Peacock says thank goodness it's 'Friday'

NBC is getting ready to turn up the “Friday Night Lights,” pacting with helmer Peter Berg to turn his Universal-produced feature into a weekly drama series.

Project reps the most advanced example of cross-pollination between the Peacock and its feature sibling since the merger of NBC and Universal. Pilot will be produced by NBC U Television Studio in association with Imagine Television.

“Lights” is said to be on the development fast track at NBC, with an eye on a fall 2006 bow. That would coincide with the return of the NFL to NBC — giving the Peacock a perfect promo platform for the project.

Berg directed and co-wrote “Friday Night Lights,” the gritty 2004 drama starring Billy Bob Thornton as the coach of a small-town high school football team during the 1980s. U and Imagine Films produced the pic, which grossed just over $61 million.

According to NBC U Television Studio prexy Angela Bromstad, Berg’s current plan is to set the TV take in the present day, thus reflecting the changes that have gripped small towns over the past two decades. He’ll write and direct the pilot, exec producing with his Film 44 partners Sarah Aubrey and John Cameron.

“What Peter hopes to do is to make it even more relevant to today,” Bromstad said, noting such trends as the rise of Wal-Mart. “It’s going to be a good picture of an American small town and the lives of these people in this town where everything revolves around the sport of football.”

A coach character like the one player by Thornton will be at the heart of the series — “that underdog coach who has all the pressure to make the team a success,” Bromstad said. The parents and coaches of students will also be central characters.

Bromstad said having Berg on board will help attract top thesp talent. While NBC hasn’t made a formal pilot commitment to the project, Bromstad said the Endeavor-packaged “Lights” was a major priority for her and NBC Entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly.

NBC and U flirted with the idea of developing a TV series inspired by some of the characters in Universal’s “Van Helsing,” but the project stalled once the film flopped.

“Friday Night Lights” was one of the first U features to get a heavy promo push by the NBC broadcast and cable networks following the merger.

As for Berg, his feature credits as a helmer include “Very Bad Things” and “The Rundown.” He created the ABC drama “Wonderland” and may be best known to TV auds for his work as a thesp on David E. Kelley’s “Chicago Hope.”

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