One of my favorite TV shows over the past several seasons has been "Friday Night Lights," which NBC passed along to DirecTV last season before playing the episodes itself.
It means that those subscribers who get DirecTV in order to receive the NFL Sunday Ticket get an added football bonus.
The financial arrangement between NBC and DirecTV saved the series, which returns for its fourth season at 9 tonight on the satellite service before NBC carries the episodes in the spring or summer of 2010.
The solid premiere picks up where "Lights" left off last year with Dillon High Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) having lost his job in a power play with the rich father of the quarterback in the small Texas town.
Coach Taylor has moved over to run the program at East Dillon, which doesn't have the facilities or the players that he had at what is now called West Dillon. His supportive wife, Tami (Connie Britton), was in charge of the redistricting that determined which students went to which school, which doesn't exactly make her the most popular figure in town.
Taylor Kitsch (Tim Riggins), Jesse Plemons (Landry Clark), Zach Gifford (Matt Saracen) and Aimee Teegarden (Julie, the coach's daughter) are back. Minka Kelly (Lyla Garrity) isn't in tonight's episode but will back at the some point.
Some new players and characters have been added to help the show run for at least two more seasons of 13 episodes.
The return of Riggins, Landry and Saracen is explained in the well-played opener, which by necessity is plot heavy and therefore doesn't initially hit the emotion highs that "Lights" fans have come to expect.
However, "Lights" plays out like a good novel. The opener sets up battles between heroes and villains and the inevitable conflict between Coach Taylor's strong values and his replacement's win-at-all-costs philosophy. Rating: 3 stars out of 4
Are you a fan of "FNL? If so, are you excited about the new season?
-- Alan Pergament