‘Friday Night Lights’: The DirecTV/NBC/DVD conundrum

Senior Television Writer
01.28.11 45 Comments


I watched the series finale of “Friday Night Lights” yesterday, and while I will not spoil a thing about it for any of you – and this article and its comments won’t feature any spoilers about any of the DirecTV episodes – I will say that my heart was full throughout, but my eyes were not always clear, if you know what I mean. And for the first time, I actually feel envious for the people who don’t have DirecTV and/or aren’t TV critics with screener access. Because you guys still have 13 new episodes of this great drama to watch, and I now have none. (I know, I know… the world’s smallest violin is playing for me.)

The final two episodes of the series are going to air on The 101 Network on Feb. 2 & 9 at 9 p.m. That’s simple for those of you with DirecTV. For everyone else, things get a bit stranger.

Yesterday, I got a press release about the release date for the final season on DVD: April 5, which is well ahead of the tentative summer premiere date NBC has been talking about. Now, the company that puts the show out on DVD is part of the NBCUniversal empire, so it’s not like any signals were crossed. So I checked in with someone at NBC to find out if this was going to affect the premiere date – or if NBC was still planning to air the final season at all. (After all, DirecTV pays most of the production costs, and the show’s NBC ratings are tiny; essentially, they’re like cheap reruns the network can use in a low-expectations timeslot.)

And the response I got: “The plan is still to air the final season of ‘FNL’ this spring.”

A date hasn’t been nailed down yet, and definitions of “spring” vary, but even if NBC starts things a little ahead of March 21, that’s still going to leave the great bulk of the 13 episodes to air after they’re available on DVD. And if it doesn’t premiere until after April 5, then all of them will be out in advance.

Again, NBC spends little money on the show, has no expectations for its ratings and doesn’t even have to worry about the future, given that this is the final season. And the movie business has experimented with release windows like this, where a film might premiere on the same day in theaters, on DVD and On Demand. But for those who consider the NBC airings to be the official ones, this is still going to be unusual.

We’re going to leave all discussion of the content of season 5 so far to my episode reviews – no spoilers for the non-DirecTV people, please – but I’m curious how everyone else plans to approach the final season. Will you just run out and buy (or try to rent) the DVDs on April 5, or will you wait to watch them weekly whenever NBC schedules them?

(Also, given this weird scheduling, I’m wondering how I should approach reposting the reviews. The last two seasons, it was easy, and NBC people seemed to want to be able to read the DirecTV comments, so I just changed the dates on each post so they would reappear at the top of the blog as that episode aired on NBC.This is more complicated. I have to mull… )

Around The Web