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7 Facts about ‘Friday Night Lights’ That Will Blow Your Mind

Find out how the series came to life and who was almost in the cast

“Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose,” is the battlecry of the hit football series Friday Night Lights. But even true fans of the show might not have clear eyes when it comes to these Friday Night Lights facts and behind-the-scenes secrets about how the show came to be.

Set in rural West Texas, Friday Night Lights focuses on high school football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife Tami (Connie Britton), who’s also a school faculty member; as well as members of the football team and their significant others. The show uses its small-town backdrop to skillfully address family values, school funding, racism, drug addiction, poverty.

In other words, there was a lot more than just football going on, which is probably why Friday Night Lights proved itself to be as great a champion as any of the players it features. Definitely an underdog, the show did not garner much in the way of ratings during its two seasons on NBC (2006 to 2008) and was canceled as a result.

However, the fan base — as small but powerful as it was — proved itself to be a dedicated one, and the show was given three more seasons thanks to a pick-up from DirectTV’s 101 Network. Critically acclaimed, the series won a Peabody Award, a Humanitas Prize, several technical Emmy Awards (though it was nominated for even more) and a Television Critics Association Award.

The show went off the air in 2011, but 13 years later its popularity hasn’t waned at all. Even so, there are undoubtedly behind-the-scenes Friday Night Lights facts that will blow the minds of even the most dedicated fans (helmets recommended).

1. The series is based on a book: Friday Night Lights facts

locker room
Friday Night Lights (2006)moviestillsdb.com/NBCUniversal

As many great series are, Friday Night Lights was based on a novel — in this case Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream, by Buzz Bissinger. Although the TV version didn’t make it to the air until 2006, the book was published 16 years earlier in 1990. A few concepts were floated around based on the book, but nothing stuck until this series.

2. There was another series based on the book before Friday Night Lights

Yes, someone else did try to create a series before the 2006 hit. In 1993, just three years after the book’s publication, an adaptation was attempted for television in the form of Against the Grain. This series starred Ben Affleck and Robyn Lively, but only lasted eight episodes.

3. And then there was the 2004 movie: Friday Night Lights facts

If you thought there couldn’t possibly be any more adaptations of this book, you’d be wrong. In 2004, the film Friday Night Lights was released with an entirely different cast — the sole exception being Connie Britton. All the characters had different names, but Britton was still the wife of the coach (Billy Bob Thornton’s Gary Gaines), Sharon Gaines.

4. There was almost a different Tyra for the series

woman standing on field; friday night lights facts
Adrianne Palicki in Friday Night Lights (2006)moviestillsdb.com/NBCUniversal

Before the role of Tyra Collette was given to Adrianne Palicki, there was another contender up for the part: Lindsay Lohan, which would have made for a very different cast. However, the starlet decided to focus on her blossoming film career and pass on the series. As things turned out, Palicki was the perfect fit for the role of Tyra.

5. The character of Jason Street is based on a real football player: Friday Night Lights facts

boy on football field
Scott Porter in Friday Night Lights (2006)moviestillsdb.com/NBCUniversal

Jason Street, who was the star of the Dillon Panthers in the beginning of the series, was based on the real life of David Edwards, a high school football player from Austin, Texas. Edwards was paralyzed from the neck down after an injury in 2003, sparking the basis for Street’s character. Unfortunately, Edwards passed in 2008 following complications with pneumonia.

6. Connie Britton had one condition before taking the role of Tami Taylor

man and woman sitting together; friday night lights facts
Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler in Friday Night Lights (2006)moviestillsdb.com/NBCUniversal

Although Britton was already a part of the Friday Night Lights world, she had a condition before taking on her new role in the series, telling producers she wasn’t going to spend “10 years sitting on a hard-wood bleacher getting splinters in my ass and cheering on Kyle Chandler.” The result was that her character ended up having her own major arc and growth.

7. Nearly every scene is set in a real location: Friday Night Lights facts

man and woman sitting at table
Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler in Friday Night Lights (2006)moviestillsdb.com/NBCUniversal

Rather than the usual sets that many shows construct, Friday Night Lights filmed in real locations. Each of the houses are real ones that you can visit (with permission of the owners, of course), as well as The Alamo Freeze, which was actually a Dairy Queen.

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