With just two weeks to go until Friday Night Lights returns, the critics are lining up to chime in on what many believe is a hidden TV treasure.
Earlier this week, we heard from ESPN's Bill Simmons, the sharp-tongued, often cynical columnist who loves his sports, and who is urging more and more viewers to keep the "Lights" on for this year and beyond.
Now, Akron Beacon-Journal critic Rich Heldenfels has shed some light on the Season 2 premiere. He does not give away a crucial plot point of the first episode, but he does describe how this important story development may harm the future of Friday Night Lights, in his opinion.
His column appears below. We'll keep the details to a minimum before the jump, but beware: herein lie some spoilers, at least in the broad sense.
Is Friday Night Lights still capable of greatness in its second-season premiere? Yes. Is there anything to worry about? Also yes.
So much that was good about the show is still very good. The Taylor family, for starters, which now has a new baby to deal with, as well as Eric's being far away, at his new college coaching job at TMU.
When Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) goes in labor, Eric has to fly home. And what he finds is that the baby is just one of the challenges facing him; daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden) has gone all snotty in his absence, for several reasons.
The Julie-Matt relationship has taken an interesting turn, as have the lives of Buddy and Lyla Garrity, Tim Riggins, Landry and Tyra, and Jason Street.
In fact, the show is so stuffed that Street's new dilemma is presented very quickly, and we hardly see Smash Williams (Gaius Charles) at all.And, since the show is not as much about high school football but built around it, the Panthers have to have a new coach, played by Chris Mulkey, and that changes all kinds of dynamics we've become accustomed to.
There's a great scene where Eric Taylor gets some information about the new coach's tactics; Kyle Chandler's face flexes, his jaw clamps, and you can read the emotions — the whole conflict between the need to help one of his old players, and his distaste for interference, without a word said.
Similarly, when Buddy Garrity shares his thoughts on the situation, Eric doesn't have to say much. Viewers, especially those of us who have followed the show from the beginning, can feel everything going on between those men.
Yet there's a particular plot element in the season premiere that, the more you think about, the more wrong it feels. It's wrong tonally for Friday Night Lights because it is big and melodramatic — and it looks as if it is being handled wrong in terms of the characters involved.
On a show that has always understood its people, the reactions here seem designed more to keep a story going than illuminate the people involved.
We won't tell you what it's about and don't care how many Friday Night Lights spoilers are out there. You need to see this one for yourself.
Was there a feeling that the show needed to do something to amp up the ratings? Whether the thinking came from the show's producers, or from the network itself, but it doesn't matter. The thought was there.
Friday Night Lights needs to preserve its integrity, but also to pacify the thinkers. Thus, the big plot twist. Stay tuned, and get ready.