Getting through ATX Television Festival is like running a marathon. Mind you, I’ve never run a marathon. Running isn’t my thing. But I imagine a marathon would be exhausting, often thrilling, sometimes challenging and you would sweat a lot but overall, you would feel rewarded by the experience. Which is a decent way to summarize my ATX Fest trips. Throw in some BBQ and queso and that paints a picture.
This was my third visit to Austin and the festival’s fourth “season”. (Read about previous experiences here.) My best friend and I have been making the yearly trip to ATX Fest ever since they announced the Boy Meets World reunion in 2013. This year, they sold out of weekend badges and the crowd seemed to nearly double in size. We found it wasn’t uncommon throughout the weekend to discover that most people we met had never even heard of the festival before a few months ago — this was very much a newcomers year due to the Gilmore Girls reunion (more on that later).
We bought our badges to attend this year at last year’s fest. They were $99 (a discount only available during the festival and that went up this year – again, more on that later) and even though programming wouldn’t be announced until much later, we had high hopes. We trusted that it would be awesome because the girls running ATX Fest (Caitlyn and Emily) had done so well in the past – Boy Meets World, Everwood, Orange is the New Black, Archer, Parenthood, writers and creatives from New Girl, The Mindy Project, Community… I could go on and on. Plus, there were some signs that this year could be the year for Gilmore Girls. Amy Sherman-Palladino was scheduled to be at last year’s fest but had to back out. Lauren Graham was a surprise guest at the Parenthood panel. We felt like something was in the works and had our fingers crossed… and it totally panned out.
When they first made the announcement, I was so excited but we knew we wanted more. The original plan was to have showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino and the two leads, Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel. We immediately started wishing that they would add in other cast members – that show was such an amazing ensemble and the townspeople of Stars Hollow would so great. Our wishes came true and they added in like 15 other cast members. We were thrilled but the press the reunion received leading up to the weekend made me realize that Gilmore Girls was a much bigger show than I realized. I knew I loved it and how important it was to me growing up and that definitely was the case for about a thousand other people in attendance too. I’ll circle back (in part 2 of this blog post). Let me take this chronologically.
I never go to the Thursday night events. The first year we came (2013) it wasn’t open to the public but there was a party you could go to. Skipped it. Last year, it was some TNT show I wasn’t interested in and an after-party and we chose to go eat migas instead. This year, it was some USA show I didn’t care about and instead, I met up with a Twitter friend turned human life friend and fellow ATX Fest goer Lynn and her friend Kayla to go eat delicious BBQ at Salt Lick. Solid choice. They didn’t host any official parties this year because it was just too many people so didn’t miss anything there. Plus, brisket. No regrets.
We started Friday bright and early going to pick up our badges from the registration table. Melissa didn’t get in town until late Thursday so we missed the Thursday pick up times. I’m going to write this a lot in this post and it was my general feeling throughout but … things were different in previous years. Before, we just walked up and got our badges, no lines, it was a quick and painless process. This year, not so much. We waited in the first of many, many long lines throughout the weekend. It took us about 30-45 minutes to get our badge. The system they had wasn’t flowing very efficiently – bags were not pre-stuffed with the program or copies of Entertainment Weekly, you had to fill out a slip of paper to verify your information and they had to print out your Fast Passes.
Constructive feedback #1: Why didn’t the mass of volunteers pre-stuff attendee bags? Why weren’t Fast Passes printed out in advance and then just set up a separate “Help” desk if they were wrong or something on a badge had to be adjusted?
We finally got our badges and booked it to a new venue for the fest, the Google Fiber building for Brooklyn Nine-Nine (one of my wishlist shows for the fest this year!). Not too far away but definitely a much farther walk than the distance between the Alamo Drafthouse on 6th and the SFA Hotel. I liked the Google Fiber building and the Google staff/ATX volunteers on hand were smart and efficient. We had no problems with lines or finding a seat and didn’t have to wait long before we were let in the building.
They showed the season finale and then showrunner Dan Goor and actresses Chelsea Peretti and Melissa Fumero answered questions on stage. The moderator was only okay – I felt he sometimes talked in circles and directed the majority of his questions to Dan Goor but Dan and Chelsea were both really funny. Melissa didn’t talk as much (it seemed like it was a long night the night before) but was a good addition to the panel. Stephanie Beatriz was supposed to be there but had to cancel. Audience questions took a weird turn when someone got on an incredibly random soapbox about female characters on TV getting pregnant (not applicable in any way to B99) but the panelists were good sports about it.
After B99, we made our way back to the hotel and got in line for The Final Finale panel with Marta Kauffman (Friends), Graham Yost (Justified) and the creators of Queer as Folk. The moderator Jarrett Weisselman from Buzzfeed was great and one of my faves throughout the fest. You can tell he loves TV, he was passionate with his questions, asked good follow-ups and seemed to really listen. Some moderators seemed like they had everything plotted out on their notepad and were just preparing for the next question instead of listening to the answer. I thought the Final Finale panel was fascinating but we couldn’t see anything because it wasn’t a very elevated stage. I don’t think anyone other than the first few rows could see. I think my favorite tidbit from that panel was Marta Kauffman revealing that Chandler and Monica sleeping together was going to be a funny, one-time thing but the reaction of the live audience while they were filming it was so enormous, they had to stop production for a while to let everyone collect themselves and she said it was like the audience realized they had been waiting for them to get together. They weren’t “shipping” them or begging the creators to pair them up but when they did, it was like something clicked in the collective minds of the audience to decide they were meant to be.
With the way things were scheduled, we had to miss the Pitch Competition this year because it was the same time as Brooklyn Nine-Nine. We’ve gone to the pitches the past two years because they were always on Sunday and at a good time programming wise where we felt like we could without missing much. It didn’t work out that way this year. Thankfully, we met a guy in line who had gone and gave us a few summaries of the pitches so we felt like we were kinda there in spirit.
After the Final Finale pitch, I wanted to go to the Boy Meets Girl Meets World panel because yes, I am a 30 year old woman who sometimes watches and enjoys Girl Meets World. We saw the two adorable stars of that show in the lobby and later saw Ben Savage walking around the hotel but everyone was mobbing poor Cory Matthews so we left him alone. Anyway, the line was so long for the GMW panel that there was no chance of getting in after ours was done so we decided to go get food instead. We walked outside the hotel and up to the corner and spotted Marta Kauffman taking a picture with some fans. There were only about 3 girls there so we decided that she didn’t seem mobbed or in a rush to leave and waited to talk to her. We thanked her for coming and told her how much we liked the Final Finale panel and asked for a selfie, which she very kindly agreed to.
After we met Marta, we took a cab to South Congress. If we had more time and it wasn’t 90+, we would have just walked – it’s not that far. But we were sweating, hungry and didn’t want to take too long so we opted for convenience. We went to Gueros for fantastic tacos and mucho queso and that was a good call. We took pictures near the “I love you so much” wall and then pretty much needed to get back so we could make it to Drunk History at 4:30.
Melissa had a Fast Pass and I didn’t so we had to wait in separate lines and wanted to get there early. Apparently, it wasn’t early enough. We got in line around 3:45 and the non-Fast Pass line was already around the building and almost about to turn a corner. I wasn’t too far back but the Fast Pass line was long too and after waiting for awhile, we were told we weren’t getting in. (Melissa got in because a Fast Pass guarantees your spot.) I was bummed because I wanted to go but I went back to the hotel lobby at SFA and charged my phone, which badly needed it. My battery throughout the weekend was constantly nearing 0% so it was nice to have some charging stations available.
I met a girl who also didn’t make it into Drunk History and was charging her phone in the lobby and we talked for a bit. She was very nice and bought me a drink so we had afternoon cocktails and chatted until Melissa came back. When Melissa returned, we spotted Kevin from the Gilmore Guys podcast (he has bright red hair and I recognized him from Twitter) walking with EMILY FREAKIN’ GILMORE. Obviously we were excited. Kelly Bishop is awesome. (Also, listening to the podcast, I know he’s a huge fan of hers so I was also excited for him. Ha.) A few people were asking for pictures but we didn’t want to bother her so we waited and then the crowd seemed to thin a bit when she was alone by the elevators and we made our move. There were 3-4 girls in front of us and then we politely asked if we could take a picture with her too. She smiled and agreed and said she had to find her angle before we took the selfie so we all tried to adjust our faces to find the most flattering angle.
We thanked her for coming and told her how excited we were for the reunion and she said that she was thrilled and couldn’t wait for it. Kelly Bishop! She was on my favorite TV show and my favorite movie (Dirty Dancing!) and I got to talk to her and that alone made the weekend worth it for me. Just very cool.
We sat back down in the upstairs lobby area and Melissa ran to the bathroom. When she came back, she told me that Judy Greer was going in the bathroom when she was coming out and told me I should go in there so of course, I did. I had to pee too so that worked out well. Judy Greer! The frenemy/best friend/sassy assistant/guest star in everything – her IMDb page is ridiculous.
When I came out to wash my hands, she was standing at the sink, touching up some makeup. I looked over and said, “Oh, hey – I loved your audiobook, by the way.” And she smiled and we talked for a few minutes about her book and how much her mom likes to listen to it. I said I was looking forward to seeing her show and thanked her for coming and she was very sweet. We were in the bathroom so you know, I didn’t ask her for a picture or anything because that’s awkward and I’m not a weirdo. But we talked casually and that was cool.
After that, we felt obligated to go to the FX Comedy Night Showcase, which featured her show Married and also You’re the Worst and a new show, Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll. Plus, the alternative was the annual Friday Night Lights tailgate and it was so hot and neither of us were FNL watchers so we opted for air-conditioning instead. I slightly regretted that decision when they announced a last minute surprise Hep Alien (Gilmore Girls band) show at the tailgate BUT the whole thing ended up on YouTube anyway so it’s okay. More comfortable indoors but still… #HepAlienForever.
I’ve been meaning to watch You’re the Worst for a while now but have just never gotten around to it – once it starts streaming on Hulu, I’ll catch up on the first season. It was a critically acclaimed show and I loooovvee telling people that they are the worst but the ads just never appealed to me so I didn’t watch it. They showed the season 1 finale which I probably would have enjoyed more if I knew more about the show. It wasn’t my favorite thing ever but I’ll give it a chance. The cast were charming during the Q&A after and I was surprised that the main guy is British. That’s how little I knew about that show. Very pleasant accent, that one.
I’ve seen a few episodes of Married with Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Brett Gelman, Jenny Slate, Paul Reiser… there are a lot of random people on that show. I wasn’t 100% sold on it. It’s a pretty dark comedy and maybe I’m just not jaded enough or haven’t been married long enough, but it wasn’t the greatest thing to watch even though I like everyone on it. They showed the season 2 premiere and it was okay. The Q&A was funny.
They are adding a new cast member this season, this actress named Sarah Burns and she was hilarious. She is kind of like Judy Greer in that she has played the best friend in several movies that I love and own (like I Love You, Man and Going the Distance).
She wasn’t even in the episode they screened but she really livened up the panel. Brett Gelman was also great – he ended their panel with an intense verbatim monologue from Scandal. If you can’t picture who Brett Gelman is, he was on the series finale of Mad Men. This guy.
We ducked out before the Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll screening. It was late. We were tired. We were starving. And we just didn’t care that much about Denis Leary’s new show. So before the next screening started, we took off and made our way to the Roaring Fork, the restaurant inside the SFA hotel. We both ordered salads (and a side of fries) and my body was thankful for some vegetables. At the table behind us, the cast of You’re the Worst was having a big group dinner and the two female leads went outside to smoke and stood directly at the window next to where we were eating. We realized with that proximity that we couldn’t discreetly IMDb either of them because they could legit turn and see our phones. So, we held off on doing that until they left and realized one of the girls was in Pitch Perfect. That will help with six degrees of separation games.
After we ate, we met up with one of my old work friends Cassie who moved down to Austin and had a drink before crashing at our Airbnb for the night. That was one day that felt like it was packed with 3 days worth of activity. I was covered in a thick layers of musky sweat and my feet were tired, blistered and filthy from wearing flip flops. I definitely needed to crash before Saturday.