Many years ago, I included the first season of Friday Night Lights among the best 20 seasons of television in the last 20 years. That would still be the case today. The series would be among my top three desert-island shows. I ranked the “We All Fall” speech from the pilot as the second greatest TV speech of the 21st century. And if you ask me, the pilot episode, which I remember watching three times before the second episode aired, is one of the three best TV pilots of all time (along with Six Feet Under and Breaking Bad). I can’t think of a better network television drama, ever. And I swear to God, Coach Taylor and Tami are to marriage what The Wire was to cop shows. There’s nothing better. They are out of everyone else’s league.
I could go on with Friday Night Lights superlatives for a very long time, but I’ll stop here, and just share with you 15 facts that you probably don’t know about the series:
1. The role of Tyra Collette (Adrianne Palicki) was actually originally offered to Lindsay Lohan. She declined, thank God. Can you imagine the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Lohan and Taylor Kitsch? It would’ve been a disaster, and too much of the show’s focus would’ve been on Lohan, to the drama’s detriment.
2. Meanwhile, in what would’ve been even better casting, Emmy Rossum was actually originally offered the role of Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly), but declined for fear of being typecast as a “good girl.”
3. Only two actors reprised their movie roles on the TV series: Connie Britton and Brad Leland, who played similar characters in both: The coach’s wife and a football booster, respectively. Peter Berg, of course, also directed the movie and the pilot episode.
4. The Jason Street character (Scott Porter) was inspired by David Edwards, a 15-year-old defensive back who was paralyzed by a tackle in a game that Berg was watching while researching the movie. Edwards would go on himself to become a motivational speaker, though sadly he passed away three days before his 21st birthday due to complications from pneumonia.
5. Kyle Chandler, who played Coach Taylor in the the series, is — along with this wife Kathryn Chandler — the godparent of Lorenzo Lamas’ kid.
6. Connie Britton, who played Tami Taylor, used to be roommates with Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls).
7. Before the movie, NBC attempted — but couldn’t get — the rights to Buzz Bissinger’s book, but they ended up doing a series called Against the Grain in 1993 that was essentially based on the book. It lasted less than a season. The QB1 in that series, by the by, was Ben Affleck.
8. Peter Berg’s original choice for the coach in Friday Night Lights was country singer Dwight Yoakum, but Yoakum’s demands were too high (he wanted time off to tour and too much money, among other things).
9. Kyle Chandler was not someone that Peter Berg wanted because Berg didn’t feel like he fit the part (too good looking). However, when Chandler showed up hungover for their first meeting on a motorcycle, after drinking and playing poker with his buddies for two days straight, Berg thought he looked just right for a Texas football coach.
10. The chemistry between Kyle Chandler (who was married) and Connie Britton was so immediate and so strong that many on the crew thought they were sleeping together in real life (they were not!).
11. Minka Kelly was 26 when she was cast in Friday Night Lights, and at the time, she was working in a plastic surgery clinic prepping patients for lip and boob jobs.
12. Taylor Kitsch auditioned from Canada on videotape. He brought in a cooler with two tall boys — a Texas beer, Lone Star (which was also the beer McConaughey drank in True Detective).
13. Tom Arnold, of all people, orchestrated the meeting between NBC and DirectTV (over Chinese food at the Sundance Film Festival), which allowed Friday Night Lights to continue after it was nearly cancelled after the writer’s strike.
14. Though a sex scene was called for in the second episode of the series, Kyle Chandler was so uncomfortable with it that, not only was it not filmed, but he and Connie Britton never had a sex scene on the show.
15. Though a script has been written for it, and though Connie Britton and Peter Berg are game, a Friday Night Lights‘ movie based on the series will never, ever happen for one simple reason: Kyle Chandler refuses to do it because he thinks its unnecessary. IT IS NOT HAPPENING.
Finally, because you should listen to it at least once a month, here’s that “We All Fall” speech:
Here’s the Emmy promo for the show to remind you that you should re-watch Friday Night Lights at least once a year.