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"Friday Night Light" Returns -- But Where? And What is NBC Thinking?
October 1, 2008  | By David Bianculli
friday-night-lights-couple.jpgFriday Night Lights, the fabulous NBC drama series about a high-school football team and the town obsessed by it, returns tonight for its third season. But this time, for now, it's not on NBC. Good luck finding it...

friday-night-lights-tami.jpgIt's easy to find, actually, but only if you have satellite TV -- specifically, DirecTV. That's where Friday Night Lights, starring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami, returns tonight at 9 ET. It can be found on the 101 Network, which is DirecTV's fancy-schmancy name for its channel 101.

Why is it there, instead of on NBC? It's on DirecTV because the second season of Friday Night Lights was cut short by the writers' strike. Instead of filming new episodes after the strike to complete the season, NBC decided to cut its losses. The network almost decided to cut the show, but opted instead to enter into an unusual partnership with DirecTV.

In exchange for absorbing part of the cost, DirecTV would get first dibs on a shortened third season of 13 new episodes. Those begin rolling out tonight. When they've all been shown, sometime early next year, NBC will begin televising them. Friday Night Lights fans without DirecTV, or friends who have DirecTV, will have to wait until then.

It'll be worth the wait. (I review the new season on today's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and you can hear my report after 3 p.m. ET HERE.) But as happy as I am to see Friday Night Lights reach a third season, regardless of how, I have to question NBC's wisdom, or lack of it, in this better-late-than-never approach.

NBC, at this point in its history, doesn't seem to care much at all about network exclusivity. My Own Worst Enemy, one of its best new shows, doesn't premiere until Oct. 13 -- but if you don't want to wait, you can go to NBC's own website and watch it starting next Monday, a week early.

Episodes of NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent were shown first on the USA Network. Last season, as an experiment, NBC picked up broadcast rights to Quarterlife, the excellent series of webisodes created for the Internet. NBC's version was canceled immediately, and the remaining episodes burned off on Bravo.


With all of these projects, whatever enthusiasm they generated, for the most part, was visited upon the medium that presented them first. Friday Night Lights got a lot of glowing reviews today, in newspapers and on websites -- but are likely to get a lot less coverage when NBC finally gets around to recycling them in the dead of winter.

Allowing website visitors to get early access to shows on your network is a strategy I just don't understand. For network TV to survive, just as for newspapers to survive, it can't be all about the number of hits on the website. You have to offer your loyal base a reason to keep coming back -- and for TV, the most compelling reasons are those shows. Don't give them away elsewhere, or wait in line to show them.

Show them first, show them exclusively, and show the best. By those criteria, Friday Night Lights would be available tonight -- but to all TV owners, on NBC.

I'm just saying...



1 Comment


Misty said:

David, what can we do to shake some sense into NBC? I love this show so much - and have turned several other people onto it, who now also love it. I can't stand to see it pushed onto other networks, ignored by the Emmys, and having to find special funding. Your comment about NBC prioritizing Knight Rider (on Fresh Air) was spot on. I can tell from the previews that it will be as dumb as the idea itself. And yet, this beautiful, honest, compelling show gets put on the backburner. BTW - what's up with the Emmys ignoring it? Do we need a lobbyist to promote FNL to the judges?
If some sort of petition or open letter gets started to either NBC or the Emmys, let me know. I will throw my energy behind it!

Comment posted on October 1, 2008 5:15 PM
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