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Back on the Online Block (Expanded)

By RD Heldenfels Published: June 19, 2006

My study is beautiful, if a bit spartan for the time being. We have moved the desk back in, which gave me a place to hook up the computer, and I can go back to blogging from home in the most casual of wear. (Trust me, the less said the better.) I'll be online later with a few thoughts, none of which involves ''W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings.''

Later, with more added to the office and my workspace even more in shape: As regular readers here know, I've been working my way through fall series pilots, as well as brain-picking colleagues doing likewise, and don't have an overarching theory (aside from my post-9/11 musing, below). I do see some of the battle lines being drawn; I've written here about the ''30 Rock''/''Studio 60'' parallels, and expect at some point to get to ''Vanished''/''Kidnapped.'' An early consensus seems to favor ''Kidnapped,'' which has a really good cast, but I found ''Vanished'' better paced, if unbelievable in the way of Fox adventure serials. (That opinion, like any expressed about a series pilot, is subject to change before my review of the premiere appears, since the show may change cast, concept, title and nuances.)

This is, after all, ping-pong time, since there are new summer shows to deal with even as the fall stuff looms. The two intersected last week when I had a nice interview with Ron Livingston,  who is in the summer cable series ''Nightmares and Dreamscapes'' as well as fall's ''Standoff.'' There were plenty of other things to talk about as well, from dealing with home projects to ''The Cooler'' (where Livingston had a supporting role) and at least a glance toward cult fave ''Office Space,'' where Livingston starred. But we talked about his series, and it felt as much like a conversation as an interview, and I hope to get a good story out of it.

But I'm rambling, and what I really want to talk about is ''Friday Night Lights,'' the NBC drama for the fall, which is so far my favorite of the new series I've watched. In fact, it feels better every time I watch another show that isn't quite as strong and self-assured. ''FNL,'' as you could easily guess, is inspired by Buzz Bissinger's book and the movie derived from it; although it has new characters, it is still about a small Texas town where high-school football reigns.

''FNL'' aims to be about more than just football, although the game provides a focus for all the characters, whether rich or poor, young or old, serene or sad. In fact, the football part of the storytelling in the pilot may be the most predictable. You'll know what the future holds for a couple of characters not long after you meet them. But it's a show where predictability can still be entertaining.

And the show jumped high on my list for a scene that took place on a football field after the big game was over. It involves people kneeling in prayer, and it summed up part of what the series has to say, and it puts football in its proper place, and it moved me. That scene told me this is a series I'll want to watch a second time, and probably a third, and it will have to pretty bad to get me to quit even then, because I know it has the possibility of a scene like that one.

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