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Austin-shot 'Friday Night Lights' gets 4 Emmy nominations

HBO movie filmed in Central Texas also is nominated.

Dale Roe
Beth Sepko

The Austin-filmed TV drama "Friday Night Lights" picked up four Emmy nominations Thursday, including acting nods for stars Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler.

Austin casting director Beth Sepko was again honored for her work with the program. Sepko is a double nominee; she was also recognized for her work on the HBO movie "Temple Grandin," which was filmed in Central Texas and earned 15 nominations. The fourth "FNL" nomination was for writing, for the episode "The Son."

The nominations come after a hard push for Emmy recognition by DirecTV, which enlisted fans' help in creating a plea to Emmy voters and took the rare step of sending those voters the entire eligible season. In a cost-sharing deal, episodes of "Friday Night Lights" debut on the satellite television provider's 101 Network and run later on NBC, which is currently airing the series' fourth season.

The show has been an underdog. The drama has regularly appeared on critics' lists of most egregious Emmy snubs. Its first three seasons netted only five nominations: three for casting, one for directing and one for a short documentary on Austin, and one win, for casting, which Sepko shared in.

"We're thrilled that the show is finally getting the attention that it deserves," said Patty Ishimoto, vice president of entertainment and general manager of the 101 Network.

Set in a small Texas town where football is everything, "Friday Night Lights" follows the struggling Lions of East Dillon High and their coach, Eric Taylor (Chandler). Britton plays Taylor's wife, Tami, the principal at the other high school in town, which ousted her husband as coach last season.

Britton learned of her nomination from a cousin who lives in New York.

"I was shaking. I was in shock," she said by phone Thursday. "I mean, I really \u2026 I was like, 'no.' I actually thought it might have been a mistake at first, like, 'Are you sure?' I think we had really gotten to a point where we just didn't think that the show was really going to be on the Emmys radar. It was just such a wonderful, complete surprise."

Ishimoto would not speculate on whether the Emmy love could extend the run of the show. It's widely believed production will cease when filming of the fifth season ends in a few weeks. Britton suggested as much on Thursday. "It's been a little bit melancholy, like the show is really ending and it's going to be a big change," she said. "So just to have this completely surprising acknowledgement of the show \u2026 it's just a great feeling."

Britton and Chandler's chances during the Aug. 29 ceremony on NBC are as iffy as a Hail Mary pass: Both performers face competition in their categories from Emmy favorites, including last year's winners Glenn Close ("Damages") and Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad").

Sepko said she was thrilled for her colleagues in front of the camera. "I'm so proud of the actors, and they make me look good," Sepko said. "But I was definitely surprised to be recognized four years in a row for 'Friday Night Lights.'\u2009" She added that, if anything, she thought she might receive a nomination for "Temple Grandin." The film, starring Claire Danes as the titular autism advocate, was shot in and around Austin beginning in late 2008 and received 15 nods, including the one for Sepko's work.

Paul Alvarado-Dykstra, Central Texas representative of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, says other local Emmy nominees for the movie included Gabriella Villarreal (set decoration), Charles Yusko (key hairstylist) and Meredith Johns (key makeup artist).

"Temple Grandin" employed 898 Texans, contributing $3.5 million in wages and another $2.5 million in accommodations and other material expenses to the Texas economy, said Bob Hudgins, Texas Film Commission director. He estimates that "Friday Night Lights" has spent $75 million in Texas alone and provided an average of 175 crew jobs a year, not counting extras. More than 90 percent of those jobs went to local crew members, and 96 percent of the show's talent hires have been local.

"This is a hugely exciting and proud day for the TV industry in Texas," Alvarado-Dykstra said. He said the nods for "Friday Night Lights" and "Temple Grandin" are validation that "some of the very best television is being made right here in the Lone Star State."

Additional material from wire reports.