'Friday Night Lights' Goes for a Repeat
New season examines how team, town handle success
The first-season finale of "Friday Night Lights" had all that, except the freeze frame. Instead of stopping at the moment of triumph, the show begins its second season on NBC Friday (Oct. 5) -- yes, the series is now on its namesake night -- with a reminder that life for the Dillon Panthers didn't stop after the state title game.
There's a reason most sports movies stop before that: The aftermath of success is not always pretty. But then "Friday Night Lights" has never been like most shows.
"The football stories this year are about how this team is going to deal with its own success. The challenges to that are both from the outside world and of their own making," executive producer Jason Katims says. "... It's about surviving your own success.
"In terms of the rest of the show, we continue the tradition of what we think the show has been -- which is to observe the minutiae, the smaller moments and the real moments, but at the same time employ really aggressive storytelling and throw some big curveballs at the audience."
One of those curveballs, which has already generated a lot of discussion, takes place at the end of the premiere and involves Tyra (Adrianne Palicki), Landry (Jesse Plemons) and the man who assaulted Tyra late last season. "There's a huge storyline with that," Palicki notes. "It will be interesting to see the reaction the viewers have."
The story is a bit of a departure for the series, which, as Katims says, aims to capture the small moments that make up its characters' lives. But it also comes from the writers' realization that Plemons, who was the show's most consistently funny actor last season, could also handle the heavier stuff.
"We gave him that story where he's the one who discovers Tyra after she's almost raped," Katims says. "That was a great, wonderful surprise, to watch how he stepped up and how good he is. So this year, we're still giving him funny stuff, but we're also giving him a lot of good dramatic material as well."
It's also far from the only new dynamic on the series, which picks up eight months after the events of last season's finale. Dillon has an autocratic new coach (Chris Mulkey) that alienates some of his players and leaves new assistant coach Jason Street (Scott Porter) stuck in the middle. Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) has moved on to Texas Methodist University in Austin, leaving wife Tami (Connie Britton) -- who's about to give birth -- and their increasingly alienated daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden) back in Dillon.
As always, Eric and Tami form the center of the show. Their separation -- which was Tami's idea -- will be "fodder for some great drama," Britton says.
"Can you imagine just having a baby and having your husband take off, and I'm the one who encouraged him to do it?" Britton says. "They're going to have some tough things. I've got to deal with a teenage daughter and all the rest of it. So it'll be interesting. ... I'm sure [anything] can come into play."
Even with all the changes that have taken place, Palicki believes fans -- who are ardent, if not that numerous; "FNL" was among the least-watched shows to earn a pickup for this season -- will still find the honest emotions and slice-of-life dynamics that made them fall in love with the show in the first place.
"There was a lot of fear [starting season two] because living up to last season was a scary thing," she says. "But the writing has been phenomenal -- it's kind of like we never left. We're still going at the pace we were before ... and it still has the same energy. It's been fantastic."