Category: Friday Night Lights

Emmy voters did right by comedies and dramas, but need a reality check

Tyjulie  There's a lot to love about Thursday morning's Emmy nominations.

As expected, "Glee" and "Modern Family" both were nominated for outstanding comedy and did incredibly well across the board.

"Glee" earned 19 nominations in total, including lead actor nominations for Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele and supporting actor nominations for Jane Lynch and Chris Colfer.

"Modern Family" grabbed 14 in total, including supporting actor nominations for five of its biggest players, Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet. (No love for Ed O'Neil or our personal favorite, Rico Rodriguez).

But there are other noteworthy things. For his long seven months hosting "The Tonight Show" on NBC, Conan O' Brien was nominated. For taking back "The Tonight Show," Jay Leno was not.

"Lost" returned to the drama category, where it definitely belongs. Matthew Fox received his first Emmy nomination for his impressive work in the series' final season. Emmy regulars Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson deservedly were nominated again.

Big on our TV radar: Finally! Recognition for two of the best actors in drama today: Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. Their portrayal of a realistic, loving, and hard-earned marriage on "Friday Night Lights" is touching and compelling and we have no idea why the voters have ignored them over the years. Their work in the fourth season of the show was outstanding and the only thing we're going to complain about is that the show itself was not nominated.

Margulies CBS broke into the drama category with a superb series, "The Good Wife." Julianna Margulies and her sidekick, Archie Panjabi, were recognized and it makes us smile.

We are thrilled that Jim Parsons has been recognized for the incredible job that he does playing Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory," but it's really hard to believe that the series was overlooked for outstanding comedy. It had a brilliant season. Shame on you voters!

By that same token, we are very excited that "Breaking Bad" was nominated and that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul (the fly episode!) got their dues again, but Anna Gunn is one of the finest actresses on TV right now and there seems to be room for her in the "supporting actress" category. (And what about Dean Norris?)

No surprises with "Dexter" and that's a good thing. Nominated for outstanding drama, it also earned nominations for Michael C. Hall and guest star John Lithgow, who seems unbeatable to us. We are still reeling from the season finale of that show, and it aired in December!

We did notice that FX's new drama, "Justified" was completely overlooked and that's a shame. It's well-written and Timothy Olyphant is phenomenal in the lead role. Walton Goggins ruled in his guest role. We know the dramatic field is crowded, but we would have made a little room for them.

We end with the reality category, which deeply disappoints us.

How on Earth could "Survivor" not have been nominated? Anyone who watches the show will tell you that "Heroes vs. Villains" was incredible television. Certainly more riveting than "Dancing With The Stars" or "Project Runway." We need a recount!

And let's not even talk about "RuPaul's Drag Race" because we might lose our tempers. A competition show that's got humor and heart and interesting challenges that require creativity. Seriously, voters?

And no nominations for Cat Deeley or RuPaul as reality TV host? Ugh.

OK, we'll try to return to our happy thoughts about "Glee" now.

--Maria Elena Fernandez

Photos: From top, Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen of "Modern Family" (Danny Feld/ABC); Julianna Margulies on "The Good Wife" (David M. Russell/CBS)

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Pilot Season: First look at CBS' 2010 comedy pilots

Editor's note: Over the next several days, Show Tracker will cover the pilots under contention for the fall season at the five broadcast networks in the following order: ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC. (Yes, it's alphabetical).


The big news in CBS' comedy development got out last week when the first TV show to be developed from a Twitter page was announced. "Stuff My Dad Says" indeed sounds very promising, with the very funny William Shatner (pictured above) as the stuff-talking dad. Based on Justin Halpern's popular Twitter feed, it will be executive produced by David Kohan and Max Mutchnik ("Will & Grace").  Halpern is co-writing the script with Patrick Shumacker. No one has been cast. It is one of seven sitcoms CBS has ordered.

The network also ordered one multi-camera, single-camera hybrid from the "How I Met Your Mother" producing team, which has been making fans laugh in that style for five seasons. Carter Bays, Craig Thomas, Kourtney Kang and Joe Kelley, all from "How I Met Your Mother," have written a pilot centered around an unmarried couple and their friends in Pittsburgh. Sounds like "How I Met Your Mother" when Lilly and Marshall were single in a less glamorous city, doesn't it? Joe Manganiello ("True Blood" and "One Tree Hill") is the only cast member, and veteran comedy director Pamela Fryman is directing it.

The other nontraditional comedy is by Ant Hines ("Da Ali G Show") about a British lowlife who moves to Los Angeles to reconnect with his teen-celebrity daughter. The teen celebrity in question has not been cast, but British actor Paul Kaye plays the lowlife and Nicollete Sheridan ("Desperate Housewives") is her mother. Wayne Knight ("Jurassic Park") was cast Monday and the project is untitled at the moment.

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Pilot season: First look at ABC's 2010 drama pilots

Editor's note: Over the next several days, Show Tracker will cover the pilots under contention for the fall season at the five broadcast networks, in the following order: ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC. (Yes, it's alphabetical).

It definitely seems that ABC is banking on (hoping?) that "Flash Forward" or "V" (probably the latter) winds up as its next mind-boggling pop-culture sensation a la "Lost," because none of the 11 dramas the network has in development is marked by any of the qualities that made the island mystery an international hit.

In fact, ABC's crop of dramas largely signals a return to the basics, with four crime shows, two legal shows and one medical show among the 11 dramas under consideration for the new fall season. Where do the other four dramas fit?

Let's begin with those:

Getprev-2 "No Ordinary Family" is basically "The Incredibles" in live action with (pictured left) Michael Chiklis ("The Shield") as the lead and the writing-producing team of Greg Berlanti and Jon Harmon Feldman. Do we need to know anything else? I'm in.

"Cutthroat" stars Roselyn Sanchez ("Without A Trace") in a dramedy about an ambitious single mother who finds that running her own international drug cartel is perfect training for navigating the "cutthroat" -- get it? -- world of Beverly Hills high society. So, it's like Nancy Botwin goes "90210." Hmm. I don't know. But wait! It might be worth noting that "Dollhouse" executive producers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters are the writer-producers. That's something.

"Edgar Floats" centers on a police psychologist who, looking for more money and some excitement, becomes a bounty hunter at a company run by his ex-wife and her dad. Although he has none of the physical skills of a traditional bounty hunter, he has a special talent for getting people to talk. I wonder if this guy will like fruit and have red hair. The writer is Rand Ravich of "Life," and his partner, Far Shariat, is producing it. No one has been cast, but isn't Damian Lewis available?

"Generation Y" is a documentary-style dramedy that follows a group of high school classmates, tracking their paths over the last 10 years and the events that helped shape their lives. Why does this sound so familiar? Oh, yes, because Fox tried this in 2005 with "Reunion," which chronicled 20 years in the lives of a group of six high school friends, one of whom had been murdered. The ABC pilot was written by Noah Hawley ("Bones" and "The Unusuals"). So far, the only two cast members are Michael Stahl David ("Cloverfield") and Kier O'Donnell ("Wedding Crashers") and it's shooting in Austin, Texas.

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'Friday Night Lights': Ten reasons why Season 4 is the series' best

Note: This post contains spoilers. 

It isn't all that difficult to dream up sports-related metaphors for life. There are plenty of situations in which one can strike out, fumble or go for the end zone. "Friday Night Lights," traditionally, avoids such cliches in its dialogue. 

Yet in tonight's Season 4 finale, which airs on DirecTV's 101 Network (the fourth season will air beginning in April on NBC), there is one scene on the football field that can quickly and aptly summarize the mindset of the small-town drama. Jesse Plemons' Landry Clarke, an academic stud and a football misfit, is called upon to attempt a 46-yard field goal. Daunted by the possibility, Clarke tells Kyle Chandler's Coach Eric Taylor that he's not the man for the job.

"It could be worse, son," Taylor tells him. "It could be 47 yards." 

Backs were against the wall, jobs were in jeopardy, crimes were covered up, and young love came of age. The fourth season of "Friday Night Lights" had its share of obstacles and captured an often desperate, recession-stricken town divided by race and class, and still clinging to its religious morals. There's high drama, as jail time was faced and guns were stared down, and it was all presented with a sort of hardscrabble, roll-up-your sleeves, fight-or-die mentality. 

Things, after all, could always be worse. Coach Taylor, always at the center of the show, started Season 4 at rock bottom. No longer heading the hot-shot Dillon High Panthers, Taylor was coaching at East Dillon, a rundown school on the wrong side of the tracks. His wife remained principal of Dillon High but starts the season finale as the center of a town abortion debate. With a mob of angry parents demanding she step down, she's sliding toward the end of the rope herself. 

"You're gonna get through this," Eric tells her. "Am I? Should I?" she retorts.

All the tension, as it has always been, is loosely connected via the fictional town's obsession with high school football. Perhaps more so than ever, "Friday Night Lights" in its fourth season captured the scope, diversity and challenges of small-town life. Even at its most personal, issues were shaped by the community, and the mission the show started with its pilot -- to realistically portray a down-on-its-luck town -- was fully realized.

Here are 10 reasons why the fourth season of "Friday Night Lights" was its best.

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'Friday Night Lights' Season 4, Episode 6: 'What else do you want?'


It probably wouldn't be fair to ever label "Friday Night Lights" a coming-of-age drama. Young or old, no one ever truly stops learning and growing, and the characters that inhabit the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, may graduate, get older, leave town or change jobs, but "Friday Night Lights" has a way of keeping everything in perspective. 

One week after one of the strongest, most emotional episodes in the four seasons of "Friday Night Lights" (Show Tracker had to skip it due to Grammy duty), "Friday Night Lights" said goodbye to another regular in Zach Gilford's Matt Saracen, and also gave a proper send-off to Minka Kelly's Lyla Garrity. But "Friday Night Lights" didn't dwell or sensationalize either, letting them become part of a larger fabric -- the series' continued realistic look at a small, football-obsessed town, one that was in a recession long before a national economic collapse. 

Saracen never really belonged in Dillon. He was ordinary, and that made him something of an oddity. A regular guy dealing with hardship after hardship, Saracen took it all in stride. Saracen was reserved -- perhaps repressed is a better word -- and though he become a brief football hero, there was always something slightly tragic about his dalliances with football. 

For some in Dillon, football is the only way out. For others, it's a crutch. But Saracen never really needed the sport. If anything, early on in Seasons 1 and 2, it risked serving as a distraction for the character, a potential stumbling block on his path out of Dillon and onto bigger and better things. 

When writers had him temporarily delay admittance to the Art Institute of Chicago, it may have been a win for fans of the series, but it didn't ring entirely true. As one of the few characters who always understood that there was life beyond Dillon, Saracen always seemed a strong enough character to bully through whatever doubts he may be having about heading to college. That's why it was utterly heartbreaking to see him fighting back the frustration week after week as a pizza delivery boy.

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Zach Gilford says goodbye to 'Friday Night Lights' -- for now

A few weeks ago, Zach Gilford was in Los Angeles watching "Friday Night Lights" with his girlfriend. No longer with the cast and crew of the series in Austin, Texas, Gilford reacted to a powerful final moment in the show. After a speech from Kyle Chandler's Coach Eric Taylor, Gilford swore.

Recalls Gilford, "I literally said to my girlfriend: ‘This is such a good show. I’m [angry] to be leaving.’ It makes sense for my character, but it’s so quality, and it’s so fun to work on."

Gilford's Matt Saracen, the everyman hero of "Friday Night Lights," will make his exit from the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, on tonight's episode of the series. But those who go through withdrawal won't have to wait too long, as Saracen makes a brief appearance in two more episodes this season, which is airing Wednesday nights on DirecTV's 101 Network and will debut in 2010 on NBC. 

Since making the jump to DirecTV last year, "Friday Night Lights" has said goodbye to a number of favorites. Characters such as Brian "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles) and Jason Street (Scott Porter) earned grand farewells in Season 3, and Saracen has received a pair of showcase episodes this year. In a heart-wrenching episode last week, Saracen came to grips with the death of his father, who traded family for the military, and returned to Dillon as a brutally mauled corpse. 

It presented some acting challenges, discussed below, for Gilford, who's Saracen has stood out in the depressed, football-obsessed town for his sheer ordinariness -- a hard-working good guy who isn't so sure about spending his life in the same town. Gilford's character is also one who's learned to repress his emotions, and Saracen has a breakthrough tonight, realizing that putting college on hold may not have been the brightest of ideas. He bolts Austin without a proper on-screen goodbye to his best friend, Jesse Plemons' Landry.

Before heading back to Texas to film this season's finale, Gilford spoke to Show Tracker, and taught us what it means to "'FNL' it."  

Any sense of whether or not Matt will make an appearance in Season 5?

You know, I have no idea. We don’t get scripts until the last minute. I had three or four episodes off, and then I flew down [to Austin]. By the time I got there, I still hadn’t seen the script. I was supposed to work the next day, and I was like, "Does anyone mind e-mailing me?" I don’t even have any idea what I’m doing when I go down next week. 

Let's talk about last week's episode. One of the scenes that had all the fans talking was the moment you took a peek into your father's casket. There's no dialogue, but there's a painful, horrific expression on your face that get the message across. What kind of instructions were you given for that?

Allison Liddi-Brown directed that episode, and she’s directed five or six episodes. She always gets my big episodes, going back to Season 1. Her and I have had a good relationship, and our first assistant director was amazing too. He called me as soon as he got the script. He had a preliminary script and we hadn’t seen them yet. He said, "Look, this is going to be heavy for you."

We shot that scene in a real funeral home. Alison said, "Just remember, when you walk in here, it smells like death. There are dead bodies in that refrigerator." You’re in that place where you’re gung-ho to go see it, and then you get there and it’s a little more than you bargained for. They asked me if I wanted someone to lay in the casket. I said no to any fake, silly stuff. I just wanted to do my own thing and see what happened. I was happy with it. We did two, maybe three takes. 

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Stephanie Hunt, the rock 'n' roll newcomer on ‘Friday Night Lights’

Currently recording with members of the Black Angels, Hunt is on track to break out of a bit role on "Friday Night Lights" -- if she’s willing to leave the Austin, Texas, music scene behind. 

While on what was intended as a temporary break from the University of Texas at Austin, Stephanie Hunt auditioned for football-centered small-town drama “Friday Night Lights.” At the time, this Longhorn was a bit of a Hollywood long shot.

After completing one year of college as a journalism major, Hunt asked for a semester off, suddenly having the urge to pursue acting. The death of a close friend, Hunt said, prompted the academic leave and “inspired a whole bunch of self-reflection."

Within one week of pulling out of UT, and with no acting resume to speak of, a connected acquaintance tipped Hunt off to the opening on "Friday Night Lights," which shoots in Austin.

The role came with requirements. The character needed to know how to play the bass guitar, an instrument Hunt, a trained violinist, had only fiddled with for a couple of months. Auditioners would also have to perform a rock song. Hunt opted to risk writing her own tune — a song she composed only minutes before facing casting directors.

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'Friday Night Lights': Season 4, Episode 4: 'I need you to not be weird about it'

Teegarden__ “Oh, I’m not your type?”  

The line was delivered by Aimee Teegarden’s Julie Taylor, pictured, recoiling from being rejected by her lesbian pal Devin. It came seconds after she recoiled at the thought that Devin may be hitting on her. Emotions swing quickly in a small town.

Four episodes into its fourth season, "Friday Night Lights" continues to barrel helmet-first into big-picture issues, covering topics of gender, race and death Wednesday night. This season is unfolding as a sort of resetting of the series. A town divided after a redistricting, technicalities such as where an entire side of the city suddenly materialized from, or when Stephanie Hunt's Devin and Julie became close, are glossed over.

And for the better. "Friday Night Lights" is at its best when it remembers its mission is to convey the drama of a small town and not fret over meticulous plot details. Most of those reading daily recaps on blogs such as this likely fell in love with "Friday Night Lights" for its ability to tackle matters rarely seen on television -- say the second season's focus on college recruitment -- and such difficult storylines are where "Friday Night Lights" is excelling in its fourth season. 

After arriving for a bit part last season, it’s great to see Hunt’s Devin return. She's still equal parts cool, confident and shy, and any episode that offers a further exploration of her character is a worthy one (look for a profile of Hunt to launch later this  morning on Show Tracker).

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'Friday Night Lights': Season 4, Episode 3: 'I'm not a Panther anymore'


Sometimes even the small victories aren't victories.

The fourth season of "Friday Night Lights" continues to explore a sense of desperation, throwing its characters into unfamiliar and uncomfortable terrain. But it's doing so to great dramatic effect. Kyle Chandler's Eric Taylor has been tested before, but writers and producers are putting him through the wringer and adding a deeper dynamic to Eric's marriage to Connie Britton's Tami.

On opposite sides of a town redistricting, the drama related to Tami remaining the principal of Dillon High and Eric becoming the coach at East Dillon High continues to cause more tension. Smartly, however, writers and producers have a found a way to dig beneath the surface and create some focused, recession-timed subplots.

After being told by the principal of East Dillon that he wasn't supposed "to even be here," Eric has a new revelation. He was just removed from his position at Dillon High and offered a lesser gig; he's become the town joke, running a football team at a school that may or may not even care to have one. Having his team of ruffians burn their old East Dillon uniforms was a nice symbolic moment in Episode 2, but it inspires a financial crisis in Episode 3. 

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'Friday Night Lights': Season 4, Episode 2: 'You've got to find your inner pirate'

There have been plenty of desperate scenarios on "Friday Night Lights" over its first three seasons. Racial tensions, a paralyzing injury, a self-defense murder, questionable college recruiters, a bitter divorce and an unjust firing, to name a few. 

Husband and wife squabbles seem rather minor, in comparison. Yet when Kyle Chandler's Eric Taylor and Connie Britton's Tami Taylor argue, the whole balance of the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, seems off. The heart, the soul and the two constants over each of "Friday Night Lights'" three-plus seasons, there's a sudden and uncomfortable tension when Tami demands that Eric not his raise his voice to her midway through the fourth season's second episode.

Perhaps it's the documentary-style filmmaking that pervades "Friday Night Lights" that brings an uneasy intimacy to the scene. The off-center camera angles, and the close-ups of the Taylors feuding in the kitchen, all work to make the viewer feel as if he or she is invading the couple's space. Or perhaps it's simply the talents of Chandler and Britton, who turn the language of the script into one less about love and more about respect, capturing a couple that's constantly working at their relationship.

Be it the 9-5 or the family dinner table, nothing in "Friday Night Lights" is accomplished without a little elbow grease. Indeed, if things looked bleak at the end of Episode 1, with the East Dillon Lions getting walloped and Joe McCoy (D.W. Moffett) firmly in charge of the Dillon Panthers -- and perhaps even the town -- it was nothing compared to the glued-to-the-couch drama of unrest in the Taylor household.

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'Friday Night Lights,' Season 4, Episode 1: 'So what’s it like being the guy who used to be Tim Riggins?'


High school tales and coming-of-age stories typically have some sort of resolution. Be it college, a new job opportunity, a wedding or just a dance with a crush, it’s par for the course that a sense of optimism will color the world that will be explored off-screen.

The fourth season of “Friday Night Lights” is what happens when everyone wakes up, and idealism once again becomes a daily fight. “Friday Night Lights” returned to DirecTV tonight as something of a new show, complete with a host of fresh faces and plenty of old ones in refreshingly unfamiliar terrain.

Thanks to a clever plotline that involved a redistricting of the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, “Friday Night Lights,” in many ways, is back to square one. Fired, unfairly, from his job coaching the Dillon High Panthers, Kyle Chandler’s Eric Taylor is now two seasons removed from a college gig in Austin. Taylor is starting over, heading a team of unfit and unruly kids at the lower-class and under-funded East Dillon High -- some of whom spend more time running from the law than outgunning opponents.

“It’s rough,” jokes senior Landy Clarke (Jesse Plemons) of his move to East Dillon. “I’m constantly ready. I’ve got a piece on me at all times.”

Perhaps more so than ever, the plot shifts open “Friday Night Lights” to more deeply explore the social-economic and racial undertones that the series has handled deftly over its three seasons.

Returning, thankfully, to the Season 4 is last season’s standout Stephanie Hunt, whose indie-rock Devin is the pitch-perfect awkward geek. Referring to her mother’s ridiculous threats to keep her out of East Dillon, she relays that her mom “would die” before allowing her daughter to move. “I think hunger strike, probably,” she says with an understated sarcasm.

“Friday Night Lights” doesn’t stereotype, but it does know how to depict fear. “That hellhole with that element” is how the parent rants about the prospect of her child being moved to East Dillon High.
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Peter Berg and Kyle Chandler on the restructuring of 'Friday Night Lights'


When the third season of “Friday Night Lights” wrapped in late 2008, star Kyle Chandler was under the belief that he’d be hanging up his coaching cleats for good.

The series, which touches on the political, social and familial impacts of a football-obsessed but beleaguered town, carries with it a small but dedicated audience. Last year, it also became somewhat of a network experiment

Now a partnership between DirecTV and NBC, “Friday Night Lights” had been trimmed last season from a full 22-episode run to one that capped at 13-episodes. Chandler was convinced that number would soon become zero.

“It was fatigue,” Chandler says, explaining the reason for the negativity. “The first year we were up against ‘American Idol.’ The second year was the writers strike. The third year we get cut down to 13 episodes. I just assumed that while we had a solid base, the numbers wouldn’t go out the roof. … I just didn’t expect that we would overcome a network’s desire for something fresh.”

With “Friday Night Lights” set to begin its fourth season Wednesday night on DirecTV’s 101 Network, Chandler is experiencing something he’s never had on the show before: stability. NBC and DirecTV renewed their partnership for a two-season run of 13-episodes apiece, bringing to an end -- at least for now -- the annual stress over a last-minute renewal.

Yet a sense of uncertainty surrounds practically everything else in the world of “Friday Night Lights.” Set in the fictional Texas town of Dillon, Season 4 serves as a major restructuring of the series. 

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