Are you ready for some football? No, not Monday Night Football—we’re talking Friday Night Lights! Given that season 4 kicks off just one week from tonight (Oct. 28 at 9 p.m. on DIRECTV; NBC will air these episodes in 2010), FNL exec producer Jason Katims offers up the following teasers to get you fired up. Let us issue a SPOILER ALERT and proceed:
• Dillon will live every week like it’s Rivalry Week now that East Dillon High School has reopened. “The whole idea of this season is about this town being divided in two because of this new team,” says Katims. “And over the course of the season, the lines are literally drawn between these two teams. At times it’s funny but it eventually gets really ugly.”
• Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) will be challenged as he assumes the reins of the East Dillon Lions, who aren’t at the top of their game yet. “He’s got to figure out how to make something out of nothing,” says Katims. “It’s tougher than he can even imagine because with all the obstacles he’s had in the past, it came with a group of football players who all wanted to please this guy. When he walked into a room, they took a knee. These guys don’t…. It becomes less about winning a championship [than] winning a game.”
• Prepare to wave goodbye to Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford), the former QB stud who boldly decided to skip school and stay in Dillon with his grandmother Lorraine (Louanne Stephens) and girlfriend Julie (Aimee Teegarden). Alas, now he’ll struggle to find himself. Sample bummer: Delivering a pizza to current QB stud J.D. McCoy, played by Jeremy Sumpter. (Gilford, by the way, will appear in the first six episodes; he’s slated to return for one to two more episodes later in the season.) “Ultimately it’s a love story,” hints Katims about the Matt-Julie arc. “It comes down to: What happens when you find your soulmate too [early] and you realize that the best thing to nurture the relationship might not the best thing for yourself and for your future?”
• Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) will try to sort out his life while working with brother Billy (Derek Phillips) at Riggins Rigs, their new repair shop. After his bedroom is converted into a nursery for Billy’s baby, Tim winds up living in a trailer behind the house of Becky (Madison Burge), an East Dillon student/beauty-queen hopeful who bonds with him after he has a one-night stand with her cocktail waitress mother, Cheryl, played by Alicia Witt. (Yes, Tim Riggins is one Panther who’s not afraid of cougars!) “She has a little bit of a Lolita vibe,” says Katims of Becky. “She and Riggins develop a quirky friendship, and later she becomes embroiled in a controversy that permeates the town, and inadvertently she gets Riggins involved.” As for Tim’s love interest, Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly), who left Dillon for Vanderbilt, she’ll appear in two episodes. “An event that happens to one of the characters in the show is going to bringing her back,” says Katims, “and she and Riggins will deal with this relationship that’s been left unfinished.”
• Wanting to enjoy her senior year, Julie (Aimee Teegarden) faces tension in her relationship with Matt as he’s no longer interested in attending high school parties. Plus, notes Katims, “her desire to get into the next phase of her life and become more of an adult is an ongoing story between her and her mom.” And speaking of mom, Tami (Connie Britton) tries to “figure out how to balance the fact that she’d rather be going to the East Dillon games to support her husband, but as the principal, she has to stand up and cheer for the Panthers,” says Katims. Later in the season, Tami comes under fire when she gets enmeshed in a situation with one of the show’s new characters.
• In addition to the aforementioned Becky, we’ll meet several other East Dillon students, including the talented but troubled football player Vince (Michael B. Jordan). “He’s trying to toe that line of becoming a rising star and at the same time doing whatever he needs to do to support his family while his father’s in prison,” says Katims. “And sometimes that puts him in [the position of] doing very questionable things.” Another new face is Luke (Matt Lauria), a standout last year on West Dillon’s JV team who is forced to transfer to East Dillon when it’s discovered that he’s been lying about his address. “He’s a charming, outspoken, upbeat guy who’s been put into a very difficult situation,” says Katims, adding: “He immediately has conflicts with Vince on the team, and these two guys are like oil and water.” And please welcome Jess (Jurnee Smollett), the daughter of ex-football player Virgil “Big Mary” Merriweather (Steve Harris) who’s ”very charismatic, high energy, and knows more about football than most guys know,” says Katims. Juicier still, Jess—who’s had an on-again-off-again relationship with Vince—becomes “romantically entangled” with Landry (Jesse Plemons), who is zoned for East Dillon High and ends up playing for Coach Taylor’s Lions.
To watch EW’s own Michael Ausiello receive acting lessons from Aimee Teegarden, click here.
Photo Credit: Cast: Michael Muller/NBC; Katims: Glenn Harris/PR Photos