Like AMC's " Mad Men," "Friday Night Lights" has an industry resonance, and social significance, that far outstrips the size of its audience. A critical darling from the get-go, NBC's adaptation of the book/film of the same name elbowed its way among the urban cop dramas and upscale family shows four seasons ago, offering Dillon, Texas, instead of a coastal city or moneyed suburb, modest single-stories instead of Craftsman or lofts, and folks living lives that included church, Sunday dinner and, of course, high school football.
The numbers weren't good, but the fans and the critics remained stalwart and for once the network listened. After the writers strike cut Season 2 in half, NBC made a deal with DirecTV, which now shares costs and airs episodes a half-season before they appear on NBC.
Did the experiment work? Well, stars Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton got their — and DirecTV's — first Emmy nominations this year, which shocked even those who felt they were long overdue. Subsequently, "Friday Night Lights" moved out of bubble-show-turned-distribution experiment and back onto the magazine covers just in time for the fifth, and final, season.
Dillon, of course, remains oblivious. Much, and nothing, has changed under that wide, flat Texas sky. Time has passed, of course, but the mood remains one of struggle. The season premiere opens not with the exultation of Coach Eric Taylor's (Chandler) scrappy East Dillon Lions beating his former team, now the Dillon Panthers, but with the grim realization that he's going to have to build this team up from scratch. His wife, Tami (Britton), is on a similar journey — having been forced out of her job as principal of Dillon High, she is now a guidance counselor at East Dillon, coping with the school's poverty and her own lack of authority. Many of the young folk who have not already left town are on their way out, including the Taylors' older daughter Julie ( Aimee Teegarden) and the stalwart Landry ( Jesse Plemons).