Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday Night Lights Goes Dark

Friday Night Lights is, without a doubt, one of the best television series I’ve had the honor of watching over the years. I also spoke with several of the cast members in the past five years, which was like talking with a TEAM of actors/actresses who gave so much to their roles. And, during the past several years, I’ve interviewed a LOT of actors and actresses and watched a number of shows that turned out to be true gems. For that, I am fortunate. Friday Night Lights was like watching people you knew… friends that you might have shared a cold one with or lived next door to on a street in Any Town, USA. This show illustrated “community”, in a way that translated beautifully and touched all of us whether we were aware of it… or not...

Friday Night Lights took its inspiration from the non-fiction book 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, detailed the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers, a high school football team in Odessa, Texas. The book itself was intended as a work of journalism and was assumed to be completely factual. The characters in the book are not renamed, and the book made no attempt to conceal their identities.

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.” Friday Night Lights enjoyed what former NBC President Kevin Reilly called a “passionate and vocal fanbase.” And what an understatement that turned out to be. Comedienne/Author/Late Night Talk Show Hostess Chelsea Handler was one of the show’s biggest supporters. She brought so many of the cast members on her show as guests in an all out effort to save what she called, “Real television, worth watching…”
Hailed as one of the top ten shows by numerous publications such as Time magazine, Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times, the critically-acclaimed drama Friday Night Lights also had been honored two years in a row (2006/2007) as an American Film Institute (AFI) Television Program of the Year, received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in 2006, and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series in 2007.

The Save FNL Campaign raised money to send footballs and contributions to charity foundations that were all related to the show. The Save FNL Campaign raised a total of $15,840 for 18,750 footballs, $2061 for charities, 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 28th, 2009, and the second was sent to Jeff Zucker on March 3rd, 2009. Friday Night Lights fans were like all of us… who remember sitting out in the cold rain draped in blankets and rain gear to watch high school football with a passion… because football was… and still is, to so many small towns across this country… life.

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