The making of Friday Night Lights is a story of miracles. H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger’s 1990 book is one of the great works of 20th century sportswriting, a panoramic epic about a West Texas high school football team backdropped by late-Reagan America. It’s a miracle the book was adapted, not once but twice, by Bissinger’s cousin Peter Berg, a relatively untested filmmaker when he directed the 2004 Friday Night Lights movie before bringing the concept to the small screen in 2006.
The show was a miracle of casting: Journeyman performers Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler became TV icons as husband-and-wife walking #LifeGoals Tami and Eric Taylor, while a young cast of relative newcomers brought the agony and ecstasy of Dillon High School to life. And it was a miracle – a curiously modern television miracle – that the show lasted as long as it did, running for five seasons through two distinct generations of characters. When FNL debuted, series showrunner Jason Katims was best known for his work on a laundry list of eccentric, brilliant-but-canceled TV curios (My So-Called Life, Roswell, Pepper Dennis). It seemed, in the early going, that FNL would join that list. The show never earned good ratings on NBC, and spent its abridged second season downward-spiraling in a Friday death slot. But the series arrived in the early days of a profound transition in the creation and consumption of television. It survived, first, through a then-unusual deal with DirecTV; it thrived, in its afterlife, as an intensely addictive saga built for the streaming era. Also a miracle: Tim Riggins’ hair.
You can watch the whole show on Netflix right now. And you should, right now, whether you’re a newcomer to Dillon or a die-hard FNL booster. Because starting Wednesday, Jan. 18, EW’s second season of BINGE will begin a seven-episode exploration of the show that taught us all to root for the Dillon Panthers (before we started rooting against the Dillon Panthers. No spoilers, watch season 4.) Join EW’s Samantha Highfill and Darren Franich as they do a play-by-play on five seasons of football triumph and small-town tragedy, and check in with the people who made Friday Night Lights sparkle. We’ll dive deep into Dillon history, with some help from stars Adrienne Palicki (Tyra Collette), Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen), Gaius Charles (Smash Williams), Scott Porter (Jason Street), Brad Leland (Buddy Garrity), writers Bridget Carpenter and Kerry Ehrin, and Mrs. Coach herself, Connie Britton, among others.
What’s that? You want to hear Grandma Saracen’s stories from the set? We’ve got Grandma Saracen’s stories from the set! We’ll also do a deep dive into some of the show’s most tantalizing unanswered questions (What happened to Santiago? Just how old is Landry, anyhow?) and try to sort out which season of FNL is our favorite.
So turn on the game tape, swing over to the Buddy Garrity auto dealership, grab a quick bite to eat at Applebee’s, and subscribe now! Send your questions and comments on Twitter to @SamHighfill and @DarrenFranich, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. EW’s Binge is produced by EW’s Cristina Everett and edited by Will Malnati of At Will Radio. And remember: Clear ears, full mics, can’t lose!