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The Televangelist: 'Friday Night Lights' Season 4, Episode 1

Season Four already has us knee-deep in a sundry of redemptive arcs for its favorite characters.

"Friday Night Lights" returned quietly last week, ranking 3rd in viewership numbers during its time slot.  It's always been a sleeper show, but I wonder if the rather low numbers are a result of people having watched it as it originally aired on DirectTV, or downloading it since.  Then again, Friday nights at 9 - though metaphorically meaningful for the show - is not a generally popular time for great TV.

But of course, "FNL" is great TV.  Bill Simmons, cult-figure writer for ESPN.com, has hailed the first season of the show as the greatest complete first season in TV history (and I'm not inclined to disagree).  And though "FNL" has faced some narrative challenges through its second and third seasons (courtesy of the writer's strike, an uncertain future and departing actors), it remains one of the best shows on TV no matter what the time slot.

"FNL" has taken some big chances in the past - most notably, what AV Club writer Keith Phipps took to calling the "Very Bad Mistake" (which can be read two ways) in Season Two, where Landry and Tyra effectively committed a murder (in self-defense ... of sorts), and the show managed to artfully dig itself out of that hole.  But this season the show takes its greatest leap yet - the creation of East Dillon High, or "the school for kids from the wrong side of the tracks."  I'm going to say more about that aspect in a moment, but for now, we find ourselves in a strange new world, one in which Coach Taylor is disrespected by his players, and whose football program cannot even afford another baseball cap for its third coach.