'Friday Night Lights' returns, prepares for final touchdown

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 12:00 AM Written by 

DIRECTV_FriNigLig_000382_High_v1Critically-acclaimed, underappreciated "Friday Night Lights" returns for its fifth and final season tonight at 9 on DirecTV's The 101 Channel. (These episodes will air next year on NBC.)

The series maintains its sense of creating a believable universe. Yes, a few characters are explained away without making an appearance (BBQ owner we hardly knew ye) but the show tries hard to reward long-time fans.

In the premiere that includes appearances from some past series regulars who won't be around much in this final season. Find out who after the jump. ...

The season premiere offers viewers a glimpse of Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) in prison and a fond farewell to Landry Clark (Jesse Plemons), who heads off to Rice University, but not before saying his goodbyes to Matt Saracen's grandmother and the Alamo Freeze. These are minor but welcome touches that reinforce the believability of the "FNL" universe.

Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and wife Tami (Connie Britton) see their daughter, Julie (Aimee Teegarden) head off to college, too, but viewers will keep up with Julie at college.

At work, Tami is now a guidance counselor at Dillon East and finds she's surrounded by do-nothing colleagues. A girl named Epic is her new  pet project.

After last year's introduction of many new characters, this year the show brings back most of those newcomers and in the first two episodes only introduces a few new characters, including running back Hastings Ruckle (Grey Damon), who joins the Lions. But it takes some convincing by Coach Taylor. Ruckle is a self-proclaimed free spirit who says football "celebrates the worst instincts of American culture: agression and violence."

"What football celebrates is teamwork and character if executed properly," Coach Taylor replies.

Vince (Michael B. Jordan) seems to be in a better place this season, even taking on an almost fatherly role to the younge brothers of his girlfriend, Jess (Jurnee Smollett).

Fans will, no doubt, be sad to see "FNL" end after the current season, but for a show whose ratings never justified a second season, five seasons is an achievement to celebrate. Besides, most dramas don't have more than four or five good years in them anyway. It's still early in the season, but there's every reason to hope the "FNL" team will rise to the challenge of sending the series out on top.
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