The Third Season
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All photos © NBC
Reviewed by Jeff Dooley
n its three seasons, NBC’s Texas high school football drama “Friday Night Lights” has earned itself almost as many five-star reviews as it has sub-par ratings. Nonetheless, as its 13-episode season (which first aired on DirecTV in the fall, then on NBC in the spring) came to a close, word came out that it will be picked up for season number four.
Season Three was a step back in the right direction for the show, which had stumbled a bit during its writers’ strike-shortened second season that featured one too many jump-the-shark plotlines (Coach Taylor moving on to the college ranks for a mere three weeks, Landry accidentally murdering the man who attempted to rape Tyra). “Friday Night Lights” got back to what it does best in Season Three: delivering scenes that are equal parts engaging, action-packed, thoughtful, well-acted, and – yes – funny. Unbeknownst to non-viewers who view this as merely an overly dramatic football show, this is actually one of the most consistently hilarious shows on TV. No, it’s not a comedy, but clever writing and the creative improvisations of its talented cast make “Friday Night Lights” the best blend of humor and heart there is on television today – and Season Three was the show’s funniest entry yet.
“FNL” kicked off the season with a premiere that rivaled the original pilot in its execution, and ended with a potentially series-saving plot twist that not even the most die-hard viewers saw coming. It did have its fair share of rough spots along the way – Tyra’s (Adrianne Palicki ) aggravatingly predictable tryst with bad boy bull rider Cash, the unrealistic plight of star running back turned Alamo Freeze manager turned Texas A&M walk-on Smash Williams (Gaius Charles) – but these disappointing spots aside, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more consistently enjoyable and well-made show on network TV (“Lost” notwithstanding). The ensemble cast, led by the captivating Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor, works phenomenally well together, and the inclusion of native Texan actors adds an authenticity and charm that is missing from most television dramas.
For fans of the show, the Season Three DVD set makes for a good buy. At 13 episodes, it doesn’t have a ton of replay value, but consider this: “FNL” is a show rich enough that it allows for more than one viewing per episode, and it also may be the last time you’ll be able to see some of the show’s most beloved graduating senior characters. For anyone new to the show, “FNL” is definitely worth a spot in your Netflix queue. Just be forewarned: once you pop in Disc One, chances are you’ll be in for a long night, because you’re going to have a damn hard time pulling yourself away.
Special Features: At first, the bonus material seems lacking (all they could give us were some deleted scenes and one episode of producers’ commentary?), but there is some pretty outstanding material locked up in the bonus footage. Disc Three features the best deleted scenes, including a real tear-jerker in which Jason goes back to coach’s office to get his old game tapes back, and a scene featuring a priceless piece of marital advice for Coach Taylor courtesy of recuperating assistant coach Mac Macgill (“I’ve been watching a lot of Oprah lately,” he begins). The 13 bonus minutes of the season finale are an excellent watch as well, as additional scenes like a hostile booster meeting, Billy Riggins’ “Braveheart”-inspired vows, and a pump-up speech from Buddy Garrity to Coach Taylor really add something to the final product.