Friday, February 08, 2008

'Lights' Out?

As much as it pains me to type this out, tonight's broadcast of "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.) may be the last original episode — ever.

Even if the writers' strike ends tomorrow (and it very might, literally), NBC has no plans to produce any more episodes this season beyond the 15 it has already made, and recent comments by NBC president Ben Silverman indicate that the show won't be back next year. (When someone asked Silverman about "FNL" at a recent party, all Silverman would answer was to say watch "30 Rock.")

It's a shame, because "FNL" is one of the few quality shows out there built for the whole family. Though some people thought it was a show about football, in reality, the sport was the one thread that tied the town together, and often served as a metaphor for what the players and fans of the Dillon Panthers were going through.

Rarely does a show tackle such subjects as teen sex, alcoholism, divorce and racism with such dignity without devolving into preachiness, but "FNL" managed to walk that fine line more often than now.

And while I have praised the performances of lead actors Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton multiple times on this blog (they were the two biggest snubs by the Emmys, IMHO), it's the wonderful supporting cast that really makes this show special. And it's not just the high school kids the show revolves around; it's the older actors like Brad Leland (Buddy Garrity) and Liz Mikel (Corinna Williams, Smash's mom) that often steal the scenes they are in. All of the actors have created characters we care about.

I'm the first to admit that "FNL" has been a bit uneven this season, with things like the rapist storyline and turning Julie Taylor from the girl next door into a total whiny brat. But all of the top shows on the air - "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," "Heroes," etc. - have had plotlines and characters in their runs that fans didn't like. "FNL" is no different. Like those other shows, the good on "FNL" far outweighs the bad.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of the cast and crew of "FNL" at the Austin Film Festival, and they're a genuine bunch of good people who really seem to care about the product they are making.

I carry a small measure of hope that the massive critical appeal of the show combined with decent ratings in the coveted 18-30 age group might keep the possibility of hope for another season alive - the recurring theme of Panthers football. Certainly, e-mailing NBC and letting them know your feelings can't hurt.

STRIKE WATCH: Multiple reports out of Hollywood indicate that the WGA may end its strike this weekend and people could be returning to work on Monday as a deal between the guild and the producers is finalized.

If you want to know the fate of your favorite show and whether it will be back this season,'s Michael Ausiello has a strike chart on his blog here:

WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: So, based on yesterday's posting, did anyone watch "Lipstick Jungle" last night, and if so, what did people think?

Following "FNL" tonight is a new episode of "Las Vegas" (NBC, 10 p.m.)

Speaking of shows wrapping up, "Flash Gordon" (Sci-Fi, 9 p.m.) finishes its first season tonight. I'm not sure if it will be back next year, but it looks as if producers are wrapping things up anyway.

"Monk" is taking a week off, but "Psych" (USA, 10 p.m.) is all-new.

On Saturday, HBO is airing the TV movie "Bernard and Doris" (HBO, Sat., 8 p.m.), with Oscar winner Susan Sarandon as famed heiress Doris Duke and Ralph Fiennes as her butler, Bernard Lafferty.

"Torchwood" (BBC America, Sat., 9 p.m.) finds the gang encountering people from World War I as two time zones get mixed together. Speaking of "Torchwood," Sci Fi announced this week that it would begin airing Season 4 of "Doctor Who" in April along with the first season of the series' other spinoff, "The Sarah Jane Adventures," in April.

On Sunday, the 50th edition of the Grammys air (CBS, Sun., 8 p.m.) while "Masterpiece" reruns the 1995 classic "Pride and Prejudice" (PBS, 9 p.m.).


zodin2008 said...

The problem with Ben Silverman, and NBC chief Jeff Zucker, is these guys are east coast & west coast snobs. They look at this "little" Texas show that is more family oriented as something to be dismissed, but rather we should all suffer through additional hours of "American Gladiators" and "Deal or No Deal". A real shame.

I was commenting earlier today that NBC - with wonderful past Presidents like the late Brandon Tartikoff and Warren Littlefield - have a history of looking after low rated, but high quality Dramas - and keeping them despuite low ratings.

Tartikoff championed "Quantum Leap" at the end of his reign, while Littlefield was a constant shining champion supporting "Homicide: Life on the Street". It was an NBC tradition and you wish that Silverman/Zucker could carry that tradition on and support "FNL".

They support the terrific "30 Rock" (despite it's low ratings), let's face it, because it's A) an east coast show set in NY and B) has 2 big name stars leading the cast with Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey.

Rest in Peace, Dillon Panthers. My Television sets, after tonight, just got a little worse off.

Also, Phillip, kudos to you for your shout outs to Brad Leland and Liz Mikel, easily the two most underrated castmembers of the show. Both would be great picks for supporting Emmy nods.

Phillip Ramati said...

Unfortunately, the guys you name like Littlefield and Tartikoff and even Ben Reilly are old NBC. New NBC is really only concerned about the bottom line. It's cheaper and more profitable to run Deal or No Deal in that time slot rather than FNL.

With the ever-changing world of TV revenues, few shows are going to be given the chance to survive if the network can replace them with cheap, reality TV.

The irony? NBC has one of the all-time great success stories in Seinfeld, which debuted to low ratings initially and eventually grew into one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. Seinfeld would have been cancelled after one season in today's environment.

The fact is, NBC was more willing to give lower-rated shows a chance than other networks in the last regime, but now is only about the bottom line.

zodin2008 said...

It's actually KEVIN reilly, not BEN, but that's neither here nor there. Yes - Reilly was another class act for NBC - until they canned him.

Because of DVD revenues and Internat viewing (hence, the big fights over the strike), even Silverman admits they have a need still for original scripted shows at NBC.

No one is going to get a DVD of or download "Deal or No Deal", thankfully.