FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS created by Peter Berg, with Zack Gilford, Gaius Charles, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. Wednesdays at 8 pm on NBC. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
If the colts running roughshod over the Bears in Sunday's Super Bowl XLI didn't satisfy your jones for football, check out Friday Night Lights for a weekly dose of gridiron greatness.
Based on the non-fiction book and feature film (starring Billy Bob Thornton) of the same name, FNL is the best unwatched drama on the dial.
Set in small-town Texas, where everyone lives and breathes football, the series focuses on the Dillon High Panthers, a struggling squad still reeling after its star quarterback is paralyzed during the first big game of the season.
FNL certainly has aspects of a teen soap - the sweet yet callow backup QB's (Zach Gilford) fumbling romance with the coach's daughter; the wheelchair-bound former QB (Scott Porter) negotiating his relationship with his cheerleader girlfriend - but it's hardly The O.C.; it's played with richer, deeper tones.
Neither is it an after-school special, despite the frequent cropping up of Important Social Issues. The team's swaggering Smash Williams (an outstanding Gaius Charles giving one of the most affecting portrayals of a young black man going) is a 'roid-fuelled running back out to redeem himself.
Holding the team together is the husband-and-wife duo of Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler, the cute bomb disposal expert who got himself blown up on Grey's Anatomy last season) and his guidance counsellor better half (Connie Britton), who often find themselves at loggerheads when it comes to what's best for the team versus what's best for the players.
Of course, there's plenty of gameplay to keep the plot moving, and like its big-screen brethren, it's shot in a gritty documentary style that lends the feel of unpredictability to what could have been a very by-the-book outing.
The result is a sports drama for people who like sports and people who just like good drama.
With NOW's love & sex guide on the street (and Valentine's Day only a few days away), it seems a good time to mention Lovespring International.
The mostly improvised comedy about the behind-the-scenes antics at a California dating service stars comedian Jane Lynch (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Best In Show) as Lovespring's romantic CEO, and Jack Plotnick (Meet The Fockers) as the company shrink.
But the real reason to tune in is the lineup of guest stars, including exec producer Eric McCormack and his Will & Grace buddy Sean Hayes, Camryn Manheim (late of The L Word), SNL's Tim Meadows and Alanis Morissette, who's made a career out of singing about her bad relationships.
So if you've no date for V-Day, Lovespring makes its Showcase premiere on Wednesday (February 14) at 10 pm.
Leslie Nielsen moves into the Robson Arms apartment complex for its second season.
The Naked Gun star plays a former NHLer (seems he may have played a period or two with the Maple Leafs) who's found himself in a wheelchair after a drunk driving accident.
Playing against his image as a sweet buffoon, Nielsen comes off as a wholly unlikeable grouch who decides to use his disability as an excuse to be an even bigger asshole than he was before he was paralyzed.
Here's hoping Nielsen slips his famous whoopie cushion into a few scenes just to lighten the mood on what is supposed to be a comedy.
Robson Arms airs Saturday at 8:30 pm on the Comedy Network and 9 pm on CTV beginning February 17.
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 8
GREY'S ANATOMY (Drama) A ferry boat disaster provides the medical drama, which will probably take a back seat to to the romantic drama as usual. 8 pm on CTV, 9 pm on ABC
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14
LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD (Documentary series) This episode of the acclaimed series looks at how ancient Polynesians explored the Pacific in seagoing canoes. 9 pm on National Geographic
PRETTY DANGEROUS (Crime Documentary Series) Explores the true stories of "bad girls" who have conned, bilked, scammed and murdered for money. 10:30 pm on Global