The five-season saga of Friday Night Lights has been one of the strangest ones in all of TV-land. The show was spun off from the hit film Friday Night Lights (2004), which chronicled the real life Cinderella story of the Permian Panthers’ 1988 high school football season in Odessa, Texas. The “underdog team makes good” scenario made for a wonderful story, and director Peter Berg felt that he could bring this magic to the small screen on a weekly basis.
Friday Night Lights debuted on NBC October 3, 2006. For the show, the director decided to fictionalize the characters and town, to allow for dramatic license. It was a choice that would haunt the series throughout its five season run.
Initially, the football team’s fortunes were emphasized - which wound up turning off a large portion of the show’s female audience. Midway through the first season, NBC switched tactics and aggressively pursued the female demographic. Predictably, men started tuning out.
Since this confusing beginning, the show has struggled to maintain a steady audience, despite a delirious campaign of reruns in just about every place imaginable. Online, basic cable, the network itself - everything has been fair game for the producers to get the word out that Friday Night Lights is one of the best dramas on TV.
Add to the confusing initial positioning of the series the fact that the decision was made in season four to relocate the story to a different school, and you have the makings of what I would politely call “schizophrenic” television. And the bewildering programming choices continue. On April 5, 2011, Friday Night Lights: The Fifth And Final Season will be released as a 13 episode, three-DVD set. NBC will begin airing the 13 episodes weekly beginning April 15, 2011.
This bizarre method of presenting the series to the public would be laughable if the show was not as good as it is. The fact is, the fifth season of Friday Night Lights is fantastic! I would place it next to such greats as My So-Called Life and Freaks And Geeks in terms of “getting it right” about high school.
These shows capture all of the angst of teens, the drama of football, the all too real difficulties parents and teachers have when trying to help their kids, and so much more. It feels genuine, and that is a very rare quality in a show like this.