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Posted at 3:20 PM ET, 10/27/2010

As the final season of 'Friday Night Lights' begins, a salute to the characters we'll miss most

By Jen Chaney

Clear eyes, full hearts, no DirecTV.

That's the sad situation many "Friday Night Lights" fans find themselves in today, as the final season of the best sort-of-about-football show ever begins tonight, but only for subscribers of the satellite service. Everyone else has to wait until the spring, when NBC will air the Dillon drama's swan song.

Whether you actually can tune in to the season premiere or will just have to live vicariously through the TV Club conversations over at Slate, it seemed wrong to let this moment pass without a salute to the program that dared to consistently give us characters who want, above all else, to do the right thing. In that spirit, here's a list of the five "Friday Night Lights" characters I'll miss the most when the series finally comes to a close.

Tim Riggins: Yes, Taylor Kitsch is tasty. But that's not why I love Tim Riggins. I love the character's arc, that from the beginning of the show, he was a screwup and that now -- while he still possesses some screwup-ish tendencies -- he's blossomed into a man. A flawed man, but truly a man, the kind of guy who can sometimes be inconsiderate but tries not to be insensitive, and who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice -- spending time in jail -- to help his less evolved brother, Billy. We'll only be seeing Riggins for a few episodes in the final season, so let's relish every single one. And let's hope that he makes a few more calls into Christian radio programs, whether they're hosted by Lyla or not.

Landry Clarke:
He started as a sidekick, the wisecracking best friend of Matt Saracen who looked like a younger, less attractive version of Matt Damon. But despite the misguided Season 2 plot development in which Landry tried to cover up a homicide, he managed to emerge as the reliably honest guy who sometimes gets the girl and even emerges as a hero in his own right, as he did in the Season 4 finale.

Matt Saracen: I can never decide whether to tell Matt Saracen to stop mumbling or just give him a hug. Most of the time, the answer comes back hug. Saddled for much of the series with caring for an ailing grandmother, running a household while his father served in Iraq, keeping up with his studies and handling the responsibilities of being quarterback, Matt has always been the kid who bares massive burdens without complaint. Then last season -- in an incredibly moving hour of television in which he rode multiple waves of shock, anger and grief following his dad's death -- he finally broke down and broke free. Zach Gilford, the actor who plays Matt, hit every note dead-on. And the desire to give Saracen a hug intensified by a factor of 100.

Buddy Garrity: Don't we all know a Buddy Garrity, the used-car salesman with the beer gut, an unnatural obsession with his high school days and no sense of etiquette? While Buddy was mostly a punch line in Season 1, the infidelity that led to his divorce and a massive breach in his family turned him into a broken, sad and ultimately empathetic man. Now the pushy guy with few manners has turned into someone we kind of adore. Come on, how can you not love a guy who makes a commercial like this?

Coach Eric Taylor and Tami Taylor: Eric (Kyle Chandler) and Tami (Connie Britton) are two distinct, independent-minded individuals. However, I can't help but think of them as a unit. As the husband and wife who argue and nitpick (see videos below) but stand by each other no matter what, they're the most inspiring married duo on television. They're the couple all couples want to be. And Chandler and Britton make them so real that it doesn't seem delusional to think that might even be possible.

Here's Tami and Eric having a tough conversation that doesn't end well:

And here they are having another tough conversation that ends beautifully:

Which "Friday Night Lights" character will you miss when all is said and done? Feel free to share by posting a comment.

By Jen Chaney  | October 27, 2010; 3:20 PM ET
Categories:  Pop Culture, TV  
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What about Julie? She deserves a mention.

I still think it's kind of eery how that new girl that lived next to Tim Riggins (that girl that was pg with the fb players kid) looked so much like Tyra.

Posted by: charlienym3131 | October 27, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

charlienym3131, I'd love to know whether Tyra ultimately escapes her defeatist family background, or whether her mom and sister manage to suck her back into it. I sure hope Tyra can at least save herself, although it's unrealistic to hope she can save them as well.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | October 27, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

And I hope Smash makes the best of his college opportunities, not only in football but also academically, because I adore his mother and know how proud she'd be.

(Yes, folks, I do realize it's only a TV show, but there are people like these characters out there in the real world).

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | October 27, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Gees, I'm voting for LYLA!...'nough said

Posted by: drdoug99 | October 27, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

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