‘Lights’ out only for season

It's a lot easier to have clear eyes and a full heart when you know your favorite TV show isn't going away for good.

Friday Night Lights ends its third season Friday night and — saving its small but loyal group of NBC viewers from an uncertain summer — the network has announced a renewal for fourth and fifth seasons, a total of 26 episodes.

That renewal will continue the network's unusual partnership with satellite provider DirecTV, which this season aired episodes months early, an exclusive for its customers. DirecTV helps to shoulder the costs of producing the show, and despite low ratings on NBC, the deal will allow the show to continue at least through 2011.

So, FNL fans, what's in store on Friday's season finale? I watched the season on DirecTV and, without giving away any spoilers, I can tell you that by the end of the episode, Coach Eric and Tami Taylor (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, never short of spectacular) will find themselves facing a new and unexpected challenge that expertly paves the way for big changes and new characters in season four.

When it's all over, the Dillon Panthers won't be the same again, and it'll be a whole new playing field for all your favorite characters.

Graduating seniors, including Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford), Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelley), Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) and Tyra Collette (Adrianne Palicki), will all decide whether they stay or leave Dillon.

And the wedding of Mindy and Billy provides for some of the show's best visual humor (Tim Riggins in a white Texas tux!) and the usual tear-jerking true-to-life moments that make Friday Night Lights an emotional powerhouse of a show.

The season as a whole has been solid, with satisfying sendoffs for two of its main characters, Brian "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles) and Jason Street (Scott Porter). The arrival of the very rich McCoy family (D.W. Moffett, Janine Turner and former Mount Sterling resident Jeremy Sumpter, all well cast) complicated the lives of the Taylors, and that reaches its conclusion in Friday's episode.

And supporting characters Buddy Garrity (Brad Leland) and Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons) have stepped up to give the show its sly humor and big heart.

For three seasons, TV critics and fans have bugged you to watch, and maybe you missed the boat and think you'll never catch up. To which we answer:, iTunes, DVD. If you miss the finale, you have all summer (and even more time if you're watching on NBC) to fall in love with one of the best shows on television.