this is it. And not only that, but a lot of these comments, to me, make him seem pretty regretful about a lot of Season 2, to the point where they're dismissing it in many ways (Hello, where in the world is Carmen Santiago?)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Interesting. I had the opposite reaction: because I had so many problems with season two, much of what Katims was saying to repudiate it made me feel better about season three. Specifically, the idea about having the characters all interacting with each other instead of being off in hermetically-sealed individual stories was something I was begging for all of last season.

I'll miss Santiago, but as the only episodes of the season I enjoyed unreservedly came at the very end, I'm okay with the idea of a clean break.

And the 13 episode thing was announced at the upfront. It's 13, no option for more. So either DirecTV decides to do a fourth season, or that's all she wrote.

Anonymous said...

Great Stuff, Alan.

And I'm with you, S3 sounds good and I'm excited. Sounds like Katims is trying to get the show back to form after the disappointing S2 but with some changes along the way as well.

The Lyla/Tim storyline sounds especially intriguing to me.

Booooo to the QB controversy storyline, I live in Wisconsin so I've had enough of that one lately (Thank you, Brett Favre).

Mon-sewer Paul Regret said...

"I would like to think that I would be patient and wait and watch the real version when it was available to you."


I guess he has to say that to make DirectTV happy. But for me, this is one time I'm not even going to be coy about it. Of COURSE I'll watch it any way I can.

Brandon Nowalk said...

I hope Santiago's departure--didn't Buddy adopt him?--is at least explained and not simply forgotten.

If they were going to simply pretend a storyline didn't exist, it should have been the murder, and it should have come way sooner.

Other than that, I too am encouraged by Katims' comments. Some day I'll get over the magically-ambiguous grades of all the main characters.

Anonymous said...

I'm just glad they will have the chance to come back and give the fans what they want one more time, having clearly learned from the past.


What are your plans for blogging this one? Direct TV, or are you waiting for February? Will you get screeners early? Can I have them when you are done?

Anonymous said...

Except for fudging the ages of the characters (unless Riggins was in his 3rd sophomore year in the first season), it sounds like Katims understands what didn't work about season 2 compared with the nearly perfect first season. So, I will remain optimistic.

Anonymous said...

Damn! this interview makes me wish the show was not coming back. There is no way you can have Riggins on the team. I will give them last year and say he was held back a year at some point, but not this year. You mean to tell me Riggins was a sophmore livin on his own bangin moms and being able to buy alcohol all over town. Minka Kelly is smokin hot so Idont really care about her character.

How can Landry go back to normal, no one is ever gonna talk about him killin that guy. Santiago was an ok storyline, but at least it gave us an insight into another player. How can Tammy go from guidance counselor to principle? For a school that size would there not be more qualified people and does she have the credentials.

The creator does not sound like a bright guy and it makes you think they just got lucky in season 1 and should of left it at that. I doubt this arangement is going to work with Direct TV. Most of the hardcore fanbase is on the internet and will download, other loyal viewers have Direct tv and will watch it in the fall, and then your left with an awful rating on NBC even though there are people like me who will turn the show on even though Ive already watched. I hope this guy changes his mind and at least wraps up all the storylines in the finale.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Alan -- I guess when I say it troubled me, here's what I meant: It's more clear than ever that Season Two was just a few notches short of a disaster and really, with only 13 episodes to cobble together a comeback with this whole DirecTV setup, I'm not sure it's possible. And not only that, but I could see this season being a little bit jarring.

I don't particularly care that Santiago will be gone, but to me when you lay out a bunch of stories, you deal with 'em. I like much of what he said with some of the relationships (Julie/Matt, Landry/Tyra). Maybe it's just me thinking too much about the end being near?

One last question: Did you snap that picture yourself? I didn't see any up on the NBC UMV web site yet for FNL.

Anonymous said...

Ah, ignore my question. Found 'em.

David J. Loehr said...

“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."

Is Katims saying that the NBC one is the real version? Of course, it doesn't matter if your tv is on it unless you're in a Nielsen family.

Pamela Jaye said...

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."

well, that seems fair. I *buy* Grey's when it comes out, and I record every rerun. I just recently edited out a commercial for Enchanted from one ep, as it keeps waking me up (as do the promos over the closing credits)
Actually this week i'm working on *which copy of the Grey's eps I have on the DVR is the cleanest, and ditching the 2, or in some cases *3* others*
I guess the writers of Grey's don't have to worry too much about New Media and the 17 day window. It's almost like House - if there's a hole in the schedule at FOX, they stick House in it.

Needless to say, I can almost recite the dialog to many eps.

And speaking of ads - which we kind of were - I hear there's a new AMEX ad with Tina Fey. Has anyone seen it?
(sometimes I keep the commercials and edit out the *shows*)

in any case, glad i'm not a FNL fan, but thanks to Alan, I can tell what show takes place in Dillon (Dylan) for a Jeopardy question.

Have the vampire guy show fans calmed down yet?

Bobman said...

Is Katims saying that the NBC one is the real version? Of course, it doesn't matter if your tv is on it unless you're in a Nielsen family.

As Pamela Jaye kind of says, I think he was talking about seeing the ads rather than boosting the ratings.

Of course, how many of us have DVRs and don't see the majority of the ads anyway? (raises hand)

Anonymous said...

I vote Mama Smash for new guidance counselor!

And while I am an unfailingly honest person in nearly every facet of my life, this deal will drive me to illegal downloading. There is no way in hell I'm waiting til '09 to see these eps if they're available in any form in '08, and an inconveniently placed enormous tree outside my apartment prevents me from getting DirecTV. I will end up buying the DVD, so my viewership will officially count at some point (albeit perhaps too late for the show's survival).

Peter said...

After S2 and the more I read about S3 the more I wish the show had ended after S1. S1 was amazing. It has been all down hill from there. I understand that not every show can be HIMYM with details and continuity but Landry was driving in S1! He is supposed to be smart so I don't buy that he was held back several years.

And Mrs Coach as a principal? While the dynamic might be interesting the whole idea based on what we know about her is silly.

I get the idea that they never expected to be renewed after S1 and are just making it up as they go along for as long as they can.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little disappointed at the decision to drop Santiago too. It's true that he only really got his moment towards the end of Season 2, but it would've been interesting ot follow his continuing struggles in the team, along with his relationship with Buddy. It just seems to suggest they lost interest in the character.

Abbie said...

I just loved this show in the first season, and now I don't think I really care about the third season at all.

Tami as principal? That just makes me angry, because she is not qualified (unless she has a Ph.D/Ed.D that somehow hasn't been mentioned previously) and does not have the credentials for a school that size. It's just another shortcut for a show that used to be refreshingly above shortcuts. Remember the time that Saracen and Landry went to the jewelry store and the little old lady behind the counter was helping them? That is an example of what was so authentic about season 1, and this is a prime example of what is so inauthentic about this show now. It just screams desperation.

I am going to pretend that this show was cancelled after its excellent first season (even though I suffered through season 2), and ignore the rest of this nonsense. It sullies the memory of a great season 1.

Anonymous said...

I'm as willing a suspender of disbelief as you're going to find, but installing Tami as principal just to Create Conflict is pushing even my limits. As I recall, she was going through want ads and suddenly became a guidance counselor, even that was a bit much. . She could have just become the faculty's advocate for academic standards for athletes. (Didn't they make Julie Kotter vic-principal when Gabe Kaplan got tired of waiting for Travolta's applause to die down so he could do his Groucho impersonation? Unfortunate shades of sharks jumped past.)

And if "Tim Riggins" (can't remember his real name) can be a high school student as he seems to be pushing thirty, does it matter what year he's in or how many he's had?

I just hope Tyra goes back to being a smart and original character. The girl who shoves a kid's face into a window during a foodfight, not the girl who gets her boyfriend to dump a body in the ol' crick.

The Engineer said...

I am really happy with the 13 episode season. Cable has it right with the shorter seasons, hopefully at 13 episodes there won't be more than one or two dull mid-season filler shows instead of the usual 6-8.

Unknown said...

Well, season 3 doesn't sound quite as suck as season 2 (I agree with the "after season 1, it's all downhill" comments), but still, not great.

I don't think I am going to feel urgent enough about this show to WANT to cheat and download illegally to watch it before February. I'm watching for completion's sake then, but not because I really expect to like it any more. Sigh.

Unknown said...

Is Katims saying that the NBC one is the real version?

My read is that watching a downloaded copy in a tiny window, sitting by yourself arm's length in front of your computer is "fake"; while watching on the 50" flat screen on the couch with the family is "real". (One can of course zoom the content to fill the screen, or if you can download a gigabyte or two to get the episode in HD, it will look just as good. And some can even watch the computer on the TV. But in either case most people can't, don't, or won't.)

Anonymous said...

What is funny about this is that it sounds like the suggestions many of us made to just pretend season 2 never happened.