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NBC's "Friday Night Lights" airs its final episode on Friday night (7 p.m., Channel 5), appropriately enough. And saying goodbye will be like losing a close friend.

A town full of close friends, as a matter of fact. And one of the best family shows in television history.

Shortly before the show premiered in 2006, writer/executive producer Jason Katims explained why he'd signed on to this adaptation of the 2004 movie, adapted from H.G. Bissinger's 1990 nonfiction book that revolved around high school football in Texas.

Katims, who joined the series after the pilot was filmed and guided it through the remaining 75 episodes, said he was drawn to "Friday Night Lights" because the story went beyond being just about football.

"You felt like you were dropped into this real small town in Texas, and I think that the show just kind of has an authenticity that draws you in," Katims said. "It has this sense of community that I think people yearn for. And then there's all these tremendous characters that we intend to sort of fill out and draw upon and go into their homes and learn about their lives."

Mission accomplished.

Football has always been at the center of "FNL," but "FNL" was never about football. It was about the people who coached, played, boosted and cheered for the football team — football teams — in a small Texas town.

Football coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) is a great coach, but more importantly a good man. He and his wife, Tami (Connie Britton) have the most realistic marriage on TV — they don't always agree, they bicker at times, but they clearly love and support on another.

They're good parents, but that doesn't mean their daughter, Julie (Aimee Teergarden) didn't make some big mistakes on her way to growing up.

Like real life, life in "Friday Night Lights" wasn't fair. Whether it was Jason Street (Scott Porter) being paralyzed, Eric and Tami Taylor losing their jobs at Dillon High, Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) going to jail for his brother's crimes or East Dillon losing its football program, it really wasn't fair.

But we got to see the true measure of the characters in adversity. We suffered with them and grew to love them even more.

As "Friday Night Lights" concludes, Eric and his East Dillon team have a chance to win the state championship, and Tami has a huge job opportunity — in Philadelphia. Which is a problem, because Eric has no intention of leaving Texas.

But the final few minutes of the final episode put football in perspective. And let us know that life goes on for these characters who have become like part of our family.

If you're a "Friday Night Lights" fan, you're going to cry. I can almost guarantee it. (And let me know what you think.)

Scott D. Pierce's column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Mix. Contact him at spierce@, follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce; read his blog at