ATX Television Festival: Season 8
On June 6-9, 2019, The ATX Television Festival’s Season 8 took place in downtown Austin, Texas. Each year of the festival is called a season. The venues hosting the events were the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel Ballroom, Paramount Theatre, the State at the Paramount Theatre, the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz Theatres 1 and 2, Trinity Hall, and Hotel San José. Except for the Hotel San José [which hosts the TV Under The Stars event on Friday], the venues are conveniently located close to each other. The entire weekend is jammed pack with panels, events, and screenings. I couldn’t attend everything I was interested in seeing [Archer, David Makes Man, Grown-ish, Los Espooky’s] but I’m happy with what I caught. I will only discuss events I was present at.
On Thursday afternoon, the first screening I saw was Grand Hotel. It premieres on ABC on June 17. It’s a soap opera about a Miami hotel owned by a Cuban-American family. As you can probably guess, it’s a hotel that holds many secrets. The panel consisted of cast members Roselyn Sánchez, Ben Spector and show writer Ben Tanen.
I attended the TVs Top 5 live podcast. The panelists were The Hollywood Reporter’s West Coast TV Editor Lesley Goldberg and Chief TV Critic Daniel Fienberg. Their special guests were the festival’s co-founders Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland. They later spoke to the NBC scripted co-presidents, Liza Katz and Tracey Pakosta.
That night I attended the opening night screening for Euphoria which premieres on HBO on June 16. The panel after the screening consisted of stars Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Barbie Ferreira, and Eric Dane. The show’s creator Sam Levinson was also there. Most people have probably heard about the guy who asked Zendaya out for Amy’s Ice Cream, [a popular ice cream shop here]. He first asked if she was smoking the ‘good weed’ for the show, she assured him she doesn’t partake. The asker appeared to have smoked the ‘good weed’ before he came to the screening. Zendaya was the total professional and defused the situation with humor. I guess the asker got to smoke the ‘good weed’ and eat some ice cream all alone.
On Friday morning I attended the Pitch Competition. The festival picks from hundreds of applicants, 10 pitches that will be presented to a panel of judges from the television industry. Most of the judges were producers or affiliated with TV networks. The winner receives a development meeting with one of the judges and a chance to pitch to the festivals’ network partners. The Pitch Competition wasn’t recorded so that the competitors’ ideas couldn’t be taken by others, so I won’t say what the winning pitch was. It was good though, and I could see it becoming a TV show.
That afternoon I saw the screening of Perpetual Grace, LTD., which premiered on EPIX on June 2. The panel had the show’s two creators Steve Conrad and Bruce Terris and two of the show’s stars Jimmi Simpson and Luis Guzman.
The final event I attended that day was “A Conversation with ATX Awardee: Phylicia Rashad.” Each year the festival presents the “Award in Television eXcellence” to an individual whose body of work encompasses the standards of the festival: thought-provoking, lasting, genuine, expansive and ultimately entertaining. After receiving the award from Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland, Ms. Rashad held a conversation with moderator Susan Kelechi Watson from This is Us. Ms. Rashad plays Ms. Watson character’s [Beth] mother. It was a delightful conversation from someone who has done much more than be Clair Huxtable.
On Saturday morning, I attended the Veronica Mars panel. Kristen Bell wasn’t there, but show creator Rob Thomas along with cast members Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni and Percy Daggs III were. They showed two clips from the Veronica Mars Revival that begins on July 26. They later announced that the Seasons 1-3 would be shown on Hulu beginning July 1. It was an entertaining panel, but I still wish Kristen Bell was there.
Leaving the Veronica Mars panel, I headed to the One Day at a Time panel. It wasn’t as celebratory as the previous panel, because Netflix has cancelled their show. They screened an episode of the show and then brought out the revival’s creator, Mike Royce with some of the cast members, Justina Machado, Todd Grinnell, Stephen Tobolowsky and Brent Miller. Melissa Fumero of Brooklyn 99 was the moderator. The main message from the panel is that they are trying to save the show. It used to be that if a show was cancelled, the rallying call would be to try to get Netflix to pick it up. Since this is a Netflix show that was cancelled, who do you turn to now? I wish them the best of luck. #SaveODAAT
On a happier note, the next panel was Most Likely to Make You Laugh, with the stars of three NBC sitcoms, Melissa Fumero of Brooklyn 99, Lauren Ash of Superstore and D’Arcy Carden of The Good Place. Marc Evan Jackson of both Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place was the moderator. It was a lively and fun panel, illustrating why the three shows are so funny.
The festival’s closing night screening was City on a Hill which premiers on June 16 on Showtime. If you like cop dramas that are more ‘adult’ than the ones you find on the networks, this should be up your alley. A lot of actors from other police procedurals you’ve liked appear on this show. What will make or break this show are its two stars, Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge. They were the best parts of the pilot. The two of them were also on the panel along with Jill Hennessy and the show’s creator Chuck MacLean, show runner, Tom Fontana, and one of the executive producers Jennifer Todd.
Finally on Sunday, the closing day, my final screening for the festival was Sherman’s Showcase, which premiers on IFC on July 31. I didn’t know anything about this show beforehand, but it turned out that after watching two episodes of it, the show is now my most anticipated new show for the summer. It is hilarious. The pack house I was in roared throughout the screening. The show is a parody of Soul Train, but it’s much, much more than that. It’s an entertaining look at black culture from the past 40 years. The panel was just as funny, with the show’s creators and stars Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin. The panel also had two guest stars from the show, Nigel Lythgoe and Bresha Webb.
Season eight of the ATX Television Festival was a blast. It was good seeing old and new faces there. I can’t wait to find out what their lineup will be for season nine. So if you’re a TV aficionado, or just want to hang out in Austin for a long weekend and see some of your favorite TV stars and creators, see you next June. If you want more information about the festival, http://atxfestival.com/.