DVD, TV Review: Final Season of NBC’s Beloved ‘Friday Night Lights’

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CHICAGO – Even diehard fans of the show have to be stunned that “Friday Night Lights” made it five seasons. And perhaps the program’s most enduring legacy will be that it changes the delivery model. The fifth and final season has already aired on DirecTV’s 101 and starts playing tonight, April 15th, 2011 on NBC, but is also already available on DVD. Yes, the shows haven’t even aired on network TV but they’re already at the DVD store. Times are changing.

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 4.5/5.0
DVD Rating: 4.5/5.0

What’s most remarkable about “Friday Night Lights” (outside of the quality of the writing and acting on the actual program) is how the show survived. It’s not unlike an underestimated football team who makes an unexpected playoff run by changing the rules of the game. In many ways, it’s redefined how a program can stay on the air through the cost-sharing agreement between NBC and DirecTV and the unusual decision by NBC/Universal to release the final season on DVD before most people have had a chance to watch it on TV.

Friday Night Lights: The Fifth and Final Season was released on DVD on April 5th, 2011
Friday Night Lights: The Fifth and Final Season was released on DVD on April 5th, 2011
Photo credit: Bill Records/NBC

Television is not just about traditional ratings any more. DVD sales, DVR usage, downloads, and even just the prestige that comes with having a critically acclaimed program with a loyal fan base can keep a show like “Friday Night Lights” on the air despite its minimal audience. It’s already had an impact as DirecTV has also rescued “Damages” from the cancellation guillotine and will air the next two seasons. What’s next?

Friday Night Lights: The Fifth and Final Season was released on DVD on April 5th, 2011
Friday Night Lights: The Fifth and Final Season was released on DVD on April 5th, 2011
Photo credit: Universal

And the adoration for the show (except for perhaps the second season) has actually increased. Perhaps most notably, the show finally caught on with the Academy of Television, earning two Emmy nominations for its fourth season for its well-deserving stars Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. I expect at least Connie to be nominated again for this final season. Could the program finally earn an Outstanding Drama Series nomination? Don’t rule it out.

By the time the lights are finally turned off, “Friday Night Lights” will have produced over 70 episodes, far more than most of us expected based on the fact that it never placed above #90 in seasonal rankings. With the diversity of the market with new channels becoming players every month and new delivery systems like DVD, On Demand, and online downloading, traditional ratings don’t mean what they once did. What the show has done is redefined the word “hit” and in all the right ways.

Of course, you shouldn’t start your experience with the residents of Dillon, Texas with the final season. Watch from the beginning. Universal has packaged the thirteen episodes from season five on three discs and they’re all presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and accompanied by Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks. It would be nice to see a show with production values this notable released on Blu-ray but Universal is still one of the best studios at standard transfers, so the program still looks good. Hopefully, we’ll receive a complete series Blu-ray set soon — hint, hint Universal. It would make a great holiday season addition to your schedule.

As for special features, it’s a pretty extensive collection, which once again hints at the recognition that while not everyone watches “Friday Night Lights,” those who do absolutely love it. It’s nice that Universal treats them with the respect they deserve.

Special Features:
o Deleted Scenes
o Yearbook - photo gallery
o “The Lights Go Out”
o Audio Commentaries

“Friday Night Lights: The Fifth Season” stars Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden, Matt Lauria, Jurnee Smollett, Madison Burge, Taylor Kitsch, and Derek Phillips. It was released on DVD on April 5th, 2011 and is not rated. It runs 562 minutes. The show airs on Friday nights at 7pm CST on NBC starting April 15th, 2011.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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