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[03/20/08 - 12:58 AM]
Live at the Paley Festival: NBC's "Friday Night Lights"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

7:01 p.m.: Night five of the festival kicks off with an archival clip from the 1970s dramedy "Room 222," in which a pushy college recruiter tries to get a student to sign, even though he knows he won't get a real education from the school. Whoever is picking these is doing a nice job.

7:08 p.m.: Pat Mitchell returns to give us the usual spiel and intro tonight's moderator, TV Guide.com's Michael Ausiello. He in turn brings out executive producer Jason Katims.

7:15 p.m.: Full episode time! Jason's brought with him "Leave No One Behind," the show's penultimate installment from this season. While it's a fine episode, I'll never understand why some panels - especially dramas - go this route because a) it literally cuts the two-hour panel in half for b) something everybody in the room undoubtedly has seen already. "Pushing Daisies" and "Chuck" had the right idea - go the clip route. I'm just saying for $40 (and that's the cheap seats) it seems like folks should get a little more for their money. But I digress...

8:01 p.m.: And we're back! Here's our panel - Adrianne Palicki (Tyra Collette), Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen), Aimee Teegarden (Julie Taylor), Minka Kelly (Lyla Garrity), Scott Porter (Jason Street), Connie Britton (Tami Taylor), Jeffrey Reiner (executive producers) and of course, Jason Katims. There in spirit - Kyle Chandler (Eric Taylor), Gaius Charles ("Smash" Williams), Jesse Plemons (Landry Clarke) and sorry ladies, Taylor Kitsch (Tim Riggins). Chandler and Kitsch are off in Vancouver working on films while no reason for the others' absence was given.

8:04 p.m.: Jason quickly addresses the elephant in the room, the DirecTV deal: "What's happening is we... there's no deal yet for the show but we remain incredibly optimistic that that's going to happen. And hopefully it will happen soon. The one thing that I would say is that... if you look at the ratings [that we get] you wouldn't have expected the show to have gotten a second season, let alone having a really good chance of getting a third season. I think that goes to the passion of the network and the studio for the show. They have been working really really hard to try and figure out a way to keep the show going. I feel confident and hopeful that will happen."

8:05 p.m.: When pressed about how a deal with DirecTV would work, Jason adds, "First of all there are... DirecTV has been the one that's been kind of talked about [in the media]. There are other people that have expressed interest in the show. So it's not, it's not like there's just one place. But I think [the idea is]... DirecTV would have a window to air the show but then NBC would continue to air the show as well." As far as a timeline, "I think an answer is going to be pretty soon because I say that only because I know I have to start breaking stories. So I have a feeling we're about two or three weeks away from knowing what's going to happen."

8:07 p.m.: Michael asks if episode 15 this season was ever intended to be a season finale. "No, we really weren't," Jason admits. "I mean... I live my life in denial so I was just expecting there wouldn't be a writers strike and that we would continue and do a full season... The last three episodes of the show, there's some good sort of I think beats of resolution and there's some good cliffhangers. It certainly wasn't what we were expecting. For example the whole football season is completely unfinished and that was going to become the main part of the final drive, the movement of the season, about the team and what happens."

8:09 p.m.: Jason on his initial concept for season three: "I think what we would do is... once the show hopefully is picked up the writers would get back into the room and talk about these things. But my instinct would be that yeah we would start with the next year. And what happened in the end of the second season would just be referred to, would become backstory. However there's still a lot of story... storylines that we [could still use]." My apologies for the sticato-esque quotes, Jason starts and stops a lot in his speech, sometimes making it hard to connect the dots. Anywho, Jason continues: "Well the biggest challenge is, that we will have and I'm not going to give it up is the Gaius/Smash storyline, his graduating year and his final season and his recruitment storyline which was to me one of the most compelling storylines of the season and I liked that it started in the very beginning and was going to go through the very end of the season. That's the biggest challenge and... I don't know how to give it its due but I'm committed to doing that. I just think it's such a good storyline. The other things that I think we would do is tell the same kinds of stories that we would do with the characters but... there would be a passage of time."

8:10 p.m.: Michael presses: "You're planning on keeping the cast?" Jason responds, "That would be my hopes and dreams, yeah."

8:11 p.m.: The subject turns to the much ballyhooed murder storyline which Jason owns up to: "I have to take complete credit for that decision. I think a lot people leap to, 'Oh, it's Ben Silverman's idea!' But it was a storyline that we were actually starting to [look at]... in a different incarnation late in the first season." He later adds that scene was reshot three times. Adrianne jumps in, "At first I was a little nervous, but at the same time I care so much about Tyra. That guy tried to rape her, you know? [Tyra and Landry might have not] gotten together had this not happened or [something] like this. And so ultimately I'm thankful for it because I got to work with Jesse so much and he's a really great actor." Jason notes, "Part of the inspiration for the story was trying to figure out some universe where Tyra Collette got together [with Landry]... One thing I'd kind of say, I think what people were really concerned about was it felt like it wasn't, they were concerned it wasn't the show. And it felt different than the show to them. And they thought the show was somehow co-opted or changed and really to me that honors the show and honors how much people care about the show. And the other thing is, you know... it's like when I watch the episode that we watched tonight, and that storyline between, that scene between the two of them at the end together... it really to me does pay off... In order to get there we have to start off somewhere."

8:15 p.m.: Connie on the dynamic between her and Kyle: "I'd love to say it's something that we carefully crafted and sat for hours over some kind of hard alcohol and sorted it out. But no, it was just we shared the same idea of how we wanted to establish the marriage... We all were just on the same page about how we wanted that marriage to go, [that] we shared the same values... so it's just been a joy for me."

8:22 p.m.: Connie on her process with Kyle: "When we first get a script we sit down together over coffee, not hard alcohol, at least not before like 11 a.m. And we just really talk about what is being said in the scene but then what we really want to get to at the bottom. And so it gives us a lot of freedom and it's been so much fun." She later notes, "I remember I said right at the beginning, neither one of us should have an affair. We don't want to go down that road because that's not the reality that we're playing."

8:23 p.m.: Aimee on playing a "brat": "She's definitely having a lot of... issues. Reading it I was like, 'Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God, like I'm never doing this, ever, ever, ever!' And then I kind of get talked into it. But I kind of understand her a little bit, you know, a lot of teens go through a lot of different situations... not that I'm like Julie. Um, what was the question again?"

8:24 p.m.: Michael brings up the infamous "three way" scene between Minka, Scott and Taylor. "Reading it on the page we were like, 'What?!'" says Minka. "It's these three kids have grown up together," Scott explains. "And have seen more tragedy with the loss of parents, the loss of the ability to walk or a loss of innocence. I mean there's so much that the three of them have been through... and at the end we kind of took it as a... they just all love each other. It's not necessarily that their story's over but I think Jason and Lyla definitely found a whole level of friendship and whether or not Riggins and Lyla are done it's... I think Tyra and Jason have reached a point where finally they're comfortable enough in loving each other in a way that's not [in a] lasting relationship form but instead in a friendship form. And it took some convincing from Jason and Jeff and it turned out exactly the way they said it would. That's what makes the show so successful and genuine is the level of trust we have in each other. We didn't trust the words on the page but we trust Jeff and Jason implicitly." Michael asks, "[But] what was it like actually shooting the scene?" "It was awesome!" Minka quips. "I was actually pretty special... It felt the way it was, just really sweet. We are all friends and we do have a great relationship in our life. It was actually as special as it looked. It was sweet. We were all scared to do it and we all didn't want to do it and we were all afraid how it was going to look and it all kind of shone through."

8:27 p.m.: Zach, whom you get the sense is really Matt Saracen, on his bathroom confrontation with Kyle in the episode we saw: "That was actually the most nervous I've ever been before I shot a scene on the show. There's a lot on the page... like you were saying, you know it's there, but sometimes you... [just] don't see it, you don't connect to it 'til you're doing it. It's just one of those things where it's like, 'Man... what if I'm just chewing the scenery and it's the cheesiest thing ever on TV?'"

8:29 p.m.: Jeff reveals that most of the non-principal actors on the show are actually the town's local residents. "You never know if you're working with an actor," Zach adds. "In the strip club scene, it's like, 'So, is this what you do or are you getting a MFA in acting?'"

8:31 p.m.: Michael brings up how Jason had to split time between "Bionic Woman" and their show halfway through the season. Everybody grumbles - noting they also lost Kevin Rankin, who plays Herc, and David Boyd, their director of photography, to it as well.

8:33 p.m.: Jeff on the show's distinct look and feel: "We use three cameras. We don't rehearse. We're shooting from the minute you get on the set. We are really not heavy handed in our blocking. We get them to be where we think it might be better with the light and the angle... but the great thing is the script is strong enough so you can go pretty far [out there] and then come back to reality. You want to find little moments of truth that maybe aren't on the page, that are inspired by the page. You really don't feel the camera at all." Connie ads that sometimes they literally don't know where the camera is at all. "We call them 'snipers,'" Jeff notes.

8:36 p.m.: Michael pulls a question from his readers, who asks, "What's it like working with Taylor Kitsch, he's so hot!" Connie says, "Taylor Kitsch can't keep a straight face in a scene - oh my God, it's so infuriating! You'll be doing a scene with Taylor, like you forget he's really cute or whatever - I don't know, maybe, they say - you're in a scene with him and he's the biggest jokester. He's such a goof all the time and he'll be cracking up. We did a scene one time in the first season where he had to come to the Taylor house and I go and I answer the door and he's standing there with a box of steak knives and he's like, 'Here I brought you these.' And he's dying laughing! And his laugh too is wack!" This causes everyone to imitate the noise, which sounds like a sped up cat meow.

8:38 p.m.: Jason says that if they do get picked up, filming would begin in mid-July at the earliest.

8:40 p.m.: Before audience Q&A starts, Michael goads Scott into recreating his "Pop Goes My Heart" dance from "Music & Lyrics." Afterward, Scott admits that Taylor likes to make him do it.

8:42 p.m.: Someone asks about the concerted effort to deemphasize the football aspect of the show this season. Jason responds, "I kind of feel like we deemphasized it a little too much and should we come back I'd really want to focus more on football in the third season."

8:44 p.m.: Connie on the show's depressing ratings: "It sucks because everywhere you go people love the show so I don't get who's not watching. Maybe I have a skewed perspective."

8:48 p.m.: Connie on Peter Berg's return to the show in the de facto finale: "Peter's the king of 'saying something different, now say something different, now say something different!' Every single take has to be different. All I can say was the look on Kyle's face in those scenes were 100% authentic. He literally had no idea what to do with him."

8:49 p.m.: Jeff on the show's unique musical choices: "There's something about the show that allows itself to accept the music without making it too kind of stylistic."

8:52 p.m.: A fan asks about the challenges of keeping the show about the original cast but also owning up to the realities of kids graduating and moving on. "I think that's going to be a balancing act as we move forward year after year to sort of retain the core group from the show but also continue to slowly sort of meet new characters as we going on," Jason confesses. "I mean there were a few characters we introduced this year - the Santiago character - I sort of loved. You know and in weird way he started to find his way into the show. And of course somebody mentioned Brad, [the actor who plays] Buddy Garrity. He's part of the DNA of the show. I'm hoping the show goes on for many years and we all can continue to watch it evolve."

8:54 p.m.: Jason says they're hoping to put together some kind of soundtrack release. He's also open to having Explosions in the Sky score some of the actual show but "they're an eclectic group of people."

8:56 p.m.: We close with Scott thanking the fans for their support of the various spinal injury-related charities, especially the mini-footballs they sent in. And - they've brought some with to give out to us as we leave. Score!

8:58 p.m.: That's it until tomorrow night's "Buffy" event!





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