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At Emmys, `FNL' finally lands in the end zone

The Associated Press, Sunday, September 18, 2011, 7:29pm (PDT)

"Friday Night Lights" may be over, but it finally scored a touchdown — or two — at the Emmys.

The long-acclaimed but seldom honored series won both best actor in a drama series for Kyle Chandler and best writing for a drama series for Jason Katims. Both were big, flashy awards in competitive categories and a big surprise for "Friday Night Lights," which concluded earlier this year after five ratings-challenged seasons.

The gleeful shock of the show's cast and supporters inside Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre Sunday night could be heard on the Fox broadcast, and surely similar celebrations where transpiring across "Friday Night Lights" Nation.

The wins amounted to a late but deserving coronation for "Friday Night Lights": off the air, but called back together for one final dance in the end zone.

Over five seasons, "FNL" built a fervent fan base for its humanistic portrayal of high school football and the many inhabitants of Dillon, Texas. It needed an unusual deal with DirecTV to remain on the air on NBC, but "FNL" continued to survive, even as much of its cast went on to other projects.

The show's only previous Emmy Award was for casting, in 2007.

Chandler, 46, had twice previously been nominated, last year for "FNL" and in 2005 for a guest appearance on "Grey's Anatomy." On "FNL," he played coach Eric Taylor who, along with his wife, Tami (Connie Britton), made up the moral backbone of Dillon.

He was a definite underdog Sunday night, going up against Steve Buscemi for "Boardwalk Empire" and Jon Hamm for "Mad Men."

"Let me thank the people of Austin, Texas, who welcomed us into their homes ... and brought the show to life," said a clearly shocked Chandler.

The show put a premium on naturalism, shooting in and around Austin, frequently trailing actors with multiple cameras and allowing room for improvisation.

As showrunner, Katims oversaw that production. Accepting his award Sunday night at the Emmys, he concluded his remarks, inevitably and fittingly, with the battle cry of the Dillon Panthers.

"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."

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