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'FNL': Is it halftime or the fourth quarter?

November 10, 2007 |  1:10 pm

Panther fans, a strike-shortened TV season now threatens our beloved "Friday Night Lights."

Fnl_smash_250 Not to be too doom-and-gloom here, but the forecast is troubling: Six episodes of "FNL" have now aired. According to the Show Tracker TV grid, NBC expects 15 of the 22 episodes ordered to be completed, which means we might already be flirting with the halfway point of Season 2. Of equal concern, if not more, is this: If the Writers Guild of America strike effectively curtails the 2007-08 TV season, does "FNL," a little-show-that-could, have any chance of renewal for a third go-around? Might we have to say goodbye to Coach Taylor, Coach's wife, Riggins, Saracen, et al without a proper group hug?

Hear me, Panther faithful, for I am worried. As if to tweak our coming nostalgia, the latest episode of the show hit some first-season grace notes. (Although why no game? Can we please have a game!)

Brian "Smash" Williams, largely lost in the shuffle of story lines this season, extended an olive branch to Riggins, hoping to get the Panther fullback reinstated on the team. Riggins, in turn, saved the new kid Santiago from a carnival life chasing greased pigs around Buddy Garrity's car lot by teaching him how to play football. Saracen dissed Julie -- even while wearing that goofy fast-food hat -- hooking up with a new girl, while Street, back from Mexico, celebrated his 19th birthday, a milestone that seemed to coincide with his finally closing the door on his football glory days -- and thus any chance of reclaiming the future as he formally dreamed of it. "You can have it all, but you can't have it all at once," Street said, watching himself on highlights at his party. Whose heart didn't bleed, even a little?

OK, and that Landry story line. Now his father's going to be involved in the cover-up too? The dad's been established as so by the books that I didn't, in the flush of the event, exactly buy it.

But that was the old me, the critical me, the one who wasn't wondering whether there truly are only nine episodes left in the life of this show. The new me's as melancholy as that sad, twangy guitar that plays underneath scenes. The new me says, sure, Dad blew up Landry's car to destroy the evidence connecting his boy to a murder -- why not?

For if an abortive end to such a deserving prime-time network drama is really in the cards, who's in the mood to quibble?

-- Paul Brownfield

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