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TV Eye

The 'FNL' Depth Chart

By Belinda Acosta, September 29, 2006, Screens

Friday Night Lights, the new NBC series tailored after the 2004 film (and filmed in these parts), might not resonate with folks who didn't grow up in football country. Why all the fuss about high school football? Well, if you live in the series' fictional Dillon, Texas – or any other town in Texas – you know that high school football is everything. If you're already turning up your nose at this, take note: No matter how jaded, well-read, or above-it-all you might think you are, Friday Night Lights will suck you in before you can say "hut." With all the intrigue of The West Wing, the passion of Grey's Anatomy, and the humor of Desperate Housewives (but not too much humor; this is, after all, a series that takes its football very seriously), Friday Night Lights is the most surprisingly compelling addition to the new fall TV season.

While the football game is the highlight of the show, the outside pressures drive the series. No one knows this better than head coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler). No matter if it's a casual dinner, a chance encounter, or turning on local talk radio, everyone – everyone – has an opinion on how he should do his job. Chandler is no Billy Bob Thornton, but he gives a steady performance that belies earlier work in frothier series such as Early Edition (1996) and pleasant but thankless roles in Grey's Anatomy and What About Joan (2001). Connie Britton, as his steely wife, Tami, finally has a role that makes use of her talents beyond being a high-strung sex bomb (Spin City) or a hand-wringing mother (24). As the student football players, Gaius Charles as Brian "Smash" Williams, a brash player with his sights on the big time; Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins, a player with issues and resentment toward Williams; and Zach Gilford as Matt Saracen, the new, doe-eyed quarterback, are superb.

Like that other adult-teen drama, The OC, this series works because the lives of the adults and "children" are treated with equal weight. What makes Friday Night Lights superior is that it does not declaw the all-American pastime or present a bucolic version of small-town life. No, in this series, life and football are shown in all their gritty, sweaty, and, yes, dramatic glory.

Friday Night Lights premieres Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 7pm on NBC.

Local programs recognized

Several locally produced programs received nominations for outstanding work from the Lone Star Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, otherwise known as the Emmys. KLRU programs Austin Now, Texas Monthly Talks, The Biscuit Brothers, and Texas Parks and Wildlife all received nominations in their respective categories. Flash Flood Alley, a documentary produced by Marshall Frech and distributed statewide by KLRU, was nominated for Best Documentary. Downtown, the high-concept series about the nooks and crannies of downtown Austin, was honored with nominations spanning several areas, including Arts and Entertainment, Magazine Program, and Public/Current/Community Affairs Feature/Segment. Downtown is a co-production of the Downtown Austin Alliance, Action Figure, and KLRU.

On the commercial network side, KVUE (ABC), K-EYE (CBS), KTBC-TV (Fox), and News 8 Austin also received nods. KVUE News Beat (Carlos Reina, producer) is nominated for Best Evening Newscast in its market class. The ABC affiliate also received nominations for Best Feature News Report (24 hours) for "Mr Luv's American Dream" (Kevin Peters, producer); Best Politics/Government Story (single) for "Cheney's Spin" (Lee McGuire, producer; Todd Rogenthien, photographer); and Best Editor for News (no time limit) for "And That's the Way It Is '05-'06" (Rogenthien, director of photography). Rogenthien is also recognized in two News Photography categories (24 hours and no time limit). The latter nomination is shared with Ben Friberg of K-EYE for "Violet Crown Players."

Nanci Wilson and Kim Miller, both of K-EYE, received nominations for their news stories, "Paxil and the Kids" and "Miracle League."

News 8 Austin received nods for Best Weather Program Special, "Texas Flood" (Rachel Elsberry, executive producer), and Best Community PSA (single) for "Light the Night" (Barry DeCrane, promotion manager).

Susan Detrie, design director/designer for KTBC-TV, is recognized in the Best Graphic Arts category for her composite designs.

The Lone Star Emmy Awards will be presented Oct. 21 in Houston. A detailed list of Emmy nominations is available at

You saw it at the Paramount

ME-Television, the regional music and entertainment network based in Austin, marks its one-year anniversary with a new documentary, Texas Legends: The Paramount Theatre. The hourlong documentary, produced for the network's ongoing Texas Legends series, details with great affection the history of the 90-year-old facility and its impact on downtown Austin. It premieres Sunday, Oct. 1, at 8pm on Channel 15 and digital Channel 577.

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