The Second Season
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All photos © NBC
Reviewed by Jeff Giles
ou know the drill, right? “Friday Night Lights,” the best show on network television – the one you aren’t watching for some damn reason? The show that’s been renewed – twice now – against all odds?
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for “Friday Night Lights” – especially not during a second season that found the show among only a handful of original scripted series that aired during the writers’ strike that laid waste to the networks’ schedules during late 2007 and early ’08. Given the choice between watching an hour of first-rate drama or another episode of “The Biggest Loser,” you’d think audiences would line up for the former. But NBC, inexplicably, barely lifted a finger to promote “Friday Night Lights” during its aborted second-season run, leaving it to wither Friday nights at 9 o’clock before finally letting the show peter out without any kind of resolution. If you reach the end of these 15 episodes feeling like there must be a DVD missing from the box, don’t worry – that’s just the way it is. Fortunately, thanks to a deal between NBC and DirecTV, fans will get to find out what happens next when the show’s third season begins in October.
But let’s rewind just a bit, back to “Friday Night Lights: The Second Season.” When the show returned from its first batch of episodes, almost every character on the canvas was in a state of flux – a state of affairs that probably had a lot to do with the series’ uncertain status at the end of Season One, but one that could have been used to spark all kinds of the absorbing drama that made critics fall in love with the show in the first place. Unfortunately, these episodes – particularly the early ones – take a number of frustrating detours. Rather than taking advantage of the cast’s natural chemistry, and all the possibilities for real-life drama inherent in the lives of a small-town football team and the adults whose livelihoods depend on its success, the show’s writers felt it necessary to wander off into the sort of soapy, over-the-top storylines that a lot of the show’s fans were hoping to get away from. Without spoiling any of the details, this season featured a murder, some deeply out of character illegal activity, a ridiculous romance, and a succession of hard-to-watch (and seemingly ultimately meaningless) tribulations endured by a leading character.
It was still one of the best shows on television – strike or no strike – but the rising chorus of boos from the peanut gallery was easy to understand.
Thankfully, if you look beyond its obvious flaws, “Friday Night Lights: The Second Season” features some of the show’s finest moments. In fact, by the time the 15th episode rolled around, it seemed like the season was finally running on all cylinders – which makes this set’s abrupt conclusion all the more disappointing. Other NBC shows picked up again after the strike; one hopes that the network’s decision to leave “Friday Night Lights” fans hanging was based on the cast’s unavailability and not simple carelessness.
Given the second season’s truncated length, this DVD set weighs in understandably lighter than the first season’s. Rather than five DVDs, the package contains four, although each disc includes the same type of bonus material – deleted scenes, cast commentaries – that was included the first time around. There’s also an interview with the cast, filmed at the 25th Annual Paley Festival in late March. Taken as a whole, they don’t add up to a real season finale, but they do provide a decent amount of added value – particularly for a DVD box retailing for less than $30.
If you haven’t been watching the show up ‘til now, you’re part of the problem; but when you’re finally ready to repent for your sins, don’t start here. Pick up the first season and fall in love before lowering your expectations just a bit and moving on to “Friday Night Lights: The Second Season.” Then start counting down the days until the Season Three premiere.