Tubegazing: Friday Night Lights and The Nine

Friday Night Lights (NBC, debuts Tuesday, Oct. 3, 8 p.m.): Although "Friday Night Lights" hews closely to the well-loved genre of sports-mania-as-soap-opera, it's trying to graduate into a genuine drama. Based on the H.G. Bissinger book that was made into a feature film in 2004, "Lights" shines a narrow beam inside the heart and soul of a tiny Texas town that lives and breathes the big game. Everyone from the mayor to the local car dealers to the grandmas sitting on their porches is a Friday night quarterback to the local high school football team, The Permian High Panthers. The plotlines are predictably full of teen melodrama and small-town angst, but the cast is interesting, and the show's semidocumentary style gives it surprising grit. Grade: B

The Nine (ABC, debuts Wednesday, Oct. 4, 10 p.m.): "The Nine" features a random, though strikingly photogenic, group of Angelenos (including Tim Daly, Chi McBride, Kim Raver) who are taken hostage during a bank robbery that lasts for more than two days. The twist in this well-cast drama is that the series will tell the story of those fateful hours over the course of the show's run, focusing instead on the aftermath. It will certainly make you wonder how you might survive such an event yourself – though whether that premise can fuel a whole series remains to be seen. Grade: B+

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