May 22, 2017
| May 31, 2016 | Culture
ATX Television Festival celebrates the 10th anniversary of Friday Night Lights with the ultimate high school reunion.
Taylor Kitsch starred as Dillon High School bad boy Tim Riggins in the first season of Friday Night Lights, which ran from 2006 to 2011. Kitsch is one of the many actors from the show who fell in love with Austin while filming here.
Ten years ago, a cast of mostly unknown actors arrived in Austin to shoot an NBC series set around that most sacred Texas tradition: high school football. Created by Peter Berg, who directed the 2004 movie based on the nonfiction book by H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights catapulted the careers of Connie Britton, Kyle Chandler, Taylor Kitsch, and Jesse Plemons, and also formed a lasting bond with Austin—many of the actors still have homes here. While never a ratings hit, the critically acclaimed show became part of our culture (“Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.”).
“The stories that it tells are real stories. You want them to be real people,” says Caitlin McFarland, who along with Emily Gipson founded the ATX Television Festival, which has included a Friday Night Lights event every year since it started in 2012. This June, ATX will celebrate the show for the final time by throwing a 10-year anniversary party on “Panther Field” with a trademark cast and crew reunion (past reunions include Gilmore Girls and Party of Five).
The fest offers a balance of nostalgia (The O.C. writers’ room), the cutting-edge (Casual, Younger, and UnReal), and the seminal (David Simon and Tom Fontana). But FNL is the heart. “We wanted to say goodbye in a big way because Friday Night Lights helped start the festival,” Gipson says. June 9–12
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL MULLER/NBC/NBCU PHOTO BANK VIA GETTY IMAGES
(KITSCH); PAUL DRINKWATER/NBC/NBCU PHOTO BANK VIA GETTY IMAGES (TEAM)