By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Aug 13, 2010 at 11:00 AM

I saved up the final two episodes of NBC's "Friday Night Lights" and watched them Thursday. It's often worth it, combining episodes on the DVR and fast-forwarding through the commercials on the best scripted summer drama on broadcast TV. 

The fourth season finale aired last Friday, with the fifth and final season starting its bifurcated run on DirecTV's The 101 Network on Oct. 27. Those last 13 episodes will run on NBC sometime next year.

It's an interesting arrangement that saved the low-rated, high-quality show from an early demise.

I do think "FNL" has just about run its course, but this past season showed some fine acting and great storytelling, and I'm looking forward to the final baker's dozen.

It's one of the few network dramas willing to take on abortion these days, with Connie Britton's "Tami Taylor" feeling the heat for counseling a pregnant teen on her options. Britton's high school principal character is the moral core of the show, and she maintains position that without being too preachy or saccharine.

If I have a complaint about the show, it's the heaviness that hangs over the entire cast. Yes, high school kids do face adult pressures. And, yes, violence and drugs are a scourge on young lives. But everybody is filled with an angst that borders on excessive. 

Even one of the rare comic relief characters, Jesse Plemons' Landry, has gotten more serious.

When the topics are justifiably serious, the series handles them well. A prime example is the way Zach Gilford's Matt Saracen dealt with his absentee soldier dad's death. And one-time football star Tim Riggins -- masterfully played by the understated Taylor Kitsch -- moved from joy to despair at season's end when he took the fall for a chop shop he operated with his brother.

Of course, the focus of the show is high school football, and the season wrapped up with a dramatic game as Kyle Chandler's Coach Taylor reclaimed some lost glory.

If you haven't seen it, it's a show made for a DVD box set, which conveniently comes out next week.

And here's one of the best scenes from the past season:

On TV: The latest "American Idol" talk from TMZ is that if Jennifer Lopez falls through, Shania Twain's the back-up to become a judge on the Fox show.

  • Tony Dovolani, who gained fame as a professional dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," will be at Brookfield's Fred Astaire Dance Studio from noon to 9 p.m., Tuesday. He'll be teaching group classes. They're open to the public, but space is limited. Call Angela or Albina at (262) 796-1121.
  • Channel 6 has released details of its fall daytime schedule -- which goes into effect Sept. 13 -- putting the syndicated "Real Housewives" into the noon weekday slot, and moving "Cops" to 2:35 am., "Divorce Court" moves to 1 p.m., replacing "Street Court." 'Swift Justice with Nancy Grace" will air at 2 p.m., replacing "Divorce Court."
  • Kelsey Grammer will narrate the next season of PBS' "Pioneers of Television," which is the work of Milwaukee documentary filmmaker Steve Boettcher.

A short-time hero: Does anybody else think all the media focus on disgruntled Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater as some kind of popular hero has been overdone?

First, there's a chronic smirk there that doesn't suit that kind of hero. Then there's this.

I'm betting the spotlight will be switched off well before his allotted 15 minutes are up.

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.