Tonight's episode of Friday Night Lights on NBC ends Season Four of this critically acclaimed, but struggling for viewership, series. My assessment of this next-to-last season is that the show, while good, is having a hard time developing characters given the shifting nature of kids moving through high school and into young adult life.
The series foundation is the relationship between Eric and Tami Taylor. Eric, played superbly by Kyle Chandler, is Dillon East High School's head football coach. Tami, another great acting job by Connie Britton, is principal of Dillon High School, Eric's former school and employer. These two have one of the most genuine husband-wife relationships on television and it evolved nicely this year given Eric's move to East Dillon and the resulting tension of two spouses working at opposing, rival high schools.
The Taylors are an example of what has worked best with this show in Season Four--the development of adult characters. Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland), a local businessman in Dillon, has been with the show since the beginning and his character evolved nicely this season due to his unflagging loyalty, and friendship, with the Taylors. Other adult characters have been successfully woven into the show this season as new families were introduced into the series due to Coach Taylor's move to East Dillon, and the expanded storyline.
It's with the teens in the show where I have issue. Julie Taylor's (Aimee Teegarden) character has not developed and now is nothing more than a grating irritant on the show. Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) is the one everyone hopes will get his life turned around...but never seems to succeed such that the storyline is now totally predicable. Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) provided some of the best drama in the first three seasons, and his role in dealing with the death of his father was a highlight of this season. Saracen's character then promptly disappeared as he headed to Chicago to flee the aftermath of this family tragedy.
New student actors have been added to the show and blended in well. It's the Dillon High School graduates--Riggins, Saracen, Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly)--who caused a few struggles with this season's series performance.
Season Five will be the last of Friday Night Lights. It's too bad as this show, even with the challenge of keeping a series fresh as characters come-and-go, is some of the best writing and ensemble acting on television. The production values have waned a bit as NBC tried to reduce expenses associated with the show, but it's still one of the most compelling dramas on the small screen.
If you have not watched this show, there's still time--go rent the Season One DVD now!