It felt like a last minute miracle when NBC made an exclusive deal with DirecTV to help renew Friday Night Lights for a third season.  The series has been critically acclaimed since its premiere, but it’s also struggled to find an audience in the competitive primetime environment.  While the Dillon Panthers will toss the football around for at least another year, it looks like they’ll have to do it without two of the show’s most beloved characters.  According to Michael Ausiello at Entertainment Weekly, actors Scott Porter (Jason Street) and Gaius Charles (Smash Williams) will be bumped down from series regulars to recurring guest stars in season 3.  The reasons are both budgetary and creative, though series showrunner Jason Katims promises to bring both characters’ storylines to a satisfying conclusion.

Though I’m a huge fan of both actors and their characters, this decision does make sense from a creative standpoint.  In the second season finale, Jason discovered that he accidentally impregnated a girl he had a one night stand with.  Considering that he no longer has ties to the Panthers as either a player or a coach, he may want to skip town to help raise his child.  As for Smash, much of his second season arc focused on his attempts to get into a good college, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he moved on elsewhere.

Friday Night Lights has always been a show committed to bringing a level of realism to its plotlines, so it’s somewhat refreshing to see the series allow its characters to move on.  It would likely feel contrived if the writers came up with some reason for Smash to stay in town after high school, and it’d also feel out of place to follow Jason’s story when he doesn’t really have ties to any other major characters.  The show could easily devolve into 90210-style ridiculousness if Katims and his crew didn’t allow the characters to grow up.

The good news is that fans can expect some form of closure for each of the departing characters.  As one insider told Ausiello, “[Katims] has too much respect for the fans — as well as both actors — to leave them hanging like that.”

Friday Night Lights kicks off its third season October 1 on DirecTV’s 101 channel.  It will then air on NBC at the beginning of 2009.

– Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
Source: Entertainment Weekly
(Image courtesy of NBC)


Staff Writer, BuddyTV