Friday Night's all right

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Fans of fine TV programs like Mad Men and The Wire sometimes wonder why more people aren't into their favorite shows. But it's not surprising that those shows are niche products. They're like high-concept cuisine; they require patience and undivided attention to appreciate every subtle flavor.

Most people prefer comfort food. That's why it's legitimately puzzling that Friday Night Lights remains an obscure critical favorite instead of a smash hit.

The trouble, presumably, is that women think the show is about football and men think it's a soap opera. Both are correct, of course, but they don't realize they're missing the best drama on network TV.

FNL delivers spine-tingling TV on a weekly basis, all while rooted in realistic characters and relatable situations. After a second season filled with sensationalized storylines that betrayed Season 1's warm normalcy, this third go-round is a down-to-earth return to form.

This year, there are no accidental murders or caretaker hookups to cringe through. Only the return of Lyla (Minka Kelly) and Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) as high-school seniors requires suspension of disbelief - those two certainly acted like upperclassmen back in Season 1.

Friday Night Lights has turned away from artificial drama and back to the real-life issues of adolescence, parenting and the politics of high-school football. From Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton on down, these characters are compelling enough to make Dillon, Texas worth a look for one and all.

"Friday Night Lights"

9 p.m. Fridays, NBC

Grade: A