The last day of the fest, we went to the live Dawson’s Creek script reading. The cast was a surprise and there were rumors that actual DC cast members might be in attendance… I doubted that would actually happen. In line, we speculated about who might be reading what parts and I guessed that the festival would pull in favorites like Mae Whitman (Parenthood), Nick Wechsler (Revenge), and Matt Lauria (Friday Night Lights).
It turns out, we were all partially right. There was a cast member on hand – Kerr Smith, who joined the cast in Season 2 as Jack, participated in the reading. Mae and Nick both were on the panel but instead of Matt Lauria from FNL, they brought in Grandma Saracen, Riggins brother and Tyra’s sister.
We ended up in the front row – amazing – and it was one of my favorite events of the weekend. They gender-flipped the four main characters so Mae Whitman was Dawson Leery and Kerr Smith played Jen (so perfect!). Here’s the full cast and a few pictures:
Mae Whitman as Dawson; Suits‘ Patrick J. Adams as Joey; Rectify‘s Abigail Spencer as Pacey; Dawson’s Creek co-star Kerr Smith — who played Jack — stepping into the role of his former character’s best friend, Jen; Friday Night Lights alum Louanne Stephens as Grams; Derek Phillips as Mitch Leery and Stacey Oristano as Gail Leery; as well as Gilmore Girls’ Arielle Kebbelas Tamara; Orphan Black’s Kristian Bruun as Bessie and Nellie and Revenge‘s Nick Wechsler as Bodie and Mr. Gold. Series creator Kevin Williamson served as the narrator. (Hollywood Reporter)
Since we were in the front row, we were able to grab some of the name cards when we left and Louanne Stephens (Grams/Grandma Saracen) gave us her name card and the script she read from! Melissa let me keep all of them and I forgive ATX Fest for spelling Jen’s last name wrong. (It’s Lindley, not Linley.) 😉
That was a good way to wrap up the weekend. We wanted to try and sneak into the Fox Comedy Preview with The Grinder and Grandfathered but the script reading ran a little long and we couldn’t make it into the Alamo to see Josh Peck and Fred Savage. We did see Josh Peck walk past us that morning in the hotel lobby. He then walked outside and a gaggle of girls not so discreetly tried to casually follow him down the street.
We also witnessed a horribly awkward exchange between some man and this woman who is on the new show Rosewood. He came up to her in the lobby and started effusively saying how much he loved her show and she was so great on it and she had to stop him and say that he had her confused with someone else because her show hadn’t aired yet.
Hahaha. Sorry, Jaina Lee Ortiz. You handled it very gracefully and so sweetly. (I believe she told him, “Oh, I wish I were her. You were so excited!”) We thought it was hilarious.
That wrapped up our #atxseason4 experience for 2015. As always, I had a lot of fun but I felt like maybe it’s getting too big? It was a lot of people and a lot of sweaty line waiting and this year, more than in the previous two, waiting in line and not getting into some things I was hoping to see. The lack of organization was a big issue for me and it bothered me that we weren’t sent an attendee survey this time around to help give feedback and suggestions, like we have in the past. I won’t be attending in 2016 because I’ll have a newborn baby (oh yeah, by the way, I found out I was pregnant three days after getting back from this trip!) but may return for 2017, if badge prices haven’t tripled in price by then. Thanks for the memories, ATX Fest! Hope to see you again in the future. 🙂
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.
So, you know that I love TV. And I’ve been to two years now of the ATX Television Festival in Austin. I bought tickets my first year (the festival’s second ‘season’) after hearing about the Boy Meets World reunion. My best friend and I loved the first year but wanted to wait to see who they announced for 2014 before buying tickets and they didn’t disappoint – Everwood reunion! We obviously went to that too and it was even better than the year before. We decided then and there that we would go ahead and buy tickets for 2015 during the festival at a ridiculously low rate of $99 for the weekend. The catch: We have no idea who is going to be at the 2015 festival. But we trust the ATX girls. We know they have our backs. It will be awesome no matter what.
The first wave of announcements is scheduled to be released this Thursday, November 13th. Reunions, panelists, and series… I’m freaking out a little bit with excitement.
I’ve had a list in my head of who I have been wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ for – I don’t want to jinx it or anything but let’s hope that this is putting out some good karma in the world and the announcement this week will make me a happy girl! (I fully understand and respect that some of these are probably never going to happen but a girl can dream.)
Joan of Arcadia
I’m really just trying to reunite the ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ girls because I love them.
Current Series (never at ATX)
Parks and Recreation
Brooklyn Nine Nine
Jane the Virgin
Key and Peele
How to Get Away with Murder
Switched at Birth
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
A to Z (even though I know it’s probably canceled) 😦
Even if none of these shows end up at the fest, I know that I’ll still have a great time. Every year, I’ve discovered new things and gone to panels of shows I don’t regularly watch or hadn’t seen before but started watching after the festival. Can’t wait to hear what they have in store for us for 2015! 🙂
Last year, I attempted to write about my experiences at the ATX Festival in Austin but only got through Friday and some of Saturday. My bad. This year, I’m going to strike while the iron is hot and write about this past weekend while my brain is still full of the details. I can tell you right now, this post is going to be super long.
If you aren’t familiar with ATX Fest, it’s “A Television eXperience” – essentially like a mini-SXSW or ComicCon, focused solely on TV and it brings actors, writers, showrunners, press and fans to Austin for screenings and panels of specific shows and larger discussions about the TV industry. This is a much smaller festival than the massive conferences I mentioned above. I would guess that there were between 500-750 attendees, not including the press, staff or ‘talent’. Overall, maybe 1,000? Spread out over 3 locations: Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, Stephen F. Austin (SFA) hotel and State Theater.
Before I jump into my day by day breakdown of the fest, let me give some overall thoughts and lessons learned:
I felt less frustrated this year than last in the registration and planning process. There was more advanced notice about the programming and schedules; they were clear about start dates and times so I was able to securely book travel without missing anything. I am grateful for that.
I sweat more this year than last. It was hot. Thank God for my hand fan.
I was disappointed in the amount of people who were publicized as being there who canceled early or who pulled out at the last minute including but not limited to: Amy Sherman-Palladino, CHRIS PRATT, Treat Williams, Emily Van Camp, Christa Allen and Paul Scheer.
I was happy with the surprise guests like Lauren Graham, Peter Krause and Guerillmo del Toro.
It’s hard to know that you’re missing things because they schedule everything at the same time.
I think we need press passes next year. The press people got into the good parties and got to sit down for interviews with the ‘talent’. Can I get a gig freelance writing before next year?
I preface this all by being straight up and saying that I can’t pretend like I’m not excited to see famous people. I live in Ohio. This is not an everyday occurrence. It’s awesome to be close enough to touch and take pictures with people that you watch on TV every week. It just is. And this event is still small enough that you get chances like this without facing crowds and mega lines. On top of that, you get to hear from really creative people – showrunners, writers, directors, people in the industry … and as a TV nerd and someone who is interested in pop culture and writing and behind the scenes things, that’s fascinating.
The event kicked off Thursday evening, with a screening of a new TNT show Legends. I had 0% interest in that so even though I was in town, I skipped trying to get into that. We debated going to Maggie Mae’s for the opening night party but Melissa’s flight came in late and we were both starving so we ate migas instead and that was a smart choice. Mmmmm migas.
We went to the hotel early to pick up our badges and kick off the fest. While it was a hard decision, I skipped the Orange is the New Black panel and chose Franklin & Bash instead. (Melissa went to OITNB. She highly recommended it. The actresses that play Big Boo, Taystee and Crazy Eyes were there and they showed the first episode, the day the new season was released to Netflix. Having just finished binging the 2nd season yesterday, it’s awesome how that show treats the ensemble cast and gives them all such rich storylines and flashbacks.)
I ended up in the 3rd row for the Franklin & Bash panel – we had good seats for just about everything this year. They showed an episode and it made me realize how much that show strikes me as something that should be on USA rather than TNT. It’s a light hearted lawyer show with a lot of broad comedy – it reminded me of Psych or maybe Castle. The show was described during the panel as sherbet and I think that’s fitting. It’s fluffy, background kind of TV – not appointment or DVR worthy.
While the show was not something I’d set out to watch again, the panel was awesome.
Breckin Meyer is a big ball of charm. MPG didn’t seem quite as excited but he was in a better mood than others throughout the festival (I’m looking at you, Chris Parnell… more about that later.) The creators of the show were also there and the structure of the panel with most questions from the moderator, with a few from the audience, worked out well. Robyn Ross was a strong moderator.
My favorite moments from the panel:
Breckin Meyer looked into the crowd and noticed a girl wearing a SBTB t-shirt. “Is that a Saved by the Bell shirt? I don’t know how to tell you this but (whispers and points to Zack Morris)… he was on that show!”
Breckin’s take on MPG’s Twitter conversations with Mario Lopez: #muscles #dimples #muscles #dimples #muscles #dimples #blessed (winky face emoticon)
Someone in the audience had this picture of Breckin via the Clueless years and MPG held it up for all to see, explaining that picture comes up on his phone whenever Breckin calls.
After our panels wrapped up, Melissa and I went for lunch at Old School, which is kitty corner from the Alamo Drafthouse. Food was fine, not phenomenal but the sangria was a good choice. We hopped in line for Archer after lunch.
At this point, I should explain their ‘Fast Pass’ system. Last year, each badge holder had up to 3 reservations per day – up to 9 total. These guarantee you a seat and allow you to be seated first. This year, they cut down the Fast Passes to 3 total that you could spread out however you wanted. I didn’t have any Fast Passes on Friday; Melissa used one of hers to get into OITNB.
A dedicated group of Archer fans had Fast Passes and there was concern that we wouldn’t get in, standing in the regular line. While in line, I caught Melissa up to speed since she’s seen maybe about 5 episodes ever.
We made it in and found spots in the very last row of the smaller Alamo theater. Every seat was taken and a woman was actually sitting on the floor next to me on the stairs.
The head of FX was there to introduce the panel, with the Archer recapper from the AV Club acting as the moderator. The cast was seated in the row in front of us and you could hear some of them laughing throughout the screening. They showed the last episode of the most recent season and then answered a few questions.
I was most excited to go to the Archer panel to see Chris Parnell. I loved him on SNL and 30 Rock and thought he just seemed like he would be so nice and funny … and he was mostly quiet and seemed not super into it. I saw him outside of the theater and he was giving off major, “Don’t talk to me” vibes.
Oh well. He wasn’t an asshole or mean or anything, just feeling like he was being forced to be there. The other two cast members were funny though and I would have tried to stay and talk to them after but I went immediately from Archer at 1:30 to Revenge at 2:30. Thankfully in the same building, just moved from the small theater at the Alamo to the big theater.
The panel lineup for Revenge was confusing because they had been promoting the Everwood reunion saying that Emily Van Camp would be there but not listing her among the actors present for the Revenge panel, even though she’s the lead. Ultimately, she wasn’t there for either but at least sent a video for the Everwood reunion. No mention of her at the Revenge panel. And no mention of Christa B. Allen, who was also supposed to be there. I wanted to geek out on her about 13 Going on 30.
They showed the second to last episode of this season of Revenge and then talked with 2 writers and Nick Wechsler (Jack). It was an insightful look into the writing of such a crazy bananas show. I mean, seriously, every episode there is something new and ridiculous. And I love it. It’s so campy and fun.
While I was in the Revenge panel, Melissa went to a discussion with casting directors, which she said was mostly bitching about the networks and how casting is very much all about who you know. I would have been interested to go to that, considering I really enjoyed watching the doc Casting By. But you have to divide and conquer sometimes, which was the strategy we took this year.
After Revenge, we met back at the SFA hotel and decided that we should just take advantage of the $99 2015 weekend badge deal offered to attendees during the fest. We paid double for our 2014 badges because we waited. And they allow sales/transfers up to a month before so if something changes and we can’t/don’t want to go, we can sell them. We walked up to the registration table, I got out my wallet to pay, and…. my credit card wasn’t there.
We booked it back to the restaurant where we had lunch and I tried not to panic, hoping that the wait staff weren’t crooked thieves. Thankfully, the bartender was just waiting for me to return and gave me my card back, safe and sound.
With a sense of relief and time to kill, we decided it was time to drink. We went to “The Library” bar, where the walls are stacked high with books and where we each had 4 mixed drinks and the bill was $24. Happy hour deal, I guess? Not complaining, it was awesome. I didn’t realize how tipsy the Dimetapp tasting grape vodka and Sprites were making me until we stood up to leave. Whooo that was a long walk up a hill back to our hotel.
Friday night, my cousin and her wife picked us up and we went to dinner on S Congress. Food was good, more drinks were consumed and after dinner, we did some window shopping. Isn’t this shirt just the best?
We went to their house to meet their dog and 3 kitties. Always nice to have pet cuddle time, especially since I was really missing CB. We also discovered that their cat Parker looks like the actor Ron Perlman.
On the way back to the hotel, we passed the bat bridge. One of these years, I’ll do the full tourist thing and see more of Austin then the couple of blocks around the Capitol building and 6th street.
As we got ready for bed, I realized my alcohol intake for the day was way higher than my usual limits and I was feeling it. I knew I was going to hurt in the morning.
… oh, and I did hurt. Suffice it to say, it was a rough morning.
After rallying, we made our way to our first panel of the day which was honoring Henry Winkler. We both had made that a Fast Pass because who doesn’t love The Fonz?
He was honored with the first Achievement in Television Excellence Award and we ended up 2nd row, center. The event started with a clip reel of some of his TV work and shortly after welcoming him to the stage, they showed a video message from Garry Marshall.
The bulk of the time was a conversation between Henry Winkler and his friend, Royal Pains’ executive producer Michael Rauch. It was interesting to hear his perspective on his career and life and I learned a lot. Henry is dyslexic and has a series of kids books with a main character who is dyslexic; he had a rough relationship with his parents, who called him stupid; he didn’t act for nearly 8 years after Happy Days ended because no one would hire him so he kept busy producing and directing during that time. He was a charismatic speaker and I’m surprised he hasn’t written a memoir yet.
After Fonzie was done, we waited outside for awhile, hoping he would come out to take pictures. He was kept in doing a press conference after the panel so after about 5 minutes, we decided instead to get in the Fast Pass line for the Everwood reunion, which was already wrapped around the building.
Last year at ATX, they held a reunion every day of the fest: Boy Meets World on Friday, My So-Called Life on Saturday and American Dreams on Sunday. I had to miss BMW because of my flight schedule; I would only go to the MSCL reunion if Claire Danes or Jared Leto were going to be there (obvi they weren’t) but I did go to the American Dreams reunion and it was awesome and might have made me a little teary eyed.
This year, they had the same set-up for reunions, with one every day.
Hey Dude was on Friday and was unfortunately at the same time as Archer and Revenge, so I had to miss it… that was a tough call. I had a crush on David Lascher since he was on every show in the 90s and Christine Taylor (aka Mrs. Ben Stiller) actually showed up so that would have been cool. I feel like I made up for it though because we later saw David Lascher walking out of the hotel as we were walking in. I smiled and probably did fan face and he smiled and said, “Hey”.
(Get it? Hey Dude?! Haha, puns.)
The day 2 reunion was Everwood, which was what made us buy a ticket and decide to come to the fest again this year. I loved that show. When they initially announced the reunion, the full cast was coming but as time went by, people starting dropping off the list. By the festival, the cast was minus Treat Williams, Chris Pratt, Emily Van Camp, Scott Wolff and Merrilyn Gann. I was most sad about missing Chris Pratt because… CHRIS PRATT. Team Captain of Dreamboat USA.
But the cast that was there was fantastic. Creator Greg Berlanti, writer Rina Mimoun and former WB Executive Jordan Levin were also there and had some interesting insights. The actors who played Irv and Edna were adorable; Delia is all grown up and was wearing these cute printed pants and a crop top – super stylish; Dr. Abbott was hilarious. Sarah Drew was one of my favorite characters in later seasons – Hannah and Bright were so great together. In person, her hair is like shampoo commercial, Connie Britton style amazing. A little grainy from my phone but seriously, check this out:
Rina Mimoun said that she kept something from the set and moved her hair to better show that she was wearing the necklace that Ephram gave to Amy on the show. Before she even said anything, there was a gasp of excitement from the audience when they realized what it was. That was probably my favorite part.
Oh wait, no! My favorite part was moderator/writer David Hudgins Face Timing with Chris Pratt:
I got a little teary when Vivien Cardone, who played the young daughter Delia, starting crying when she remembered that Treat Williams, who played her dad, told her that on set she could be his temporary daughter and he would be her temporary dad since they often had to be away from their own families while filming. I laughed when Tom Amandes revealed that he auditioned for the lead role that eventually went to Treat Williams – “I was Billboard Dad! I can be this guy!” (Add that Olsen twins connection to the vault for playing six degrees of Kevin Bacon.) I loved watching the cast awkwardly laugh when one of the writers/creators (maybe Greg Berlanti) made some comment about love triangles and people dating on and off set – we all know you’re talking about when Amy and Bright Abbott were dating in real life, guys. Overall, it was an awesome panel. We were psyched to meet Gregory Smith (Ephram) outside of the theater afterwards too:
After the excitement of Everwood, we were planning on having some down time to eat and relax before the evening event. Those plans changed late the night before though when we were browsing the #atxfestival and #season3 hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to see what else was happening at the fest and spotted a pic of a volunteer posing with Lauren Graham, a totally unscheduled guest. We knew there was only one reason that person would have seen her and it must mean that she was a surprise addition to the Parenthood panel that day.
We had not planned to go to Parenthood originally. We went to a Parenthood panel last year, with a lot of the young cast members, solely because we liked the actors and the timing was right – it wasn’t blocked against anything else interesting. Neither of us regularly watch the show and the only listed guests this year were the creator of the show Jason Katims and Ray Romano. Not enough of a draw. BUT. Lauren Graham is a whole other story. LORELAI GILMORE. We decided we had to try to go see her so we hopped in line.
The problem is that Parenthood is a super popular show. There’s a die hard fan base. People used their Fast Pass to get in to this and the non-FP line was long. We didn’t make the cut. The place was packed and they couldn’t let anyone else in. Bummer.
Instead, we went to grab some lunch. I ate an entire pizza at a shitty bar on 6th and when we were done, we went back to stand outside of the Alamo to wait for the Parenthood panel to finish and see if we could catch a glimpse of her walking out. While we were waiting and talking, walking down 6th, there was the absolutely gorgeous in real life Uzo Aduba – “Crazy Eyes” from Orange is the New Black – walking with a friend. She was wearing sunglasses but we recognized her hair and smile and asked her for a picture. She very kindly obliged. I don’t think she gets stopped much since she looks SO different on the show.
A few minutes after she left and we were done freaking out, the doors to the Alamo opened and out walked Ray Romano, Lauren Graham and Peter Krause. They were moving pretty quickly so we couldn’t stop for a picture with her but Melissa did shake her hand and say it was nice to meet her and I got this awesome crowd shot:
I love that girl behind her, totally emoting what I was feeling: OMG! Also, Peter Krause’s head in the background, going by totally undisturbed.
As they walked away and crossed the street, holding hands (super cute couple IRL), I think we both felt like… we have already completely gotten our money’s worth out of this trip and we still had a day and a half to go.
Saturday night was a double feature of FX shows Fargo and The Strain. To be honest, I had never watched an episode of the Fargo TV show and the poster alone for The Strain looked horrible and made me want to skip it completely. We went because:
This was the big closing night event and it was a cool opportunity.
The cast in attendance for The Strain included Sean Astin (RUDY! The Goonies!) and Corey Stoll (Peter Russo on House of Cards)
There was a party afterwards and the party last year was probably the highlight of the whole weekend.
As we walked up to get in line, we saw the mini-red carpet they had set up for the stars of the show and walked right past actors getting their picture taken. The line was very long and the staff told us several times that it was likely we might not get in. We squeaked in and ended up right in the middle of the theater and it was great. It definitely made me want to catch up on Fargo. The episode was awesome. Allison Tolman plays one of the main characters on the show, against big names like Billy Bob Thorton and she kicks ass. As a human, she seems very funny and she’s a curvy normal sized woman, which is refreshing. Key and Peele play characters on the show and it gave me the chance to introduce Melissa to one of my favorite silly things ever that she hadn’t seen before:
After Fargo and the panel discussion (which also included Keith Carradine), they showed the premiere of new FX show The Strain. This is not my kind of show at all. It’s scary; there are violent vampires; worms crawl into people’s eyes and skin and …. gahhhhh.
But, oh man. Corey Stoll. He was the best thing on season 1 of House of Cards and I appreciated this guy as an actor but dang. Something about seeing him in person made me realize wowza – this guy is hot. And not my usual type at all. Bald guys are not generally on my radar. There’s a scene in The Strain where he strips down to put on a hazmat suit (I won’t get into the plot, it’s beyond me) and his body is ridiculous. Let me just say, I am a happily married woman but Corey Stoll can. get. it. It’s cool. Andy understands.
His fake hair in The Strain is pretty bad, though. It was much better in Midnight in Paris.
The panel for The Strain was very interesting, outside of my imaginary boyfriend Corey. Other major cast members Sean Astin, Kevin Durand and Mia Maestro were there too, along with Carlton Cuse (who co-created Lost) and Guillermo Del Toro. That’s a big freaking deal. That guy is a weirdo director genius. It was fascinating listening to him talk. The biggest revelation for me since I have no connection to his work was that he loves home and garden and real estate magazines. Ha. But it was a cool event, even though The Strain isn’t my cup of tea.
After the screenings and panel discussions, we went to the SFA bar for the closing night party. This year it was much clearer, the distinction between ‘talent’ and attendees. There were private parties and VIP rooms every night for all panelists, staff, sponsors and press and that was completely separated from attendees. If that was happening last year, it was not made as crystal clear to attendees as it was this year. It went from feeling very inclusive to very us vs. them. As Ryan McGee rightly points out, there’s not a venue big enough to hold everyone at the same time so in some respects, that makes sense. But as I saw from feedback on Twitter and felt in the room myself on Saturday night – the closing night “party” wasn’t really a party for everyone. It was an after the after party for all higher level people. So, as all attendees showed up to a mostly empty hotel bar, expecting the same kind of vibe and crowd from last year, it was a bit of a bummer. After about an hour, more people started showing up and it was the fun kind of party where you could mingle in the same room as celebs as it was last year. I did wish that we all had access to that photobooth, though. That would have been fun. I heard that there were similar separate parties for Thursday and Friday nights as well but I can’t speak to those personally.
My other takeaway from Saturday night was that volunteers needed to be better trained. The closing night party last year required a wrist band to enter. This year, homeless looking drugged out dudes wandered in (X Games refugees?), as well as an entire wedding party from a reception happening in the ballroom next door. That was poor planning on the part of the SFA. But I blame the people “working the door” for not actually working the door and letting in randoms.
As it got closer to midnight, the crowd picked up and we spotted the cast of Roswell reuniting in one corner – including Jason Behr, who was a “surprise” guest; Dr. Abott (Tom Amandes) and his mom Edna (Debra Mooney) having a drink and heart to heart talk on the balcony; and my imaginary Hollywood boyfriend Corey Stoll walked right in front of us and I was too chicken to say hi. Mostly, we just watched the drunk wedding guests, looked people at the party up on IMDB (like this chick and Gio from Ugly Betty) and played six degrees of separation – connect Sarah Drew to Sean Astin and we’d see who could do it in less steps. Maybe that can be an icebreaker next year to talk to famous people: “Hey, I’m trying to connect you to Breckin Meyer. Have you ever worked together?”
The final day of the fest started with the Pitch Competition at 10 AM. I went to the Pitch Competition last year and it was so interesting to hear people get up and in 3 minutes, try to sell an idea for a TV show. The winner gets paired up with a mentor from the judges panel and the chance to pitch to real networks and studios. We talked briefly with one of the guys who won last year and he said that it didn’t really go anywhere – their show I Made America (which is also an awesome web series) had similar elements to Drunk History so Comedy Central would never pick it up; it didn’t seem to fit at other networks.
This year, we heard 10 pitches, mostly comedies. There was one drama pitch that was cool called ‘Velvet Valley’ about a brothel in Nevada and all the drama surrounding legal prostitution – I could totally see that either sexed up, on Starz or Cinemax or toned down, paired with a show like Dallas on TNT or something. The winner this year was a woman with an Arrested Development style comedy, set with a fictionalized version of the Royal Family. The characters were really developed and you could picture them based on her descriptions – the prince prepares for every possible disaster by keeping a book of pre-written speeches for various scenarios; the Queen falls asleep around the castle and likes to play dead to freak out the guards.
We debated booking it from the Pitch Competition over to Roswell but by the time it was over, we would have had no chance of getting in. Many people saved their Fast Passes specifically for the Roswell reunion – it was a huge draw of the weekend. I didn’t watch the show myself, although I saw a few episodes because my mom really liked it. We felt like we had seen the cast the night before at the party and we ended up seeing many of them at the hotel later as well so I’m not too heartbroken about missing it. The only thing that would have been amazingly random about being there is the fact that SNOOKI from Jersey Shore is apparently a crazy huge Roswell fan and she and her best friend flew in to attend. She asked the last question to the panel and none of them recognized/acknowledged that they knew who she was. To be fair, she looks totally different now than when she was originally on Jersey Shore – also, I understand not everyone in the world is up to date on reality TV celebrities. But man, a picture with Snooks would have put the cherry on top of the weekend. Hahaha.
Instead of Roswell, we decided to just chill in the SFA hotel lobby. SFA is where all of the panelists stayed and was ATX Fest HQ so it was a safe place to sit in air conditioning and people watch. While hanging in the lobby, we noticed that our fave Edna from Everwood was sitting across from us but she was reading and we left her alone. When she left, I had to move my feet to let her out and she said she liked my sandals and I thanked her for coming. She said that the cast had such a wonderful time and they were so excited to be together again and thanked us for attending the panel. That was pretty great.
I also spotted my comedy crush John Mulaney at the hotel. He was upstairs, doing press while Melissa and I sat downstairs so I would just kinda sneak glances at him and hoped he would walk through the lobby eventually. As it turns out, his showrunner sat on the couch right next to us so he came over to talk to him and had to walk past me to do it. I worked up the nerve to stop him and tell him I was a big fan and that we were going to the screening of his new show. He was very sweet and posed for a picture with me.
If you don’t know his stand-up, you should definitely check it out. His special “New in Town” is on Netflix streaming. He also loves Law & Order and does this fantastic bit about Jerry Orbach:
His new show might be terrible. The episode we saw was ROUGH. It was like a parody of a bad sitcom. Elliott Gould plays an effeminate neighbor who is wacky and like, literally has a limp wrist. Martin Short is Martin Short and over the top. There’s a live studio audience that laughs at everything, even things that aren’t supposed to be funny. There was a dog wearing a rasta wig on a skateboard. I mean… I just can’t imagine that this is actually the show he wanted to make and put his name on. He’s so good at creating characters and he admits that he’s not a good actor – why make this a show about a fictional version of you that is not a successful comedian but is a warm-up guy/assistant to a TV game show host? Why not just play someone else then? Why does he have to be named John Mulaney? I am sad because Nasim Pedrad is funny, John is funny… This was just not enjoyable for me. I hope that the series gets better because I want to support him but I do not know if I can watch that week to week.
Mulaney was the last event of the weekend and wrapped up ATX Fest for us. Melissa’s flight left Sunday night and I crashed in the hotel, binged on OITNB and left Monday morning. Of course, I couldn’t leave Texas without eating BBQ so I ate brisket for brunch at the airport Monday and it was glorious.
We already bought passes to attend for next year so I’m looking forward to 2015. I feel like next year will be the year for the Gilmore Girls reunion! Amy Sherman-Palladino and Lauren Graham are now both connected to the fest… let’s make it happen, ATX Fest ladies 🙂
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…
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.
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! 🙂