Reflecting on five years of ‘Friday Night Lights’


This whole thing rambles a bit, so forgive me.

Before I get into this post, I wanted to share something that was one of those really cool “lost in time” souvenirs I’ve collected from the five-year run of Friday Night Lights. The image you see above is not something of my own creation, but rather someone (I’m not sure who) that mocked up a wrap-around cover for Sporting News magazine a few years ago in an attempt to sell to NBC. (I think this was around the time when the financial burden of the show shifted to DirecTV from NBC, so as you can guess from the fact that you’ve never seen this before, it did not sell.)

A while back, one of my bosses shared this cover with me. It was maybe a few months before my visit to the set of Friday Night Lights in Austin — something that, sadly, I cannot link to as there is no functional archive of FirstCuts at the moment, but I’m working on it. Anyway, I had the opportunity to share that cover with Kyle Chandler, who obviously played Eric Taylor. It was a fun moment on a great day when I not only met Chandler, but also met Connie Britton (Tami Taylor) and Brad Leland (Buddy Garrity). You can view pictures from the set visit here. They were shooting Episode 404.

That day is probably one of my favorite stories to tell to people as I talk about my 8-9 hours spent in the Taylor house or my dinner with Leland and Chandler talking about everything from sports to their charitable work with their golf tournament, Beyond The Lights, which benefits the Buoniconti Fund and Gridiron Heroes. They’ve got another great event lined up in May, by the way. A good cause worth giving to for certain.

But that’s a bit of a digression. Just reflecting on the five-season run of Dillon, Texas, I can tell you that having already viewed the finale, the show ends in a way that is fitting of a series that was true to its characters and true to a story that wasn’t particularly like others you’d seen on television in many instances.

As I’d already gone through the particularly depressing realization that I had no new episodes to watch, I bounced back to the first disc of my Season One box set and I’m through about 15 episodes at this point. The pilot, which aired on Oct. 3, 2006, is still incredibly strong. Sure, there are moments when everyone is painted with an incredibly broad brush, and no, as best as I can tell, that is not the house they wind up shooting as the Taylor domicile the rest of the way, but you watch that scene in the hospital as the team gathers and Kyle Chandler narrates and I defy you to not get chills.

To say it holds up would be a grand understatement.

Not every was a fan of the doc-style “shaky cam,” but I’m not sure I’ve heard a soul mention it since Season One. And the music? Well, I’ll just say that Iron and Wine and Explosions in the Sky will both be in Charlotte in April, and I’ll certainly be in both, probably blabbing about FNL. The soundtrack to this show was always spectacular and chock full of indie awesomeness. Just another thing we’ll always love it for.

The show wasn’t perfect, lest we forget all of Season Two and some of the other contrived plots — few and far between as they were — at various times in the series. Season Two was like watching your favorite indie band do a commercial for Target. And yet, the show found its roots again in Season Three when it wasn’t being noted to death by NBC. (And we thank the oh-so-benevolent DirecTV for that.)

But the show tried to deal with family, faith and community in as honest a manner as you’ll find in any scripted TV show. In an era of Jersey Shore and bloated “reality” TV, it was an oasis in a wasteland of ridiculousness. There were those who were late to the party — and just judging from my inner circle of friends, there were quite a few of those. Maybe they were the people who thought “I don’t want to see a football show.” But it was never about football. Sure, there was actual football being played, but those who didn’t watch this show because of football are like people who choose to not read books because they are anti-paper. It’s not about the paper — or the football — but the words on the paper, or in this case, the people that were bonded together for better or worse through football in Dillon.

There will be a giant Texas-sized hole in my DVR when FNL goes away in a few days, even though its run on NBC begins on April 15 and the DVD releases 10 days prior. (Read the details over on HitFix.com from Alan Sepinwall.) But this is one of those “better to have loved and lost than never loved at all” kind of moments when Dillon goes dark for the last time. You’ll be sad, but it was a great run.

Check back Wednesday night for the dramatic conclusion of my FNL blogging as we walk you through Episode 513, titled “Always.”

Update: Now posted, Alan Sepinwall looks back at some of his favorite moments. Read it over at HitFix.com.

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2 Responses to Reflecting on five years of ‘Friday Night Lights’

  1. Pingback: Friday Night Lights Series Finale, Episode 513: Always « chris littmann

  2. Pingback: Monday Medley « No Pun Intended

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