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Friday Night Lights is an American television series adapted by Peter Berg, Brian Grazer and David Nevins from a book and film of the same name. The series details events surrounding the Dillon Panthers, a high school football team based in fictional Dillon, Texas, with particular focus given to the team's coach, Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his family. The show uses this small-town backdrop to address many issues facing contemporary Middle America.

Produced by NBC Universal, Friday Night Lights is broadcast by NBC and DirecTV (The 101 Network). Premiering on October 3, 2006 on NBC with an initial order of 13 episodes, the show was eventually picked up for a full season. NBC renewed the show for a full 22-episode second season, which began airing on October 5, 2007. Only 15 of these episodes were completed before production was stopped due to the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, leading to speculation that the show might be canceled. However, NBC renewed the show with DirecTV for a 13-episode third season; episodes began airing on DirecTV's The 101 Network on 1 October 2008 and were rebroadcast on NBC. To date, Friday Night Lights has aired 50 episodes, over the course of three seasons. On March 30, 2009, NBC officially renewed for two additional seasons of 13 episodes apiece with DirecTV again.

Subject to multiple timeslot changes, Friday Night Lights has yet to obtain a sizable audience. The show has, however, been a critical success and was featured on a number of critics' top ten lists following its first season as well as being identified twice by the American Film Institute as culturally significant. Lauded by critics for its realistic portrayal of Middle America and deep personal exploration of its central characters, the show has been awarded a Peabody Award, an Emmy Award, and a Television Critics Association Award.

Production

Inspiration

Friday Night Lights takes its inspiration from a book titled Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream and the 2004 film based on it. The book, published in 1990 and written by H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, details the 1988 season of the Permian Panthersmarker, a high school football team in Odessa, Texasmarker. The book itself was intended as a work of journalism and is assumed to be completely factual. The characters in the book are not renamed and the book makes no attempt to conceal their identities. The Universal Pictures film stars Billy Bob Thornton and was directed by Bissinger’s second cousin Peter Berg. The film's characters are again based on the real-life residents of Odessa circa 1988. The film is not completely true to the source material. In the book, the Panthers lose in the semifinal game and don't play in the state title game.

Conception

Once filming on the movie was completed, Berg turned his attention to adapting the story for television.Berg expressed in various interviews following the film how he regretted having to jettison many of the interpersonal topics covered in the book because of the time constraints of a feature film. Creating a TV series, particularly one based on fictional characters, allowed many of those elements to be brought back and addressed in-depth.

The show chose not to use Odessa as the setting and instead used it as inspiration for the fictionalized town of Dillon, Texas. The football team did, however, retain the Panthers name. Berg made a number of conscious choices in carrying elements from the film to the series and as such, much of the work that went into the creation of the pilot was duplication of the work that was done on the movie. Another of these choices included casting Connie Britton to play Head Coach Eric Taylor's wife and Brad Leland to play football booster Buddy Garrity, in similar roles to the ones they played in the movie. Furthermore, Berg used Explosions in the Sky, a band that wrote most of the film's soundtrack, for some situational music. Though many people have assumed that the show's theme song is also by Explosions in the Sky, it is actually the work of noted TV music composer W.G. Snuffy Walden and Bennett Salvay.

With this conception in hand, filming for the show's Austin, Texasmarker-based pilot began in February 2006. Berg described filming the pilot and eventually the show in Texas as "a deal breaker" for his weekly participation in the project. Even so, the show features a number of homages to its Texas heritage. In filming the pilot, Berg ensured this homage by featuring Texas Longhorn coach Mack Brown as a Dillon booster and having a caller to the fictional “Panther Radio” compare Panthers' coach Eric Taylor to Brown. The pilot also incorporated much of the surrounding area. Football scenes for the pilot were filmed at Pflugerville High School's Kuempel Stadium and at the RRISD Complex. The Dillon Panther football and coaches' uniforms were based heavily on the uniforms of the real life Pflugerville Panthers.

In addition to physical locations, characters in the show were inspired by Berg’s observation of local high schools students while preparing for filming the movie. For example, Jason Street, the character whose promising football career is ended by a spinal injury in the pilot, was inspired by a real-life incident in which David Edwards, a player from San Antonio’s Madison High, was paralyzed during a November 2003 game. Phillip Hughes, a player of Westbury High School in Houston, Texas plays the coach in the opposing team in this episode. Berg was at the game when the incident took place and it had a profound effect on him, leading him to base the pilot around a similar incident.

Performances

The show’s producers decided at the outset to allow their performers leeway in what they say and do on the show. Though scripted like any hour-long television drama, performers are given great leeway in the delivery of their lines and the blocking of each scene. If actors feel that something is not true to their character or a mode of delivery doesn’t work, they are free to change it provided they still hit the vital plot points.

The freedom that producers have extended to the performers is complemented by the fact that the show is taped without rehearsal and without extensive blocking. Camera operators are trained to follow the actors rather than actors standing in one place and having cameras fixed around them. This allows performers to not only feel free to make changes but to feel safe in making those changes because the infrastructure will work around them. Executive producer Jeffrey Reiner described this method as “no rehearsal, no blocking, just three cameras and we shoot.”

Working in this fashion has had a profound influence on everyone involved with the show, with series star Kyle Chandler going so far as to say “When I look back at my life, I'm going to say, "Wow, [executive producer] Peter Berg really changed my life."” Executive producer and head writer Jason Katims echoes this sentiment saying “When I first came on [the ‘FNL’] set, I thought, it’s interesting — this is what I imagined filmmaking would be, before I saw what filmmaking was.”

Filming

The first 2 seasons of Friday Night Lights have been filmed in Austinmarker, Pflugervillemarker and Del Valle, Texasmarker, despite discussions at the close of the first season about a possible move to New Mexico or Arizona. Representing roughly $33 million a year in revenue for the area in which its filmed, both were aggressive in courting the production company following Texas not paying all of the rebates they promised the show's producers. The show remained in Austin, however, as a result of Texas passing legislation to match the offers of other states and the production company having a preference to stay in the Austin area.

Friday Night Lights is unusual in its use of actual locations as opposed to prefabricated stage sets and its lack of any sound stage for filming. This, along with the production team using hundreds of locals as extras, gives the series an authentic look.

The drive towards authenticity continues in the show's documentary style filming technique, which employs three cameras for each shoot and shoots entire scenes in one take. Most productions film scenes from each angle, repeating a typical scene several times and readjusting lighting to accommodate each shot. The show is mostly improvised, and the scenes that air are usually the first takes. By filming a scene all at once, the producers have tried to create an environment for the actors that is more organic and allows for the best performances.

This desire for authenticity in the production extends to the football games as well, with the series making heavy use of the uniforms, cheerleaders, fans, and the stadium of the real-life Pflugerville Panthers. Producers even shoot Pflugerville games and use them as game footage in the show. Added to that are real life University of Southern California football announcers Peter Arbogast and Paul McDonald who provide off-screen commentary during the football game sequences. The facilities, colors, and bobcat logos of Texas State Universitymarker in San Marcos, Texas serve as the setting and creative inspiration for the fictional Texas Methodist University. The field's name on the show is Herrmann Field, named after George Herrmann, the head coach of the Pflugerville Panthers.

Marketing

Initial marketing of the show was targeted at the youth market and focused heavily on the football element. NBC teamed with social networking site Bebo to create a site that allowed students to upload video and photos, as well as create blogs about their local football teams. Students who participated were eligible for one of ten $5,000 scholarships. The focus of this promotion was a deal that would provide NBC and the show promotion on Bebo’s network of youth oriented sites including Piczo, Hi5, Tickle, Ringo and FastWeb.

Promotional Website with Toyota.


To complement this promotion, NBC sent out “School Spirit” kits to 1,000 high schools around the country. These kits included posters, pom-poms, mini-footballs and disposable cameras all bearing the show’s logo. The kits also contained copies of the show’s Pilot episode on DVD. This promotional trick is something the network would return to for its second season promotion when it teamed with HouseParty.com to send out 1,000 "Party Kits" which contained advance copies of the Season 2 opener along with other promotional material.

In addition to the Bebo.com partnership, NBC paired with Toyota to create what they called the “Hometown Sweepstakes,” in which students could earn cash grants of up to $50,000 for their school’s athletic program. This contest was open to high-school students ages 14 to 18 and was designed to draw people to the show’s official web site, where they could download AOL Instant Messenger Icons, screensavers, and desktop wallpaper. In addition, students that registered could download free movie theatre passes to special early screenings of the pilot episode. These movie theatre screenings took place in 50 cities nationwide and ran until a week before the show premiered on NBC.

This early strategy caused several marketing problems for the long term, the most notable of which was the lack of women viewers. The early marketing campaign created an audience of almost exclusively young men and all but repelled women with its football heavy slant. This in turn deprived the show of a large audience who would enjoy the more character-driven soap elements.

Given this dilemma, NBC chose to aggressively switch course and pursue the female demographic in the later part of the season. The network designed a strategy based around accentuating the personal elements of the show, even going so far as to rechristen the show with the tagline “It’s about life.” NBC Marketing President Vince Manze stresses that their goal was to let people know it was not just about football but about family and relationships as well.

The network again took their case to movie theatres by running 30-second spots featuring cast members and fans being interviewed about the show.

Distribution

Online episodes

NBC has been aggressive in its online promotion of Friday Night Lights. Streaming videos such as cast interviews and the full episode from the previous week have been available on NBC.com since the series’ inception. In December 2006, NBC expanded this selection to include every episode of the season. The move to offer every episode was made for only a few select shows and represents a marketing push on NBC's part. Beyond NBC.com it was announced on March 14, 2007 that the show would be part of an expanded lineup available via MobiTV.

In addition to the free ad-support offerings, every episode of Friday Night Lights became available for download on the iTunes Store on February 10, 2007 for $1.99 per episode. As a special promotion, the pilot was initially offered as a free download.The first 2 seasons are now on Zune Marketplace.

Repeat schedule

In an attempt to bolster series ratings, NBC repositioned reruns of the show to air on its sister network Bravo during the weeks leading up to the season one finale on NBC. These episodes aired on a schedule of one hour every Friday and three hours every Saturday.

Bravo is known to have an audience that is upscale and largely female, which is in line with NBC's then-President Kevin Reilly’s (now at FOX) new strategy for selling the show. When questioned about this strategy, he admitted to regrets over initially marketing the show incorrectly saying “It’s been so clear to me that [the marketing for] the show ended up confusing people in terms of what [the public thought] it was supposed to be”. He said that he felt the show is, at its core, a “women’s show” and his wish is that the marketing had reflected that to a greater extent.

NBC has used this method of ratings-bolstering with limited success in the past, most notably during the ratings-challenged final season of The West Wing.

Once the 2006-2007 television season ended, NBC planned to air reruns throughout the summer in the hopes of gaining new viewers during the summer hiatus. Despite rising ratings for the reruns, NBC abruptly pulled them from the network's schedule on June 24, 2007. NBC Representatives confirmed that reruns would resume airing in late August/early September and would be timed to the DVD release of Season 1.

DirecTV

During the 2007-2008 writers' strike, NBC Universal's decision to release the season two DVD with only the 15 produced episodes and comments by NBC chief Ben Silverman led to speculation that the show would be canceled.

Shortly thereafter, reports began to surface that the show's producer, NBC Universal, was marketing the series to other networks including The CW Television Network, TNT, and the owner of E! and G4 about possible arrangements for a third season. Similar deals such as the one where NBC shared airing rights for Law & Order: Criminal Intent with the USA Network were a template for these discussions.

Unconfirmed reports of a third-season renewal surfaced on March 5, 2008 when Nikki Finke reported on a possible cost-sharing partnership between NBC and DirecTV. The alleged agreement would have first-run episodes airing exclusively on DirecTV and being rerun on NBC at a later date. TV Guide's Michael Ausiello confirmed these reports on April 2, 2008. This was later confused when USA Today ran a report that NBC has confirmed their fall line-up, including Friday Night Lights. On nbc.com, the page for the show indicates a "2009 Series Return to NBC" and "returning to NBC with new episodes next season!" that were visible in early April 2008. Season three premiered exclusively on DirecTV channel 101, with the episodes replaying on NBC beginning on January 16, 2009. In March 2009, various outlets reported that DirecTV and NBC have renewed the show for two more seasons. It has been confirmed that DirecTV, in a joint venture with NBC once again, has picked up Friday Night Lights for two more 13-episode seasons. According to the official Friday Night Lights show site on NBC.com, the header reads "New Season Begins Summer 2010," which contradicts NBC's original plans to air the episodes, which would have already aired in the fall on DirecTV, midseason, where it would have had more of a chance to obtain a sizable audience.

Deleted scenes

As part of their online push for the show, NBC made the rare move of publishing deleted scenes from each episode on their web site. Normally, deleted scenes are held until a DVD release, but NBC/Universal has chosen to make them viewable online for a few shows that they produce.These scenes often provide information that is revealed later in the episode or series. An example is a scene from the episode entitled "I Think We Should Have Sex," in which it is established that the character of Walt Riggins has resumed living in the same house as his son Tim. The scene, while providing exposition on the relationship, serves only to establish a living arrangement that is made evident in subsequent aired scenes.

That said, the exposition given in a deleted scene can often change the intent of material that aired, such as in a deleted scene from the episode "Blinders". In the episode that aired, the character of Tim Riggins gives some prejudicial advice in regards to racial tension developing on the team. Only in the deleted scenes is it revealed that this advice was actually taken verbatim from advice his father had given to him and not necessarily what the character would have done had he not been trying to emulate his father.

DVD Release

DVD cover Season Episodes Originally aired Discs DVD release date
Region 1 Region 2
1 22 2006-2007 5 U.S./CANmarker: August 28, 2007 UK: October 29, 2007
Running Time: 955 minutes

Rating: NR

DVD Special Features:

  • 5 single-sided DVDs
  • Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Running Time: 14 Hours, 7 Minutes
  • Deleted Scenes on each disc
  • Behind The Lights: Creating The First Season of Friday Night Lights
  • Packaging: Digipak with Slip Sleeve
Price $29.98
2 15 2007-2008 4 U.S./CANmarker: April 22, 2008 UK: N/A, N/A
Running Time: 685 minutes

Rating: NR

DVD Special Features:

  • 4 single-sided DVDs
  • Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Running Time: N/A
  • Deleted Scenes on each disc
  • Audio Commentaries : "Last Days of Summer" with Executive Producer Jason Katims and Co-Executive Producer Jeffrey Reiner, "Are you ready for Friday Night" with stars Connie Britton and Aimee Teegarden, "There Goes the Neighborhood" with stars Jesse Plemons and K.J. Duffey.
  • Friday Night Lights Cast and Producers at the Paley Festival in L.A.
Price $29.99
3 13 2008-2009 4 U.S./CANmarker: May 19, 2009 UK: N/A, N/A
Running Time: 540 minutes

Rating: NR

DVD Special Features:

  • 4 single-sided DVDs
  • Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Running Time: 540 minutes
  • Deleted Scenes on each disc (Please note that DirecTV originally aired these episodes in longer formats, but NBC has decided to cut a few scenes due to time for commercials. Deleted scenes are presented separately per episode in non-anamorphic video. Some of the music has been also changed. )
  • 13 Minutes of a lost storyline from the emotionally charged climactic finale.
  • Audio commentary on the season finale with executive producer Jason Katims and co-executive producer/director Jeffrey Reiner.
Price $29.98


Region 4September 30th 2009

  • 6 single-sided DVD's


Plot

Characters

As a show about the community of Dillon, Texas and how the football team affects the town as a whole, Friday Night Lights has an ensemble cast. While screen time of characters varies from episode to episode, the show is most focused on Panthers' football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler), who strives to balance his emphasis on family, his status in a sometimes confrontational community, and his personal ambitions. His family of wife Tami Taylor (Connie Britton), a guidance counselor turned principal at Dillon High, and teenage daughter Julie Taylor (Aimee Teegarden) also are in the center of the show. When Tami becomes pregnant and gives birth to Gracie Taylor, tensions within the family increase and Julie becomes more rebellious.

Outside of the Taylor family, the show focuses on the respective lives of the Dillon's high school football players. In the series' first episode, star quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter) suffers an injury that leads to an end to his football career and a wheel chair-bound life which Jason resists and learns to cope with throughout the series. Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly), who at the time of Jason's injury was his girlfriend, parallels his story, as she goes from a Panther cheerleader to a Christian youth leader.

As a result of Jason's injury, shy and nervous Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) becomes the Panthers' starting quarterback and eventually dates Julie. It is also revealed that Matt's father is serving in Iraq and that he must therefore care for his grandmother Lorraine Saracen (Louanne Stephens) by himself, with help only from his best friend Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons), and eventual live-in nurse and love interest Carlotta Alonso (Daniella Alonso). Brash star running-back Brian Smash Williams's (Gaius Charles) quest for a college-football scholarship and full-back Tim Riggins' (Taylor Kitsch) tale of on-and-off alcoholism and party-life are told as well. Tyra Collette (Adrianne Palicki) also stars as a town vixen who goes from Tim's occasional girlfriend to Landry's lover following Landry's defense of her from a rapist.

Story

Season One

Season one revolves around two main events: the ascension of coach Eric Taylor to the position of head coach and the paralysis of star quarterback Jason Street. These two events set off a chain reaction that leads the series through its first season.

Coach Taylor's career depends on his ability to get the Dillon Panthers to the state championship. If the team suffers a losing streak, he knows his family, which includes daughter Julie, will no longer be welcome in Dillon.

Meanwhile, Tami Taylor lands a job as a counselor at the local high school. Over the course of the season, she becomes a support and a mentor to many of the students and her position plays a pivotal role in the season finale, which leaves viewers wondering whether Eric will leave Dillon to accept a coveted coaching job with a university.

Matt Saracen and Jason Street must struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds. Street must learn to live without the use of his legs in a town that seems to be moving on without him, while Saracen must rise to be worthy of the position he has inherited. As Street's friendship with Herc, his rehab roommate and wheelchair rugby teammate, grows stronger, so does his will and independence. The new role of QB1 is an unenviable task for the timid Matt, as he also must care for his ill grandmother while his father is fighting in Iraq. Causing further headaches, Matt falls in love with Coach Taylor's daughter, Julie, who loathes Texas life and dislikes football. She nevertheless falls for Matt because of his bumbling awkwardness and, above all, his modest decency. Their relationship slowly blossoms over the course of the season,

Also explored is the pressure on the cocky, driven Brian "Smash" Williams. Easily the most promising player on the Panthers' roster, he works hard to achieve excellence and sees his future career as instrumental in providing his family a better life. Life has been hard for Williams' family since his father was killed in a car accident, and financial constraints have led his mother Corrine to take multiple jobs just to get the family by. At one point, he decides that he's willing to risk his health by using performance enhancing drugs to make sure he gets a college football scholarship.

Tim Riggins is an unfocused alcoholic with absentee parents and no prospects beyond high school. However, he is shown to be a loyal friend with a good heart. Unfortunately, his good intentions seem to be repeatedly derailed by his own missteps.

Tyra Collette, like many of the other characters, comes from a broken home, where her mom falls in and out of abusive relationships. Tyra begins the season as Tim’s girlfriend, but as Season One progresses, thanks to Landry Clark — the school math geek and Saracen’s best friend — she starts to see the faintest glimmer of hope that she might get out of Dillon and discontinue the cycle that her mother and her sister (a stripper) seem destined to continue.

Meanwhile, Lyla goes through some of the biggest changes as she begins the season as a bubbly, optimistic, sweet-natured girl. Faced with the heartbreaking reality of Jason's injury, Lyla sleeps with Jason's best friend Tim Riggins. Though Jason and Lyla reconcile, Jason begins growing closer to another woman and at the same time Lyla learns about her father's many adulterous affairs. It is at this point that Lyla moves past her dependence on other men to grow into a more independent woman.

Season Two

Season two begins with Coach Taylor in Austinmarker with a new college-coaching job at fictional TMU, while Tami is in Dillon with their newborn baby. However, as the Panthers experience internal difficulties with a new coach, and as Tami forges a new relationship with her replacement counselor at the school, Eric decides to return to Dillon. Even with his return, his daughter Julie begins to frustrate her mother, as she ends her romantic relationship with Matt and begins one with an older man. This trend continues as she begins a friendship with a teacher that her mother feels is inappropriate.

Meanwhile, Taylor begins to attempt to win games with the Panthers but faces a number of issues. Tim is banned from the team as a result of missing a game to convince Jason to not have stem-cell surgery in Mexico. This leads to difficulties for Tim, who eventually ends up homeless before being taken back onto the team and returning to live with his brother. At the same time, Smash is courted by a number of college recruiters, leading to tension between him and his mother. Smash accepts a scholarship to the prestigious TMU. However, Smash punches a white teenager who sexually harasses his sister when they're at the movies. This turns into a blown-out-of-proportion racial incident, and Smash is deemed someone to have "character issues". His scholarship to TMU is revoked. He later commits to Whitmore University, a very small local school with a coach who has a strong relationship with Eric.

Matt, on the other hand, begins a relationship with a cheerleader before leaving her for his grandmother's new live-in nurse.

Additionally, the early season follows an arc where Landry kills and hides the body of a man who attempted to rape Tyra, leading to a romance between the two. Eventually, guilt builds within Landry and he confesses. Charges are not pressed, although tension between him and Tyra remains.

Jason Street impregnates a woman in what was supposed to be a one-night stand at the end of season two. The season ends on a cliffhanger as Jason pleads with the woman to keep the child and promises to take care of the two.

Season Three

The season began with Coach Taylor having failed to lead the Panthers to another State championship the year before, meaning the pressure was on for him, in a town where many clearly had a "What have you done for me lately?" outlook. Quarterback Matt Saracen's position is threatened by the arrival of Freshman J.D. McCoy, an amazing natural talent who comes from a rich family with an overbearing father, Joe. Matt moves to wide receiver after Coach Taylor names J.D McCoy the starting quarterback, but Matt is pushed back into his former role in the playoffs. He and Julie reconcile and rekindle their romance.

Smash Williams, who injured his knee during the previous year's playoffs, rediscovers his love for the game, gets a tryout with a college, and succeeds in winning a spot on their team. Tyra starts dating a cowboy named Cash, leading to complications in her relationship with Landry. Tim and Lyla start dating, and Tim pursues a college football scholarship. Billy Riggins gets engaged to Tyra's older sister Mindy. He, Tim, Herc, and Jason decide to flip Buddy Garrity's house for a profit. Tami Taylor takes on the Principal role of Dillon High School and fights with Buddy Garrity about the allocation of funds toward a Jumbotron.

While Coach Taylor and Buddy Garrity were making a visit to a possible recruit who just moved into town, the coach learns of a plot to have him replaced as head coach of the Dillon Panthers. They learn that Joe McCoy wants Taylor replaced with Wade Aikman, J.D.'s personal coach. After the school's administration meets to decide who gets the coaching job, Aikman is offered the job at Dillon High School, while Taylor is offered the job of coaching the Lions of East Dillon High, which is reopening after years of being closed.

Season Four

Dillon will live every week like it’s Rivalry Week now that East Dillon High School has reopened. “The whole idea of this season is about this town being divided in two because of this new team,” says Katims. “And over the course of the season, the lines are literally drawn between these two teams. At times it’s funny but it eventually gets really ugly.”

• Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) will be challenged as he assumes the reins of the East Dillon Lions, who aren’t at the top of their game yet. “He’s got to figure out how to make something out of nothing,” says Katims. “It’s tougher than he can even imagine because with all the obstacles he’s had in the past, it came with a group of football players who all wanted to please this guy. When he walked into a room, they took a knee. These guys don’t…. It becomes less about winning a championship [than] winning a game.”

• Prepare to wave goodbye to Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford), the former QB stud who boldly decided to skip school and stay in Dillon with his grandmother Lorraine (Louanne Stephens) and girlfriend Julie (Aimee Teegarden). Alas, now he’ll struggle to find himself. Sample bummer: Delivering a pizza to current QB stud J.D. McCoy, played by Jeremy Sumpter. (Gilford, by the way, will appear in the first six episodes; he’s slated to return for one to two more episodes later in the season.) “Ultimately it’s a love story,” hints Katims about the Matt-Julie arc. “It comes down to: What happens when you find your soulmate too [early] and you realize that the best thing to nurture the relationship might not the best thing for yourself and for your future?”

• Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) will try to sort out his life while working with brother Billy (Derek Phillips) at Riggins Rigs, their new repair shop. After his bedroom is converted into a nursery for Billy’s baby, Tim winds up living in a trailer behind the house of Becky (Madison Burge), an East Dillon student/beauty-queen hopeful who bonds with him after he has a one-night stand with her cocktail waitress mother, Cheryl, played by Alicia Witt. (Yes, Tim Riggins is one Panther who’s not afraid of cougars!) “She has a little bit of a Lolita vibe,” says Katims of Becky. “She and Riggins develop a quirky friendship, and later she becomes embroiled in a controversy that permeates the town, and inadvertently she gets Riggins involved.” As for Tim’s love interest, Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly), who left Dillon for Vanderbilt, she’ll appear in two episodes. “An event that happens to one of the characters in the show is going to bringing her back,” says Katims, “and she and Riggins will deal with this relationship that’s been left unfinished.”

• Wanting to enjoy her senior year, Julie (Aimee Teegarden) faces tension in her relationship with Matt as he’s no longer interested in attending high school parties. Plus, notes Katims, “her desire to get into the next phase of her life and become more of an adult is an ongoing story between her and her mom.” And speaking of mom, Tami (Connie Britton) tries to “figure out how to balance the fact that she’d rather be going to the East Dillon games to support her husband, but as the principal, she has to stand up and cheer for the Panthers,” says Katims. Later in the season, Tami comes under fire when she gets enmeshed in a situation with one of the show’s new characters.

• In addition to the aforementioned Becky, we’ll meet several other East Dillon students, including the talented but troubled football player Vince (Michael B. Jordan). “He’s trying to toe that line of becoming a rising star and at the same time doing whatever he needs to do to support his family while his father’s in prison,” says Katims. “And sometimes that puts him in [the position of] doing very questionable things.” Another new face is Luke (Matt Lauria), a standout last year on West Dillon’s JV team who is forced to transfer to East Dillon when it’s discovered that he’s been lying about his address. “He’s a charming, outspoken, upbeat guy who’s been put into a very difficult situation,” says Katims, adding: “He immediately has conflicts with Vince on the team, and these two guys are like oil and water.” And please welcome Jess (Jurnee Smollett), the daughter of ex-football player Virgil “Big Mary” Merriweather (Steve Harris) who’s ”very charismatic, high energy, and knows more about football than most guys know,” says Katims. Juicier still, Jess—who’s had an on-again-off-again relationship with Vince—becomes “romantically entangled” with Landry (Jesse Plemons), who is zoned for East Dillon High and ends up playing for Coach Taylor’s Lions.

Character changes

Revolving around high school football, the series has and will continue to have a history of character turnover, according to the creators. Following the switch from NBC to DirecTV, Jason Street and Brian "Smash" Williams were written off the show in different forms, partially in a cost cutting move and partially to keep the flow of the story realistic. In season 4, Lyla Garrity, Tyra Collette and Matt Saracen are set to have a send off similar to Jason Street and Brian Williams. Landry Clark will be an upcoming senior at East Dillon High School.

Episode 1 featured a cameo from Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach made an appearance during episode 2 (Season 4) where he was asking coach Taylor for directions at gas station.

Public reaction

Critical reception

The series debuted to strong critical reviews. Virginia Heffernan wrote for the New York Times that "if the season is anything like the pilot, this new drama about high school football could be great — and not just television great, but great in the way of a poem or painting." The Washington Post similarly praised the series as "[e]xtraordinary in just about every conceivable way." Bill Simmons, a former columnist for ESPN Magazine implored readers of his column in the September 24, 2007 issue to watch the show, calling it "the greatest sports-related show ever made." Positive reviews also came from USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Arizona Republic, and the Boston Globe and international sources, with The Guardian's Jonathan Bernstien calling the pilot "accomplished and engaging" and the Metro awarding it 4 out of 5 stars.

Throughout its inaugural season many online journalists used the frequency of their medium to heap regular praise on the show. Matt Roush of TV Guide dedicated several of his “Roush Dispatch” columns to the show calling the last episodes of season one “terrifically entertaining” while Zap2it.com's "TVGal" asked her readers to "promise to watch [the last 4 episodes of] Friday Night Lights." TV Guide's Michael Ausiello called the season one finale "predictably flawless."

The show's pilot did, however, receive negative reviews as well. The Philadelphia Inquirer's review was particularly harsh, calling the show a "standard high school sports soap opera." The Los Angeles Times and the Texas Monthly also were critical of the show.

Season two reviews were considerably less positive than for the first, with the Landry and Tyra murder plot receiving particular panning by critics. The Los Angeles Times said that the show had lost its innocence, while the Boston Globe said the event was "out of sync with the real-life tone of the show." Others were more positive, though, with Variety saying "faith should be shown in showrunner/writer Jason Katims" while the New York Times said "to hold “Friday Night Lights” to a measure of realism would be to miss what are its essentially expressionistic pleasures."

Time magazine's James Poniewozik named it one of the Top 10 Returning Series of 2007, ranking it at #4.

Young members of the Friday Night Lights cast


Fan response

Friday Night Lights is a show that has enjoyed what former NBC President Kevin Reilly dubbed a “passionate and vocal [fanbase]”. This fan dedication has shown itself in everything from advertisers expressing their support for the showto news outlets getting massive amounts of support mail after running positive pieces about the show.

It has also led to the creation of several websites dedicated specifically to the show. These include the general information sites as well as several sites dedicated specifically to securing a second season for the show. Sites with this goal in mind include fightforlights.com which has collected positive press clippings about the show, savefridaynightlights.com which has organized an online petition for its renewal, and a MySpace page which includes video, audio and text about the show.

Fan campaigns

After some statements made by NBC's Entertainment head Ben Silverman about the future of the show and the fact that everything seemed to point that Friday Night Lights wouldn't be back after the writers' strike, fans put together several campaigns. Best Week Ever suggested sending lightbulbs to NBC's offices. Save FNL Campaign raised money to send footballs and contributions to charity foundations that were related to the show.

As of today, the Save FNL Campaign has raised $15,840 for 18,750 footballs, $2061 for charity, and $924 worth of DVDs for troops stationed overseas. The first shipment of 50 boxes of footballs was sent to Ben Silverman at NBC on February 28, and the second was sent to Jeff Zucker on March 3.

Awards and nominations

2006
  • American Cinema Editors - Best Editing on a One Hour Series for Commercial Television - for the episode "Pilot" (WIN)




2007






  • Emmy Award - Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series - Peter Berg for the episode "Pilot"
  • Emmy Award - Outstanding Casting For A Drama Series - Imagine Television, Film 44, NBC Universal Television Studio (WIN)
  • American Film Institute - 10 Best TV Programs of 2007


2008


2009


Television ratings

U.S. ratings

Friday Night Lights has not met with much ratings success, having consistently placed below 50 in the Nielsen rankings.

International ratings

According to the Media Guardian (a UK newspaper) the show's pilot, which aired on February 21, 2007, was watched by a mere 26,000 viewers in the UK. This is attributed to the program airing on ITV4, the least viewed ITV channel, and being aired opposite the first leg of the Barcelona-Liverpool tie in the first knockout round of the 2006-07 UEFA Champions League in soccer.

In Australia, Network Ten has held onto broadcast rights since late 2006. In February 2008 it was announced that it will air exclusively on Ten HD on Friday nights at 11.05PM starting March 7 and won't be a part of Ten's regular programming schedule. Also in Australia from February 2009, Fox 8 will be airing the first season Friday Nights at 9.30pm.

In New Zealand, C4 is broadcasting the series from the pilot episode every Friday at 8:30pm from August 3, 2008.In Greece fnl scored a 3,1% in its premiere and after 11 episode alter channel removed it from the schedule. However it was announced that the remaining episodes will return in 2009.It is currently on hiatus.In Germany, TNT Serie broadcasts FNL since February 2009.

DVR ratings

On December 29, 2006 Nielsen Media Research reported the results of having, for the first time, monitored viewers who use a Digital Video Recorder to pre-record shows for later viewing. These ratings, called "live plus seven", include all viewers who use a DVR to record the show and then watch it within a week of its initial airing.

According to the Nielsen numbers, DVR viewers increased Friday Night Lights ratings by 7.5% overall in December. When Nielsen monitored viewers again in April 2007 the increase went up to 17% for the week ending on April 8.

These numbers are up to some debate though with Medialife Magazine reporting the "live-plus-seven-day" rating for Friday Night Lights as 35 percent higher than its live rating in DVR homes.

Affluent viewers

On March 5, 2007 Media Life Magazine reported that Friday Night Lights is one of the most popular shows among "affluent viewers." This was determined using a report from Magna Global who in turn used analysis done by Nielsen Media Research. Affluence in the study was determined by yearly income.

In the study, Friday Night Lights tied for the 11th most watched show by affluent viewers. According to the study viewers of the show have a median household income of $65,000 per year.

The Future of Friday Night Lights

In March 2009 NBC and DirecTV announced they had reached an agreement to produce a fourth and a fifth season, each consisting of thirteen episodes. It is believed that the new deal will see DirecTV retain the rights to air each of the new episodes first, and that the "key" cast members are to continue with the show .

The fourth season premiered on October 28th on DirecTV.

Notes

  1. Ausiello on Friday Night Lights | TVGuide.com
  2. Friday Night Lights
  3. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/37302/friday-night-lights-the-third-season/
  4. http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Friday-Night-Lights-Season-3/11616
  5. 'http://hollywoodinsider.ew.com/2009/10/21/friday-night-lights-exec-producer-jason-katims-teases-season-4/
  6. On the Field and Off, Losing Isn’t an Option, Virginia Heffernan. New York Times, October 3, 2006.
  7. "Friday Night" Kicks Off With A Great Formation, Tom Shales. Washington Post, October 3, 2006.
  8. {{cite web|url=http://www.tvguide.com/Ask-Ausiello/070411}|title=AskAusiello Endorsement|accessdate=2007-04-11}}
  9. Poniewozik, James; Top 10 New TV Series; time.com
  10. Why We Love Friday Night Lights...And Why We Want to Keep It Around
  11. Not only are Barça and Liverpool two of the biggest and most storied clubs in European football (soccer), they were the winners of the previous two Champions League titles, with Barça winning in 2006 and Liverpool winning an epic final in 2005.


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