"Friday Night Lights" (7 p.m., NBC) was a great book, a good movie and now a fine TV drama. Shot documentary style with an anxiety-inducing editing style, "Friday" does a great job of capturing the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a small Texas town where football isn't everything, it's the only thing.
Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) has the mixed blessing of inheriting the head-coach job for the Dillon Panthers after a string of winning seasons. They're considered the best of the best, and, as a result, the only thing Taylor can do is blow it. Every talk-radio caller seems obsessed with his perceived weaknesses.
The teenage players bestride Dillon like demigods, but they're not immune to the town's obsession. In a great scene, Taylor and his team, including star quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter) and brash running back "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles), attend the opening of a local car dealership. The coach is subjected to passive-aggressive meddling from the town elders and a forceful lecture from the mayor while the players find themselves sought after by cheerleaders, classmates and at least one woman old enough to be their mother.
The atmosphere is so powerfully charged and utterly claustrophobic that the screen literally seems to explode with the opening kickoff of the Panthers' first home game.
It remains to be seen whether "Friday" can maintain this level of dramatic tension over the course of a season, but, with tonight's episode, it is off to an exceptional start.
¢ Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, is everywhere. He's been to the White House, he's on a book tour and he's even on "The Daily Show." And now he's on a powerful "Frontline" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) installment titled "The Return of the Taliban."
After members of the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies were ousted from power in Afghanistan in late 2001, many sought refuge in the dangerous, semi-autonomous mountain regions of Western Pakistan. "Frontline" interviews Musharraf and his aides and generals about how they balance their role in Washington's war on terror with their attempts to keep Islamic militants from breaking into full-scale revolt. Musharraf has survived several assassination attempts. Other officials, soldiers and tribal elders have not been so fortunate.
Washington has lavished billions on the Pakistani regime. According to "Frontline," some of that money has been used as payoffs to militants to lay down their arms, and a portion of those funds have been funneled directly to Al Qaeda.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ A glum Lorelai tries to cheer up Rory with a theme party on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., CW).
¢ "Nova scienceNow" (7 p.m., PBS, check local listings) enters its second season with a glace at earth-shattering asteroids, fat genes and a cartoon about neutrons and protons. Neil Tyson hosts.
¢ Veronica and the gang enter college on the season premiere of "Veronica Mars" (8 p.m., CW).
¢ The quirky series "Eureka," (8 p.m., Sci Fi) about a secret town of geniuses, concludes its first season.