If you follow me at twitter, you’ve probably caught on to the fact that I’m somewhat unhealthily obsessed with Friday Night Lights, the now defunct NBC show featuring Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, that sadly, nobody watched.
The show, which was officially declared dead in 2011, was primarily filmed in and around Austin, Texas, which was used as a stand in for the fictional town of Dillon. Austin has long been on my list of places to visit in the US, but other than being the live music capital of the world and it’s penchant for weirdness, I didn’t really have an strong push to make it my next must-visit destination (like I did recently with Nashville). That all changed in December when I decided to watch Friday Nights Lights courtesy of my Amazon Prime account. I finished the whole five seasons in just under two weeks and in the time since have made the soundtrack to the show the soundtrack to my life (read: I burned it onto a CD), made it my mission to make all my friends watch it (which has been both a huge uphill battle and raging success) and basically convinced myself that these fictional characters are actually my friends.
“Devil Town,” featured prominently in several episodes of FNL is one of my new favorite songs.
I didn’t initially realize it was filmed in Austin, but did some research about midway through my viewing to see whether or not Dillon was a real place. It turns out it isn’t. There was once a town called Dillon, located about an hour northwest of Dallas but sometime during the Great Depression it stopped appearing on highway maps. The fictional Dillon is actually based on the real life town of Odessa, whose Permian High School Panthers were the subject of the book Friday Nights Lights: A Town, A Team, and A Dream, upon which the subsequent movie and then television show were based. H.G. Bissinger, the author, is a actually prominent author as well as print and radio journalist from Philadelphia. Once I realized Austin was Dillon’s stand-in, it’s moved up much further on my list of places to visit.
That planned visit was even more expedited last week when my friend showed me the following website that showcased the show’s most iconic locations and where in and around Austin you could visit them. We happened to be in the middle of a Philadelphia bar crawl when the topic and website came up and when you’re surrounded by friends and liter steins of hefeweizen you don’t concentrate fully on smart phone links someone shows you (even when they were as groundbreaking as this one) so once I was home recovering on Sunday I asked her to send me the link and wasted an hour perusing and trying to pinpoint some of my favorites. I did some further research and found this other great interactive map which actually gives you addresses and lets you see where these locations are in relation to one another.
The great majority of the places are right in Austin, with two noticeable exceptions being Tim Riggin’s land, where one of the last tear inducing scenes (yes, I cried) of FNL took place, being situated twelve miles north in the suburb of Manor and the Pflugerville High School, 20 minutes north of Austin whose mascot is the Panthers and where the original Panthers’s (before the the east/west split) games were filmed. I was excited to learn that the homes of the Riggins brothers, the Taylor residence and the Alamo Freeze are all within a couple of blocks of each other and that you could legitimately reach all the locations in a day’s drive.
Where would I be most excited to visit? Obviously I’m down for getting a picture in front of the Taylor’s and pretending that Eric and Tami and grilling up some bbq out back, but I’m also looking forward to photo ops at Matt Saracen’s (if the universe loves me, there will be a hanging tire I could throw a football through) and embarrassingly enough, even though it’s not my scene I’d include a visit (at least in the parking lot) of the Landing Strip, which happens to be a fully functioning strip club.
Is it sad that I’m legitimately thinking of planning a trip around television filming locations? Probably, but then again 10,000 people swarmed Scranton for the Office Wrap Party last May, so at least I’m not alone in this.
Caution: spoiler alerts ahead.
The most ironic thing about this whole thing is that I’ve actually been to one of Friday Night Lights filming locations before: Philadelphia. Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler actually traveled to Philadelphia for the final season of FNL where she was interviewing at the fictional Braemore College which in actuality is just a portion of Temple redecorated with Braemore flags. Kyle Chandler filmed his final scene, at Frankford High School in Northeast Philly. Check out this article from 2011 documenting the film shoots and take notice of the picture where Connie Britton is walking across Broad Street. No lie, I swear I parked my car just blocks from there this past weekend when visiting my sister.