This post is in two parts. Up top is a spoiler-free article highlighting a recent interview with "Friday Night Lights" showrunner Jason Katims. For those who have been following the series on DirecTV, a complete transcript of the conversation -- with spoilers -- can be found in the extended section of this post.
"Friday Night Lights," the critically acclaimed show about high school football in small-town America, can claim a rare distinction -- it may be the first in television history to end a season before it begins.
For an estimated 600,000 viewers, the third season of "Friday Night Lights" came to an end this week on DirecTV. But because of a groundbreaking business deal, the show will also open its third season tonight (Jan. 16) on NBC.
"This was an arrangement made in the eleventh hour for one season," said show runner Jason Katims, whose program averaged a lowly 6.2 million viewers in its second season on NBC. "This was an experiment. There really hasn't been any specific discussions about going further . . . But if our numbers are solid, and stay somewhere within the range of where we were with previous seasons, then I think we'll be fine."
But he added: "The ball is in NBC's court."
In an unprecedented agreement announced early last year, the subscription satellite provider scored dibs on airing a commercial-free 13-episode run of "Friday Night Lights" in exchange for absorbing some of the series' costs. In addition to offsetting expenses, the arrangement allowed NBC to keep a critical darling on its prime-time lineup.
The first half of the experiment has gone well, said Katims. "This is the truth: I feel positive about this show continuing," he said. "I feel like the show is building momentum. I'm noticing a lot of people mentioning that they found the show on DVD."
Although early reports placed the show's audience on the satellite provider at around 400,000 viewers, officials with DirecTV put the viewership between 600,000 and 800,000 when factoring in all four of its weekly airings. The company has more than 17 million subscribers.
The show's fans, however, received a recent scare when principal actor Aimee Teegarden agreed to appear on the CW's "90210." But the actress is booked for only two or three episodes, according to a "90210" spokesperson. "We love Aimee, and we love [her] character, and she would definitely still be a part of the show, should we come back," Katims said.
Those tuning into the drama on NBC will find a third season that harks back to its first. A strike-shortened second season resulted in a host of cliffhangers, many of which are resolved in the first 10 minutes of this year's premiere.
Additionally, by fast-forwarding to the beginning of a new school year, "Friday Night Lights" gives news fans an easy access point, although Katims admitted that it might be a jolt to some longtime viewers.
Inspired by the nonfiction book of the same name by H.G. Bissinger, "Friday Night Lights" presents a broader, more complex look at small-town life than most teen-centric dramas. Two separate story arcs of Season 3, for instance, delve into what Katims described as "the uncomfortable politics that surround a football program in a Texas high school," asking questions about academic and athletic funding.
But plenty of time is devoted to high school's extracurricular activities -- the non-sporting kind. NBC promos have been hyping the "Friday Night Lights" cast as the sexiest on television.
"The show has an air about it, about being important or noble or something," Katims said. "I think there might be some subliminal feeling that watching the show is like taking medicine . . . I'm glad to see they're doing ads that don't just list critical acclaim. We need to get the word out."
A complete transcript of the interview with Katims is below.