I don’t recall if the upcoming season 5 of Friday Night Lights was already officially the season’s last, or all-but-officially (I’d been going on the assumption, but last I spoke with DirecTV, they wouldn’t say it flat-out), but in any case it’s official now. The fifth and final season of FNL debuts on the satellite network Oct. 27, with the usual run on NBC to follow at an unspecified date.
I know that a lot of fans are still upset that NBC hasn’t committed to the show more fully and that it needs to end after five years (with 13-episode seasons at that). But while I’m not a glass-half-full guy by nature, in this instance I have to see the positive. Friday Night Lights is a show that in an earlier era of TV—which is to say, maybe ten years ago—would not have survived its first season with the ratings it draws. (Insert complaints about scheduling here, but even with a prime NBC platform, I just don’t think it was going to draw broadcast-level ratings under the best of circumstances—not while staying true to its voice and its realistic depiction of life in a small town with limited options.)
NBC’s commitment got the show a second season, and the economics of modern TV got it three, four and five, as DirecTV stepped in to finance the show in exchange for its first run. I’d have taken that deal gladly for Freaks and Geeks or any number of other shows that didn’t have this chance.
In any case, FNL finished season 4 having established new characters in a new school, setting up a potentially strong finale. I’ll savor what we get, and try not to focus on what we might have had in a perfect world.
Excerpts–including some semi-spoilery casting information–from the release:
Friday Night Lights will return to DIRECTV’s The 101 Network for its the fifth and final season on Wednesday, October 27 at 9 p.m. Lead by recent Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress Emmy nominees Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, the season five cast will feature series regulars Aimee Teegarden, Michael B. Jordan, Matt Lauria, Jurnee Smollett, Madison Burge and newcomer Grey Damon (90210, True Blood). Former cast members Jesse Plemmons, Taylor Kitsch, Scott Porter, Adrianne Palicki and Zach Gilford will return throughout the course of the final season.
“Going into season five, knowing it would likely be the final season, everyone involved with the show turned our focus to trying to make the best possible thirteen episodes we could,” said executive producer Jason Katims. “It was moving to watch the writers, cast, producers, directors and everyone on the team pull together like that. We wanted a great ending. We wanted to leave it all on the field.”
Season five opens at the start of a new school year and finds Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) an outsider in the world of Texas high school football. As he attempts to reclaim his rightful position within the establishment, Taylor finds himself faced with the challenge of tempering the expectations of the East Dillon Lions’ supporters, while proving to their detractors that they are a force to be reckoned with. Struggling to maintain control of the team he built and the players he’s molded, Coach endeavors to accomplish the impossible. After refusing to compromise her principles to appease the Dillon School Board, Tami joins her husband at East Dillon High doing what she does best, guiding students. Frustrated by what she finds at the school, she sets about to challenge the status quo, despite the resistance she encounters from both the faculty and students. Her efforts to repair a broken system, however, do not go unnoticed and will force her to make a decision that places a strain on the Taylor’s usually steadfast marriage.
Meanwhile, Julie (Aimee Teegarden) finds herself adrift at college and enters into an ill-advised relationship that will have serious consequences. Vince (Michael B. Jordan) continues his reign as the Lions’ quarterback, learning that his newfound stardom comes with advantages as well as hardships both on the field and off, as he faces the return of a father (guest star Cress Williams) he barely knows. Luke (Matt Lauria) is forced to face a startling reality about his future and the role that football will play in it. Jess (Jurnee Smollett) struggles to find a place for herself on the Lions as something other than a Rally Girl or member of the Spirit Squad. Becky (Madison Burge), unhappy at home, turns to someone else’s family for support. Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) continues to serve time in jail as a result of the illegal activity at Riggins Rigs, an experience that has left an indelible mark on him and threatens his relationship with Billy (Derek Phillips), the only family he has.
Additionally, season five will also feature the return of several characters from past seasons. Fan favorites Jason Street (Scott Porter), Tyra Collette (Adrianne Palicki), Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford), Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons) and Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) will return to Dillon throughout the course of the season.