The opening moments of "Friday Night Lights" (8 p.m., NBC) remind us how this remarkable documentary-style melodrama is unlike any other on network television.
Remnants of last year's teen cast gather around a swimming pool in the merciless Texas summer heat. The editing cuts quickly from one clique to another and from one conversation to the next. Julie (Aimee Teegarden), the pretty daughter of absent coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), works the lifeguard tower. Her eyes evade those of her boyfriend, Matt (Zach Gilford), as she chats up her fellow lifeguard, known only as The Swede.
This flirtation does not go by unnoticed. The awkward Landry (Jesse Plemons) hopes a spot on the football squad will help him win the heart of troubled Tyra (Adrianne Palicki). Matt thinks he's fooling himself. But glancing up at the lifeguard tower, Matt realizes he just might have girl trouble of his own.
The scene unfolds filled with odd silences and rapid, awkward editing cuts. It's a moment when nothing much seems to be going on, a moment when just about anything can happen.
We know this sun-baked reverie can't last. Over the first hour of the new season, the action comes in relentless waves. A character is born. Another is born again. Violence and the threat of violence arrive, as does high school confusion and heartache. But unlike so many teen melodramas, "Friday" never condescends to its young characters or to its audience. We're light years from "The Hills" here. Even moments of cruelty are voiced in the awkward imprecision of those just finding their voice. There are no malls in sight.
Like too many dramas, "Friday" uses its soundtrack as a narrative gimmick and an emotional crutch. But it's not every series that opens its second season by casting the lead in the least sympathetic light. As action commences, Taylor has taken a job coaching a college team in Austin and hopes to maintain a long-distance relationship with his wife, Tami (Connie Britton), who enters the season some eight months pregnant. And Tami is not the only one feeling his absence. Will events conspire to bring him closer to home? You'll just have to find out.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ A scary urban legend rings true on "Ghost Whisperer"
(7 p.m., CBS).
¢ A supernatural gift cuts both ways on the repeat pilot of "Pushing Daisies" (7 p.m., ABC).
¢ A Labrador mix proves to be uncharacteristically skittish on "The Dog Whisperer"
(7 p.m., National Geographic).
¢ Rocket dog asserts himself again on "Meerkat Manor"
(7:30 p.m., Animal Planet). Where have all the Flowers gone?
¢ Mick's back pages may be his undoing on "Moonlight"
(8 p.m., CBS).
¢ Scheduled on "Primetime" (8 p.m., ABC): medical mysteries.
¢ A breezy ex-ball player (Kevin Costner) befriends an embittered, divorced mother (Joan Allen) in the 2005 comedy "The Upside of Anger"
(8 p.m., TNT).
¢ The shadow of homicide falls on a Hollywood hanger-on on "Numb3rs" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ The new owner (Tom Selleck) tries to make his mark on "Las Vegas" (9 p.m., NBC).
¢ Sheppard takes it to the Replicators on "Stargate: Atlantis" (9 p.m., Sci Fi).
¢ "Expose: America's Investigative Reports" (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) concludes its two-part look at a reporter's revelation of a widespread cover-up of a predatory scout leader in a small town in Idaho.
A righteous vet (Tom Laughlin) fights a biker gang in the 1967 shocker "The Born Losers" (2 a.m., Eastern, TCM), written and directed by Laughlin, who would go on to some fame when his independent 1971 film "Billy Jack" was released widely in 1973.