Friday Night Lights

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Name: Friday Night Lights
Abbreviation(s): FNL
Creator: Peter Berg
Date(s): 2006-2011
Medium: television
Country of Origin: United States
External Links: IMDB
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About the show

Friday Night Lights is a show about smalltown life in Texas, and about (American) football. Its cinematography is spectacular and its characters are complex and real. That realness is part of its appeal. As cofax writes:

Because this is the thing about FNL: it's a show about, well, Americans. Not the plastic consumers of Friends or the remarkably white Southern Californians of Buffy or even the noirishly-tinted residents of Neptune, who are brilliantly colorful and quippy. The fictional residents of Dillon, Texas are honest-to-God real people who live in the middle of the country and who don't have television shows made about them and aren't glamorous and vote in school board elections and eat at Appleby's and care desperately about who's gonna win the high school football game on Saturday.
FNL is to Texas what Homicide: Life on the Streets was to Baltimore: a show steeped in a specific place at a specific time, dealing with the decades-old fallout from the failure of the oil industry, dealing with racism and sexism and homophobia and small-town politics and big city dreams and marriages that break and families that don't.[1]

Although the show is ostensibly about football, it appeals even to fans who don't understand or like the game. Jae Gecko writes:

And last, but not least, I want to say something about the football. Now, you have to understand, am just about the last person you'd think would appreciate a show about high school football. I went to a high school with a very good football team, and I stayed a million miles away from that scene. I went to a Big Ten university for undergrad, and to another Big Ten university for grad school, and I emerged on the other side of that never having watched a single game, either in person or on television. I don't even know how the freakin' game is played, okay? All the game jargon is just gobbledygook to me, and to be honest I have no desire to change that. But the football on this show is still such good drama--even when I have no idea what's going on, I can still tell who cares and how much and why--that it still moves me to tears. And that's the best evidence I can come up with about how good this show is.[2]

In musesfool's words:

FNL is a melancholy show, shot through with tragedy - it begins with the star quarterback being paralyzed from the neck down - and hope - we want these kids to get out of this dead-end town where high school football is the most important thing going on, get away from this machine that will build them up, tear them down and then spit them out, hungry for the next round of kids coming in - and we cheer when they do.[3]

(Note: Jason Street is actually paralyzed below the waist.)

Keeping FNL on the air

Despite its high quality, the show has a fairly small fandom. Late in season two, when the show appeared to be on the verge of being cancelled, a New York Times article argued that if there were more fanfiction, the show wouldn't have been in danger of being cancelled.[4]

During the campaign to save the show, fans sent 6,250 little nerf footballs emblazoned with "Save FNL" and "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" to the network. [5] Fans also raised more than $1200 for the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis in honor of character Jason Street, and also contributed to contributing to and sent FNL dvd sets to soldiers in Iraq in honor of character Matt Saracen's father in Iraq.

A unique deal was reached between networks which kept the show alive. In fall 2008, season three began airing on DirecTV's channel 101; the same episodes aired on NBC in early 2009, beginning after the Superbowl.

Once S3 was underway on NBC, the two networks began a conversation about keeping the show going further; as of March 30, 2009, a deal was signed to create two more 13-episode seasons of FNL.[6] Season five will be the show's final season.

Fannish trends

As in many fandoms which center around teenaged characters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter), a fair amount of FNL fanfic focuses on the lives and relationships of the teenaged characters, especially fan favorite Tim Riggins. The relationship between Tim and Lyla, and Lyla and Jason, sometimes leads to the writing of Tim/Lyla/Jason OT3 fic.

Fiction featuring adults in the FNL-verse tends to center around Eric/Tami Taylor. Their marriage has been called "the most realistic marriage on television. And the sexiest, too."[7]

In season four, the show shifted from its previous focus on the Dillon Panthers to a focus on the East Dillon Lions, the new team on the other side of town. The shift opened up the possibility of the show, and hence fanworks, delving more deeply into questions of race and class. A new livejournal community, East Dillon (link below), was formed in June 2010 to explore the new characters and their side of town.

Fannish response to the finale

Fan response to the finale was overwhelmingly positive.

Maria Lima wrote:

Tonight, as I (thanks to a friend who recorded the season for me) watched the season 5/series finale, I sobbed. Big fat tears of joy/sadness/emotional investment and utter RIGHTNESS as the show unfolded its absolutely perfect ending. I never thought I’d fall in love with Coach Eric Taylor and his wife, Tammy. With Julie, their headstrong daughter; with Matt Saracen, and Tim Riggins, Tyra Collette, and hell, even Buddy Garrity, who embodied so many things I hated so much about football boosters.
The creators captured Texas. MY Texas. The real dirty, gritty, good/bad/ugly/gorgeousness of what real Texas is like in a small town, where the game is everything that matters, except not always.[8]

heresluck's finale post reads, in part:

The finale gave me everything I wanted and some things I didn't even know I needed -- much as the show itself has done over the course of its run. It left me weepy and happy and exhausted and longing to make some vids. And it left me with a renewed and intensified love and respect for everyone who made this show.[9]

Notable fanworks


  • The Countrymileverse by Jae Gecko is "a series of interconnecting Friday Night Lights stories set in the characters' future."[10] The stories run the gamut of gen, het, and slash.


  • Cold as it gets by Barkley is a gorgeously sad look at first season Tyra, and is the vid that convinced a lot of fans that FNL wasn't just about teenagers and football.
  • bop_radar's Life for Rent[15] is a Tyra-centric character study based in season one, exploring how Tyra defines herself (in relation to a string of male characters, and in relation to her mother) and how most of those relational self-definitions leave her bereft.
  • Killa's Girl Trouble (not available online) takes a humorous look at the many women in Tim Riggins' life who get exasperated with him. By including Jason Street on that list, the vid makes a point both about Jason and Tim and about masculinity and femininity in Dillon writ large.

Where to find the fandom

On livejournal:

  • fridaynight100 - for FNL drabbles (community may be defunct; no new posts in a long while)
  • East Dillon - for fic, meta, and other info about the kids of East Dillon High

There used to be a newsletter community on livejournal, which is now defunct because the moderator isn't able to access season three on DirecTV.


There is a Friday Night Lights wiki, launched on February 8, 2008.[18]


  1. Links and show pimpage, by cofax; accessed November 21, 2008
  2. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose, by Jae Gecko; accessed November 21, 2008.
  3. I never thought I'd see it coming by musesfool; accessed June 10, 2010.
  4. Virginia Heffernan. Art in the Age of Franchising - Why Is Friday Night Lights Such a Bust?, in: The New York Times, 20 January 2008. (Accessed 03 Ocotber 2008)
  5. Save Friday Night Lights, link via Wayback Machine, original link now defunct (Accessed 08 December 2009)
  6. NBC Renews 'Friday Night Lights' through 2011
  7. Friday Night Lights: watch it!, accessed November 20, 2008
  8. Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Maria Lima, accessed February 25, 2010.
  9. Friday Night Lights 5 x 13, heresluck, accessed February 25, 2010.
  10. Countrymileverse index page, accessed October 20, 2008.
  11. You'll Never Meet No Decent Girls At Dallas Honky-Tonks, accessed June 21, 2010
  12. What Happens in Vegas, accessed June 21, 2010
  13. You Can't Put a Price On Tim Riggins, accessed June 21, 2010
  14. Bright Yellow Smile, accessed June 21, 2010
  15. Life for Rent, accessed June 21, 2010
  16. New Slang, accessed June 21, 2010
  17. American Baby, accessed June 21, 2010
  18. FNL wiki, accessed April 7, 2009.