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'Friday Night Lights' returns tonight: Can't lose

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Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t… stop watching this show. Friday Night Lights is one of my desert island series, a show I could watch over and over again and never tire of, one whose praises I sing at the top of my lungs. And when the fourth season returns on NBC tonight, I’ll be watching, even though I saw the whole season when it aired on DirecTV. That’s how good it is! Have I convinced you yet? How about now?

FNL will always be about high school football, and that comes with certain traps — namely that characters need to graduate and move on. Season 4 introduces more new faces than we’ve had since season 1, and we say some seriously moving farewells to a few regulars, but it all feels pretty organic and germane. Coach and Mrs. Coach are the emotional and moral center of the show (and of my actual life? WWEaTTD? What would Eric and Tammy Taylor do?), and as long as the story loops in with them, I am happy.

People often talk about Texas high school football as a “religion,” and that’s never more true than on FNL. But I don’t just mean that in the sense that people take it very seriously, although they certainly do. It’s a religion in the sense that there’s sacred, ordered space — the field, the locker room, the stands. There’s a Sabbath of sorts on Friday nights. And there’s ritual, a way to consecrate otherwise ordinary things through motion and practice. No one keeps these things holy more devoutly than Coach Taylor, but season 4 finds him in a new school, with players who only sort of care, decrepit facilities, and nary a fan to wave a pompom. He’s in the land of the nonbelievers.

Are you excited for season 4, PopWatchers? Do you agree that Tami and Eric have the best marriage on television? And will you be able to stop rooting for the Panthers and start rooting for the Lions?