Friday Night makers hope to strike Tuesday gold

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NBC has earned a lot of critical acclaim this year. First, Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip was hailed as a return to form for Aaron Sorkin. Then, superhero drama Heroes was raved about and highly rated. Now, critics are glowing even brighter, if possible, for Friday Night Lights, a high school football drama premiering tonight at 8 p.m.

Lights is a TV spin-off of a hit movie, which usually signals a cancellation within a few episodes. This time, however, critics are crowing.

In her October 2 review, New York Times TV reporter Virginia Heffernan wrote the show is "a fiercely controlled and inventive work of art." San Francisco Chronicle TV critic Tim Goodman wrote that "Friday Night Lights is not good. It's great." Media Life's Andrew Lyons writes in his October 3 review that "Berg's Lights evokes the wonderful sense of how fleeting glory can be."

In a conference call with reporters, executive producer Brian Grazer (24), director Peter Berg, and actors Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton said they all felt pressure to make the show live up to the hype.

Grazer says he combats his fear of movie-to-TV translations with the knowledge his director, Peter Berg, brings a lot to the table.

"I have some anxiety as the [film's] producer about having a movie become a show," he admitted. "But I worked on the movie for about 13 years, and struggled through about five different directors until I found one who I felt would understand the movie. It's about boys' and girls' identity in that age period, and [Peter] really got it."

Berg said his only worry is the constraint of creating a good TV show week after week.

"I think that if there is tension, it's that recognizing that we were very happy with the film, and with the pilot, but we recognize the inherent limitations of TV production," Berg said. "We are working very hard to maintain a level of quality."

Kyle Chandler, who plays the character of coach Eric Taylor in the series, says the challenge of making good TV is exciting.

"The process is giving us an immense amount of joy," the actor said. "And that quality level is reachable. It's an amazing challenge."

Chandler says the placement of the cameras helps him feel immersed in the action.

"I didn't know where the cameras were when we were out there on the field," he said. "So it allowed us as actors to go where we wanted to, get real."

Grazer credits Berg with the unique look of the show.

"Pete had an extremely unique cinematic and filmic point of view about how he was going to [make Texas look]," Grazer praised. "It was his specific vision that was injected into the movie and the series."

Britton, who plays Taylor's wife Tammy, says that the show lets her and Chandler act out an authentic marital relationship.

"When we fight, we can go to the moon," she joked. "But then it all ends up in the bedroom."

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