That the fifth season of “Friday Night Lights” would be the show’s last is one of those things everyone’s understood for a long time, going back to when NBC and DirecTV extended their deal for two more years at the end of season three. But that ending was never official until today, when DirecTV announced that “the fifth and final season” will premiere on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 9 p.m. on The 101 Network.
(As it’s been for the past few seasons, DirecTV has an exclusive window to air the episodes in the fall and early winter, and they likely won’t turn up on NBC/Hulu/iTunes/etc. until until next summer. That was the plan for season 4, and only NBC’s desperate post-“Jay Leno Show” need for primetime content got it on the air sooner.)
“FNL” showrunner Jason Katims has always been the one voice trying to suggest that the show could have life beyond that fifth season, but even he acknowledged that this was it in the DirecTV press release:
“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,” Katims said. “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.”
The season five regular cast will feature Emmy nominees Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, plus Aimee Teegarden (the last of the show’s original kid actors, and I’m curious to see the excuse they use to keep Julie close by when she’s been so set on leaving Dillon for years), Michael B. Jordan, Matt Lauria, Jurnee Smollett, Madison Burge and new addition Grey Damon. In addition, a number of former regulars – including Jesse Plemmons, Taylor Kitsch, Scott Porter, Adrianne Palicki and Zach Gilford – “will return throughout the course of the final season.”
That “Friday Night Lights” is going to end is disappointing. That it will have lasted five seasons, given the unfortunately tiny ratings, is a miracle, and hopefully a harbinger of a TV future where new business models are created to allow brilliant but low-rated series like this one to survive. Without DirecTV, NBC would have canceled the show after season two and its unfortunate murder plot, trip to Mexico, age-inappropriate affairs, etc. Thanks to DirecTV, we got proper farewells for Smash and Street, another nail-biter at State, the series’ reinvention in East Dillon, Tim Riggins’ long walk into the sheriff’s station, and a whole lot more.
To quote a halftime moment from the season four finale:
What are we?
What do we play with?
What do we play for?
What are we?