When I visited my family in Seattle a few years ago, one of the first things I did was drive to nearby North Bend to have some coffee and pie at Twede’s Café, the real-life Double R Diner from Twin Peaks. For my 22nd birthday, I braved the endless Lincoln Tunnel from New York into New Jersey to eat at Holsten’s, the diner featured in the final episode of The Sopranos. (There was a jukebox at my table — the table — but it didn’t work, and even if it had, “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” was nowhere to be found.) I took a self-guided Breaking Bad tour in Albuquerque, and all I got was this speck of Walter White’s (fake) blood from an all-time classic episode. I love visiting real-life pop-culture landmarks, even when they’re only minutes from my apartment.
Literally across the street from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, 10 minutes from downtown, even closer to where I currently live, is an abandoned football field. The bleachers are rusted, with trees shooting between the openings. The grass is 2 feet tall. The tall lights that used to shine down on high-school athletes are now temporary homes for birds. At least that’s what the field used to look like. Now it’s been cleaned up for hundreds of Friday Night Lights fans attending the Austin Television Festival.
For the fifth and final time, ATX Television Festival brought together the cast of the great football drama for an evening of clear eyes, full hearts, and Lone Stars. The Friday Night Lights Tailgate & Pep Rally Blowout — complete with live music, tacos, and a screening of a “fan-favorite episode” — was held on Panthers Field, where much of FNL was filmed. (It took $10,000 to clean up the grounds, which were in such bad condition, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “NBC’s Revolution filmed one of its apocalyptic scenes there.”) Zach Gilford, Taylor Kitsch, and Minka Kelly were busy out of town, and Kyle Chandler and Michael J. Jordan were absent, but the reunion was attended by Connie Britton (Tami), Gaius Charles (Smash), Scott Porter (Street), Adrianne Palicki (Tyra), Matt Lauria (Luke), Brad Leland (Buddy), Dora Madison (Becky), Derek Phillips (Billy), and Jesse Plemons (Landry/Lance), among others.
Here’s what we saw.