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17 Clear-Eyed, Full-Hearted Facts About Friday Night Lights

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Based on the 1990 book by Buzz Bissinger and the 2004 movie of the same name, Friday Night Lights was, and remains, a beloved, unflinching television drama about the residents of the (fictional) high school football-crazed town of Dillon, Texas.

1. IT WAS THE SECOND TIME NBC TRIED TO MAKE A FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS SERIES.

The network tried to get the rights to Buzz Bissinger’s book soon after it came out. When they couldn’t purchase them because the movie rights were sold first, the network aired an unofficial adaptation titled Against the Grain in the fall of 1993, which starred Ben Affleck (then 21 years old) as the starting quarterback. It lasted eight episodes. And yes, it aired on Friday nights.

2. KYLE CHANDLER CLAIMS HE COULDN’T COACH HIS WAY "OUT OF A PAPER BAG."

Kyle Chandler met with executive producer Peter Berg (also the co-writer and director of the movie, and Buzz Bissinger’s second cousin) for the role of Coach Eric Taylor supremely hungover, "and I had smoked, like, 20 cigars—it was either my birthday or someone else's birthday, but it was a big bash—and I hadn't shaved or probably showered in a few days," Chandler recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. "So I show up on my motorcycle, probably late, and I just remember [Berg] looking at me and going: 'That. That's exactly what I f***ing want right there, just do that.'" The actor isn’t a big football fan; he found inspiration for playing Taylor from reading a biography of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, but still swears, "I couldn't coach my way out of a paper bag."

3. TWO ACTORS REPRISED THEIR ROLES FROM THE MOVIE.

Connie Britton played the coach’s wife again. In the movie version she was Sharon Gaines, wife of Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton). In the series, she was Tami Taylor. Initially, she was reluctant to play the role until Peter Berg convinced her that Tami would have a job and a life of her own in the TV series.

Brad Leland played the team booster again. For two years, Leland (unsuccessfully) pleaded with the writers to give his character, Buddy Garrity, a girlfriend or wife.

4. ZACH GILFORD WAS WORKING AT A SPORTING GOODS STORE WHEN HE WAS CAST AS MATT SARACEN.

Gilford and one other actor were up for Saracen: The other actor was double-booked to audition for a made-for-TV Disney movie, so Berg gave the part to Gilford.

5. MINKA KELLY WAS WORKING IN A PLASTIC SURGERY CLINIC.

The future Lyla Garrity was making ends meet as a scrub nurse, preparing women for their lip and breast implants when she wasn’t auditioning.

6. TAYLOR KITSCH DRANK TWO BEERS IN HIS AUDITION TAPE FOR TIM RIGGINS.

He finished one tallboy, then opened a second one before introducing himself in his video and doing the "Texas forever" scene. When he was called in to test, Berg interviewed him sports reporter-style.

7. MOST OF THE DILLON HIGH STUDENTS WERE NOT TEENAGERS.

When the series debuted on October 3, 2006, Jesse Plemons (Landry Clarke) was 18 years old and Aimee Teegarden (Julie Taylor) was 17. Minka Kelly was 26, Taylor Kitsch was 25, Zach Gilford was 24, and Adrianne Palicki (Tyra Collette) was 23.

8. THE SHOW WAS FILMED IN AUSTIN.

Friday Night Lights was the first series to shoot in Texas's capital city since The Real World paid a visit the year before in 2005. Before that was Ned Blessing, a short-lived Western that ran on CBS in 1993 and was shot on Willie Nelson’s ranch. Producers rented homes around Austin for filming, and used the nearby Pflugerville High School's football field for many of the big game scenes.

9. THE UNIFORMS AND SOME FOOTBALL FOOTAGE WERE TAKEN FROM THE PFLUGERVILLE PANTHERS.

Real footage from Pflugerville High School's football games was mixed with the taped footage to create the game action. One Pflugerville football player claimed the show was a “huge distraction” when he was interviewed during the first season, and claimed a senior pep rally had to be canceled because of the show’s shooting schedule. Another player claimed that in real life, the coaches yelled a lot more.

10. NOT ALL OF THE ACTORS COULD PLAY FOOTBALL.

Actor Gaius Charles, who played Brian "Smash" Williams, wasn’t a very skilled football player. But Michael B. Jordan, who played Vince Howard, was known for having great quarterbacking skills. Taylor Kitsch had played hockey for 20 years before starring on the show, and was also a noted athlete.

11. THERE WERE NO REHEARSALS.

For each scene, three camera operators simultaneously followed the cast wherever they chose to go, as opposed to standard TV production, where the actors are given marks for where to sit or stand. (The actors wore body mics, so even if they wandered off far away from cameras, they could still be heard.) The process cut production time down to eight hours a day, but also caused problems: then-NBC president Kevin Reilly told producers to cut back on the “jiggly” camera style after the pilot.

12. JASON STREET’S STORY WAS INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS.

Berg was conducting research for the show when he witnessed 15-year-old defensive back David Edwards collide with the opposing team’s wide receiver in a 2003 high school football game. The injury left Edwards paralyzed from the neck down. He passed away in 2008.

13. TOM ARNOLD HELPED SAVE THE SERIES FROM CANCELLATION.

When Friday Night Lights was in danger of being cancelled after its second season, "Tom Arnold, me, and Ben Silverman were having Chinese food somewhere [during the Sundance Film Festival]," Eric Shanks, DirecTV's former executive vice president of entertainment, recalled to Grantland. "Ben was talking about how Friday Night Lights was on the bubble, and that the audience was passionate but not huge. He didn’t know if it could support a network audience anymore. We just kind of cooked up the idea of DirecTV and NBC partnering on the show right there over Chinese food. Actually, Tom Arnold gets all the credit because he was the guy that set up the dinner and put everybody together." This arrangement remained in place for seasons three through five.

14. KYLE CHANDLER NIXED ANY SEX SCENES.

A sex scene between Coach and Tami Taylor was shot for the season two premiere, but Chandler was so uncomfortable that the footage was never used—and no sex scene between the two characters was ever written into the show again. In another incident involving the Taylors in the bedroom, Brad Leland pulled a prank by jumping in bed with Chandler and Britton in just his gym shorts.

15. CHANDLER WORKED AS A VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER WHILE FILMING THE SERIES.

Chandler worked 24 hours a week at his local firehouse without telling the cast and crew. In 2011, the actor taped two local PSAs urging viewers to become volunteer firefighters.

16. THE FOOTBALL DIDN’T STOP WHEN THE SHOW ENDED.

At the series wrap party, the cast and crew went to an Austin honky-tonk called Midnight Rodeo, then played touch football at two in the morning on the old football field.

17. MITT ROMNEY WAS REPRIMANDED FOR USING "CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, CAN’T LOSE" IN A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN SPEECH.

Peter Berg wrote a letter to the GOP candidate, accusing him of plagiarism. He ended the letter by imploring Romney to "Please come up with your own campaign slogan."

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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
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9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
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Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
iStock

Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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