austin television festival 2013: recap, day one

I decided I wanted to go to the Austin Television Festival when I saw this post on Entertainment Weekly’s website: http://popwatch.ew.com/2012/12/04/boy-meets-world-reunion/

At first, I joked about it on Facebook with my friends, thinking that it was just another cool pop culture thing that happens in far away places that I would miss out on and read about later with envy (see: live readings of John Hughes movies; celebrity autobiography; ‘Happy Endings’ live at UCB… the list goes on.) But when my best friend Melissa was legitimately interested in coming with me, I used some Christmas money to buy a weekend badge.

This was the 2nd year of the ATX TV Festival and it shows. It’s still a relatively small event, in terms of attendance, and there are some kinks to be worked out to adjust for growth. I liked the smaller nature of the fest and not feeling packed in everywhere I went, having to fight through wall to wall people. I’ve never been to ComicCon but from what I’ve seen on TV, it looks like a madhouse with long lines and thousands of people. I think as it grows (which it is going to do, based on the level of press received this year and the good word of mouth from attendees), they will need to figure out some new ways to handle screenings and panels.

Overall, I’d give my ATX weekend a B+. And that’s with having to miss the ‘Boy Meets World’ reunion! My ATX experience requires a lot of words so I’m splitting it into one post for every day of the fest. Let’s start with…

Friday!

10:45 AM: FOX Comedy Block (‘Mindy Project’, ‘Raising Hope’, ‘New Girl’)

Fox Comedy Block

My plane didn’t land until 10:53 AM so I was already late to this 3 episode screening. Thankfully, my cab driver was fast and got me to the Alamo right as the first screening (MP) ended and before Ike Barinholtz and producer Rob Schrab took the stage for a brief Q&A.

Let me preface this by saying that if my plane could have come in earlier, I would not have attended the FOX Comedy Block – and I freaking love all of those shows. This is because the FOX Comedy Block was scheduled against the ‘Boy Meets World’ reunion at 10 AM Friday morning.

You may be asking yourself: “Melissa, why didn’t you plan to come in Thursday night so you didn’t miss events at 10 AM?”

Well, there’s an easy answer for that question and it comes from the fact that in an attempt to be prepared and book my flight early, I booked my flight at the end of March, before ATX released their schedule for this year, assuming it would be a similar structure to the 2012 fest.

Again, you may say: “Melissa, that’s silly. Their schedule couldn’t have been that different from 2012 to 2013.”

You’re wrong, hypothetical person. In 2012, registration and opening night was Friday with Saturday and Sunday being full days. To that end, I assumed that 2013 would be similar so if I came in Friday afternoon, I could still try to make it to opening night. Nope. This year, they expanded the fest so opening night was Thursday.

When this was clarified on their website, I immediately changed my flight so I could come in as early as possible Friday morning, assuming Friday events wouldn’t start until noon. I knew I couldn’t take Thursday off work, having already taken off Friday (and Monday, to accommodate my return flight). Again, I was wrong and 2 weeks before the fest, they announced that the reason I bought a badge, the ‘Boy Meets World’ reunion, would be happening first thing Friday at 10 AM. Knowing that I wouldn’t make it in until after 11 and would likely miss more than half of it, I turned to the FOX Comedy Block, which lasted from 10:45 AM – 1:00 PM.

Panicked before I came to Austin, I contacted ATXFest and asked if it was okay for Melissa to pick up my badge for me and for us to enter late at the FOX screening. I was assured it would be okay and that if it was standing room only, the volunteers could help us find a place.

Running up to the Alamo from the cab, I was expecting that Melissa and I would have to plead our case to festival runners/volunteers or desperately try to find seats somewhere… only to find that no one looked at my badge and we walked into a half empty theater with plenty of seats to spare. I think everyone picked ‘Boy Meets World’ over this screening (which was verified by the crowd that entered late, after the BMW reunion had wrapped up).

I felt bad that the attendance was so light because these are great shows. I love Ike Barinholtz on ‘Mindy’Morgan is one of the best characters on TV, he’s hilarious. I was hoping that the Q&A would include audience questions but it didn’t and Ike left immediately after the 5 minute question/answer session was over so I didn’t get to see him up close or talk to him about my love for the show. The same was true for ‘Raising Hope’ with Shannon Woodward and Lucas Neff and ‘New Girl’ with Lamorne Morris (Winston) and producer/writer Dave Finkel. It was nice having them there and the moderator had decent questions but it seemed too short and not connected enough with the audience.

1:30 PM: Structure of a Sitcom…and the Rise of Anti-Sitcoms 

Panel with Dan Harmon (‘Community’), Paul Scheer (‘Human Giant’, ‘NTSF:SD:SUV’), Dave Finkel (‘New Girl’), Rob Schrab (‘Mindy Project’), Tim Doyle (‘Roseanne’, ‘Dinosaurs’, ‘Last Man Standing’).

Dan Harmon is a character. He’s fascinating to listen to though, so passionate. He made a joke about dealing with network notes by saying, “Don’t! Don’t listen to them! What are they going to do? Fire you?! They’ll just have to hire you back again!” Awesome.

Everyone on that panel had a lot of interesting things to say, even some things that were kind of digging into the weeds of how sitcoms work (FOX requires 4 act breaks, other networks do 3) and about product placement (‘New Girl’ producer feels the Models episode with the Ford placement was a “mess”). TIm Doyle shared bitterness about working with Roseanne Barr and some political behind the scenes discussions with Tim Allen. Paul Scheer asked his own questions of the panel at times, he would be a great moderator.

3:00 PM: Conversation with Michael Jacobs

Melissa and I were in the back of the room for the sitcom panel and couldn’t see well at all. Since the Michael Jacobs panel was in the same room, we took the opportunity to move up near the front for a better view. Turns out, we should have stayed in the back because we would have been sitting right in front of the entire cast of ‘Boy Meets World’ who filed in to listen to the discussion.

The Michael Jacobs discussion started with a ‘sizzle reel’ – a little clip show featuring some of his past work: ‘Charles in Charge’, ‘My Two Dads’, ‘The Torkelsons’ (!!!!), ‘Almost Home’, ‘Dinosaurs’, ‘Lost at Home’ and of course, ‘Boy Meets World’. Seriously. This guy makes the hits! Come on. “Not the mama! I’m the baby, gotta love me!” He’s also working on ‘Girl Meets World’ right now. I wish that all of the panels started with a highlights reel like this, it was a great way to kick off the conversation and put you into the right frame of reference. Very cool, he seems like a good guy.

After the Michael Jacobs talk, we got to see a few of the cast members outside of the hotel. Rider Strong, Ben Savage and Matthew Lawrence were all walking out of the lobby around the same time as us. I got a paparazzi style shot of Corey and Shawn together but they were chatting and when some other people tried to approach them, a few ATX handlers were turning them away from asking for autographs or personal pictures.

boy meets world

My picture of Rider and Ben!

The official ATX reunion photo of the cast and Michael Jacobs.

9:00 PM: NTSF:SD:SUV Mini-Marathon

This was a special event at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, outside of the regular festival calendar. Tickets cost $25 but they announced in an email blast that they had a few to give away for free – and Melissa & I lucked out and got 2 free passes. Yay free stuff! I don’t watch Adult Swim so I had never seen ‘NTSF:SD:SUV’ but when we found out we were going, we both watched a few episodes online. I knew about the show because I like Paul Scheer and listen to his podcast every week.

This mini-marathon was pretty awesome. We got to see new episodes that hadn’t aired yet on TV, a few past favorites, clips from Paul Scheer’s old MTV show ‘Human Giant’, his online videos, ‘The Arscheerio Paul Show’ (a recreation of Arsenio Hall interviews) and a pilot for a new show called ‘Filthy Sexy Teens’, which is a parody of ‘Pretty Little Liars’, ‘Gossip Girl’, ‘The O.C.’. Also in attendance from ‘NTSF’ were Martin Starr (‘Freaks and Geeks’) and Brandon Johnson… Fun fact: I learned that Brandon Johnson is the voice of DJ Ol’ Youngin’ when Aziz Ansari does his Raaaaaaandy bits.

Odd and Ends from Friday 6/7:

  • Like I said, the small size of the festival was a big plus in my book. The less sweaty line standing and pushy people, the better.
  • Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. Holy crap, what a cool theater. And that queso! I could live off of the queso at that movie theater. We need an Alamo Drafthouse in Cleveland.
  • We ate a late lunch/early dinner at a grill near the Alamo and the hotel. This place served us gigantic bellinis and yummy food and we ate outside in the sunshine, with a fan misting us with cool water. It was glorious.

Will write more early next week about Saturday and Sunday! 🙂

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