Whether you are referencing the book, the movie, or the television series, Friday Night Lights sets out to describe a small town Texas football team with goals of winning a state championship.
The book that inspired it all is actually a non-fiction book by the title of Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream and was written by H.G. Bissinger. The book chronicles the 1988 Permian High School Panthers of Odessa, Texas as they make their way toward the Texas state championship.
The book was intended to be a piece of journalism, as Bissinger was a journalist by trade. None of the names in the book were changed, and there was no move to protect the identity of any of the people who appear in the book.
The book is accepted as completely non-fiction and follows the actual team of the Permian High School Panthers and the small town that surrounds the team. Through the book, the reader sees how much the town and school is willing to give up in favor of a winning football team. Academics are ignored, and anything goes for the star players on the team.
Eventually, in the end of the book, the Panthers make it to the state championship, but lose. The book critically analyzes how the small town of Odessa, Texas rallies around the team in a state - and country - where football is king.
The movie, Friday Night Lights is based on the book. The characters, town, and team in the movie are the same as in the book, making it dramatized non-fiction. The movie stars Billy Bob Thornton as Coach Gary Gaines, and includes Connie Britton as his wife and Brad Leland as an aggressive football booster - roles they both keep in the television series.
The Television Series
Friday Night Lights the television series is a fictionalized series based on the ideas and characters in the original book. The series aired on NBC for five seasons, starting in 2006 and ending in 2011.
The series had a total of 76 episodes and followed Eric Taylor, played by Kyle Chandler, his wife, Tami, played by Connie Britton, and their daughter, Julie, played by Aimee Teegarden. These are the central characters to the show, but there are also many recurring characters including the football players and their various girlfriends.
Jason Street played by Scott Porter, Lyla Garrity played by Minka Kelly, Buddy Garrity played by Brad Leland, Matt Saracen played by Zach Gilford, Tim Riggins played by Taylor Kitsch, Brian "Smash" Williams played by Gaius Charles, Landry Clarke played by Jesse Plemons, and Tyra Collette played by Adrianne Palicki.
The show is unique in that it was shot entirely on location in Austin, Texas and Pflugerville, Texas. They also did not ever use sound stages or sets; rather, they filmed at several high school and college stadiums, sometimes even using game footage from the actual players as football scenes in the show.
The directors also allowed the actors to ad lib quite a bit, teaching the camera men to follow the actors rather than teaching the actors to stand in place and wait for the camera. They were also able to change things around if they felt something they were directed to do was contradictory to their characters.
This gave the actors the ability to develop the emotional depth for the characters that made the show so excellent to watch. Friday Night Lights never received the wide audience NBC wanted for it, but it was a successful, emotional show that people will enjoy for years to come.