10 Reasons Friday Night Lights was the Best Sports Drama Ever

friday-night-lights

Although the film “Friday Night Lights” received only a lukewarm reception at the box office in 2004, when it hit the small screen in 2006, the way that audiences took to it was anything but lukewarm. And, even folks in the television viewing audience who weren’t all that crazy about football, fell in love with the Dillon Panthers. In fact, they fell in love with the entire state of Texas, thanks to the show. Consummate director Peter Berg was responsible for bringing FNL to both the big and the small screen with a little help from mega-producer, Brian Grazer. Is there anything that he isn’t involved in? It seems there’s not a movie or a television series that he’s not responsible for and yet he still manages to actually be a nice guy to boot.

So, ten years later, viewers are still talking about FNL and how much they miss it. And, fans worldwide still hold it in high esteem to the point that they all say it’s the best sports drama ever. Why? Well, for starters, it was absolutely the most defining network drama of the past 10 years. It was a passionately meaningful and creatively inventive TV show that involved big-hearted people who lived in a small town in Texas. It was also about the way we are raising our own sons and daughters. In addition, it offered us a well-rounded view of marriage as never before seen on TV. It offered a view of what it’s like to belong to a town where the locals are all brought together by something profound and lasting, too. It’s a place where every single day counts and everyone believes that Texas is forever. As if those weren’t enough, we’ve put together a list of ten specific reasons why FNL was the best sports drama ever:

Based on a True Story

For starters, the 2004 FNL movie was loosely based on real live people from a non-fiction book by H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger entitled “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, which was published in 1990. The book explored a high school football team and their 1988 season. They were called the Permian Panthers and their school was located in Odessa, Texas. The film was released by Universal Pictures and starred Billy Bob Thornton and Connie Britton. It was directed by Peter Berg, who actually happened to be H.G. Bissinger’s second cousin.

“T” for Texas

The show was not only about a small town in Texas but was also shot in Texas. Filming started in Austin, Texas in February 2006. To get Peter Berg to participate in the TV series, the network agreed that it would be shot in Texas. FNL featured numerous homages to that Texas heritage. Berg even featured the real-life coach of the Texas Longhorns football team, Mack Brown, in the pilot where he played a Dillon High School booster. The football scenes in the pilot were filmed at a local Texas high school and the uniforms for the team and coaches at Dillon High were based on that school’s real-life uniforms. Some other scenes in the pilot were filmed at the Texas School for the Deaf.

Creative Freedom

Although they had a script to work from every week, the producers made the decision in the very beginning to give the cast members a say in everything they were saying and doing on the show. The decisions that the cast members made affected both the delivery of their lines as well as the scene blocking. And, if the actors thought that anything wasn’t true to their character or the delivery didn’t work, they had the freedom to change it, just as long as the change still hit the main plot points.

Rehearsal-Free Filming

The creative freedom of the cast was complemented by rehearsal-free filming without the use of any extensive blocking. In fact, the camera operators had been trained to simply follow the cast around instead of having them remain in one place with fixed cameras surrounding them. Jeffrey Reiner, who was an Executive Producer on FNL, said that they called it the no rehearsal/no blocking/three cameras and we’re shooting method.

Authentic Look & Feel

Friday Night Lights was considered to be quite unique because they filmed on actual locations and not on a sound stage. That factor together with the use of hundreds of locals as extras gave the show a more authentic look and feel.

Inspirational Moments

FNL was truly inspirational without trying too hard. It also made people actually miss high school. Maybe they didn’t’ go to school in a town quite like Dillon, but FNL made everyone look back fondly at their high school days anyway. And, the coach really knew how to inspire his players and audiences at the same time. Everyone found that they could learn more from Coach Taylor than from any high school teacher they ever had because he was so wise, as was evidenced in some of his speeches to the team, like this one:

Great Inspirational Speech – Friday Night Lights

 

An Amazingly Attractive Cast

Let’s face it, it never hurts any TV show to have good-looking men and women in the cast. Women had major crushes on the athletic yet sensitive men in the series, like Kyle Chandler. And, men loved watching the stunning Connie Britton who more recently starred in the hit show “Nashville”, which although canceled last year, has been picked up by CMT, much to the delight of fans everywhere.

Addressing the Issues

FNL used the backdrop of a small Texas town and its football team for a platform for addressing a number of important cultural issues facing people every day in our country. Those issues included family values, abortion, drugs, racism, the lack of economic opportunities, and school funding.

The Pilot

Most TV shows start with a pilot and, in the event that the pilot is not well-accepted by audiences, then the project is shelved and the series does not go forward. On the other hand, if the pilot is a bonafide winner, like FNL’s was under the superb direction of Peter Berg, the show goes on to become a regular fixture on weekly TV. The FNL pilot was excellent and, in case you missed it, here’s the link to watch it:

Friday Night Lights SS01E01 Pilot

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdLFHqYoFag

 Big Bucks & Big Awards

Besides yielding approximately $33 million per year in revenue, FNL received a number of awards and accolades, including:

2011 PRIMETIME EMMY® AWARDS:

  • Outstanding Drama Series – Friday Night Lights
  • Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series – Jason Katims, “Always”
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series – Kyle Chandler as Coach Eric Taylor
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series – Connie Britton as Tami Taylor

Friday Night Lights Emmy® Awards trailer

Friday Night Lights- Honoree Speech-2011 Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony

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