Emotionally charged ‘Friday Night Lights’ renews charm this season

John Sturgeon

“Life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives … fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts … that what we have is special.”

Those words of wisdom from Coach Eric Taylor to his Dillon Panther football team sum up what makes “Friday Night Lights” such an emotionally charged realistic drama.

The wide array of well-developed characters and the situations they have to deal with in the town of Dillon shows viewers the good and bad of humanity, where people try and find happiness but make a lot of mistakes along the way.

Because the characters are making decisions we ourselves face in our daily lives, it is easy to relate to the characters, and that is what makes this show a must-see.

At the center of the Dillon universe are Eric and his wife Tami. Kyle Chandler does amazing work in his role as a fearless leader with deep affection for his players.

Tami, played by Connie Britton, is a strong-willed woman who balances being a mother to her teenager and baby and her new job as principal of Dillon High School.

She and Eric have a surprisingly mature, healthy and compassionate relationship where they always are there for one another when conflict arises.

Their relationship is portrayed excellently, as the couple argues, fails to always see eye to eye on everything and makes mistakes.

One example was when Eric took a job as a college coach after winning the state title for the Dillon Panthers in the show’s first season.

The couple grows apart as Eric has to be away five days a week, and Tami turns angry and hostile in need of help due to the birth of her baby and struggle handling teenage daughter Julie.

We witness the pain Eric feels being separated from his family and how much it kills him to have left the players he helped achieve so much success.

This all led to his return home and admission to everyone of how wrong he was to leave.

The first season of the show involved the Dillon Panthers dealing with the tragic injury to star quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter) in the first game of the season, in which a hit paralyzes him from the waist down.

Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) is thrust into the quarterback position and must face the pressure that comes with that responsibility.

He is a man that the audience empathizes with, as his mother abandoned him when he was young and left him in the hands of a soldier father with low parenting skills.

By the time the show takes place, Saracen is taking care of his grandmother, who has dementia, while his father serves in Iraq.

The growth in confidence and success he experiences through becoming a competent player and his developing relationship with Julie has a more powerful effect because of what we know about him.

Eric assumes a father-figure role for Matt and helps him get through some of the difficulties he experiences at home.

Another amazing storyline to watch is how Street goes about life after losing the use of his legs and his scholarship to Notre Dame.

The destruction of his relationship with his girlfriend Lyla in the wake of his accident and being unable to do what he was sent here to do show us that life is not fair and that you never know what cards you will be dealt.

Porter brings so much to the role, and it is sad that he is being taken off contract this year since his character graduated high school.

He will be written out in a four-episode arc that explains what came about as a result of an unexpected pregnancy at the end of Season 2.

The other character who had his final episode already air was the confident, cocky and charismatic star running back Brian “Smash” Williams (Gaius Charles), who refers to himself in the third person.

Over the course of the show, Smash has dealt with racial issues, steroids, a bipolar girlfriend and maturing as an individual.

At the end of Season 2, Smash suffered a knee injury that resulted in the loss of his scholarship.

His final journey saw him rehabilitate under Eric’s tutelage and resulted in some deeply powerful and emotional scenes that led to Smash becoming a walk-on at Texas A&M.

One character who must be mentioned when talking about “Friday Night Lights” is care-free fullback Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), a guy with three loves in life: sex, beer and football.

Riggins was raised by an alcoholic father who eventually left when he became a teenager.

He now lives with his brother Billy, a shady figure who cannot hold a job and resorts to illegal activities.

As a result of his poor upbringing and lack of guidance, Tim struggles with school and copes by drinking and engaging in promiscuous sex.

This season, Tim is trying his hand at a real relationship with Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly) and attempting to get into college.

However, Billy has involved Tim in some illegal schemes, and one gets a feeling more problems for him are coming.

“Friday Night Lights” is a show well worth going out of your way to see on DVD or TV.

The Peabody Award-winning Season 1 was one of the most amazing pieces of work ever accomplished on the small screen.

Season 2 was a bit goofy and was hurt by not getting to conclude properly due to the writer’s strike.

Luckily, the show was renewed, and the writers have gone above the call of duty to produce great material again.

The show has gotten back to what it does best this year: Telling emotional stories full of realistic problems and situations any of us could face.

“Friday Night Lights” Season 3 airs on DirectTV every Wednesday night and will be aired again on NBC in the spring.