'Friday Night Lights' keep burning at NBC

The 2006-07 TV season is becoming the Year of the Patient Networks.

The latest beneficiary of the newfound forbearance is NBC's "Friday Night Lights," which received a full-season order on Monday. This despite the fact that the show is among the least-watched new dramas on any of the Big Four networks.

Wide critical acclaim and a devoted audience - although the show's ratings haven't been big, they've been fairly consistent - appear to have factored into NBC's decision. Here's what NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly has to say about the pickup:

"We're proud to reward an authentic, poignant series like `Friday Night Lights' with a full-season order, demonstrating our confidence in its appeal and quality. Television critics and devoted fans have supported the show with well-deserved praise for the executive producers, writers and exceptionally talented cast."

Through Nov. 5, "Friday Night Lights" is averaging 6.7 million viewers per week in first-run broadcasts (factoring in a little-watched repeat on Oct. 31, the figure is 6.1 million). It draws a 2.7 rating among adults 18-49. Among new dramas, only NBC's already canceled "Kidnapped" (5.6 million) has brought in a smaller audience this fall, although Fox's "Vanished" is headed that way after two meagerly rated Friday episodes.

Among the encouraging signs for NBC are the fact that the show's 18-49 rating tends to rise in its second half-hour - a sign that viewers are sticking with it - and that its ratings were above average in a special Monday airing on Oct. 30, which drew about 8 million viewers.

"Friday Night Lights" becomes the third new NBC series to be picked up, following "Heroes" and "Studio 60," which has also had some ratings issues. ABC has also been patient with some of its new shows, picking up "Men in Trees" and second-year show "What About Brian" despite less-than-stellar numbers and has ordered extra scripts for "The Nine."

CBS has been a mixed bag, yanking the expensive drama "Smith" after just three episodes but giving comedy "The Class" a reprieve by asking for more scripts. Fox has yet to pick up any of its fall series and has already pulled "Happy Hour" and "Justice." Having been exiled to Friday, "Vanished" seems an unlikely bet to get more episodes, which leaves only "Standoff" and "'Til Death" as viable possibilities to continue into 2007.




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