Friday Night Lights started as a book, became a movie, and finally an acclaimed series. It turned most of its cast into stars and made director Peter Berg a Hollywood heavyweight. Many remember Friday Night Lights for its unfiltered portrayal of contemporary issues such as drug abuse and abortion.
The film and the series felt so real, causing some to wonder whether Friday Night Lights is based on a true story. Friday Night Lights is not based on a true story. However, the series drew from plenty of real-life events and places.
Friday Night Lights is loosely based on the non-fiction story by H.G. Bissinger with the same name
H.G. Bissinger’s Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream inspired the subsequent film and series.
Bissinger’s inspiration for the series grew as he attended high school football games in various towns on Friday nights. He appreciated the value placed on these matches by the players and the community.
Bissinger settled in Odessa, Texas, to understand the role high school football played in society. He wrote about the Parmenian High School Panther’s team and its journey to the division semi-finals in 1988.
He also wrote about the Odessa community, but he didn’t portray it in a good light. It, understandably, enraged the people of Odessa.
Therefore, Peter changed several things in the film and series to alter their similarities to the book. The productions featured real names and locations, but Peter fictionalized most of the scenes in the series.
We cannot discredit the book’s influence, but the series doesn’t follow the book chapter by chapter. For instance, Peter based the series in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, which shares some similarities with Odessa.
The fictional Dillion Panthers football team starred in the film. Dillon’s uniforms bear a striking resemblance to the uniforms used by the real-life Pflugerville Panthers of Pflugerville High School.
Therefore, Friday Night Lights is not based on a true story. It features real-life inspirations, but its story is purely fiction.
Peter Berg incorporated fictional elements to bring out the show’s message better
After releasing the film to critical and commercial success, Peter still felt that there was more to the Friday Night Lights story that hadn’t come out in the movie. He, therefore, decided to make a series out of Friday Night Lights. He told The Independent:
“When we made the movie, we couldn’t get into so much of it – he talked about racism, religion, family values. The book is so epic in its scope that we had to pick a narrow focus for the movie and we regretted that. So I always knew that it really lent itself well to a TV show.”
Peter Berg added some fictional elements to Bissinger’s story, creating an incredible show with plenty of inspiring arch’s. For instance, Jason Street’s paralyzing back injury was based on a similar injury suffered by a football player named David Edwards from Madison High.
Street’s character arc after the injury shared little with what Edwards went through in real life. Jason spent the rest of the season carving out an identity for himself following the end of his football career.
Peter Berg and the cast did a great job on the series, and there has been talk of a reboot. Peter Berg isn’t ruling it out, but it’s unlikely that the show will return with the original cast.
“Maybe some spin-off version of it – a moment, a flash,” Berg told The Independent. “I don’t know if you’ll ever see that show reunited, though.”