The ATX Television Festival canceled a scheduled panel discussion of violence on Sunday because of the mass killings in Orlando, Fla.
The session, titled Viewer Discretion Advised, was described as dealing with the violence show in various series and how appropriate it might be to tell a story.
The announcement came via Twitter and Facebook, from festival co-founders Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland. They said, “Out of respect for victims of the tragedy in Orlando last night, we won’t be holding the Viewer Discretion Advised panel today. While it is a very important conversation to have, today does not feel like the the time to have it. Viewer Discretion Advised panel is cancelled.”
The panelists who were scheduled to appear were Austin’s Noah Hawley, the showrunner for “Fargo”; Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”), Jack Amiel (“The Knick”), Brian Michael Bendis (“Powers”) and Universal TV VP of drama Stacey Silverman.
A Saturday-night reunion panel at the Paramount Theatre brought back 10 cast members and showrunner Silvio Horta from the ABC telenovela adaptation, which began in 2006 and ran for four seasons.
Before the end of the panel, actress America Ferrera, who played Betty Suarez on the show, was coming up with hashtags for fans to prod Hulu, the streaming service that currently offers all episodes of the show to revive the series as a two-hour movie.
Since the panel came together so quickly — it apparently only took an email to Ferrera to her fellow cast member and 20 minutes to get them to all agree to come to Austin — she said the panel itself was the negotiation that would lead to the revival. “This is the talk!’ she exclaimed, before settling on “#HuluBringBackUglyBetty” as the hashtag fans should use.
The reunion, moderated by Entertainment Weekly Radio’s Jessica Shaw, made it clear the cast members and Horta miss the show and still get along famously as an extended family unit. The reunion also featured actors Judith Light, Vanessa Williams, Tony Plana, Ana Ortiz, Michael Urie, Mark Indelicato, Ashley Jensen, Eric Mabius and Rebecca Romijn. Of the primary cast, only Becki Newton was missing; she had to bow out due to illness.
Through its four seasons, “Ugly Betty” was known for several important TV landmarks; among them, featuring a loving Latino family at its center, introducing TVs first trans character (played by Romijn), and for its careful handling of two coming-out storylines, including one involving Indelicato’s character Justin, who was only 12 when the show started.
Cast members said they went into a depression after the show ended. Plana likened it to a plane crash, while Ferrera said, “It was like losing a family.”
Ferrera described how her involvement in the show began with a conversation with producer Salma Hayek at a Los Angeles hotel while Horta described going from a series about a secret agent to something more direct about a young woman who is perceived as unattractive, but, “She turns every one else beautiful from the inside out.”
Much time was spent on the show’s outrageous, but always on-point fashion sense, with much praise going to ace designer Pat Field, on its roster of guest stars including a then-unknown Adele, Patti Lupone and Octavia Spencer, and what the actors and Horta think the characters might be doing now.
Ferrera pitched her idea for where the show could pick up, something she says she had been thinking about seriously: “It’s been six or seven years, depending on when Hulu launches this. Betty has been in London the whole time and is coming home.”
The actress, who was also at the fest promoting her current NBC sitcom “Superstore,” sounded very serious. Don’t be surprised if Hulu takes the hint.
Fans of “Friday Night Lights” got Texas heat, Texas stars and a big dose of Texas love with the ATX Television Festival’s tailgate party, pep rally and screening of the show. The event, which was open to non-badgeholders of the festival, attracted stars of the show Connie Britton, Adrianne Palicki, Scott Porter, Gaius Charles, Jesse Plemmons, Brad Leland and many others, who all took to the stage together escorted by Del Valle high school football players for a brief Q&A before a screening of one of the show’s best episodes.
“We really knew we couldn’t ask them to come every year of the festival,” said festival co-founder Emily Gipson on stage. “Five years they’ve been doing this, five years since the show ended, 10 years since the show started, let’s just blow this out.”
The organizers chose Del Valle field, which was unused and overgrown, and transformed it into Panther Field for the event, which included a tour through the field house (gotta tap that Panthers P for good luck!), food trucks, selfies with some cast members and a screening of “The Son,” the wrenching, Emmy-nominated fifth-season episode about QB1 Matt Saracen coming to grips with very bad news about his dad.
On stage, cast members were asked a few questions about what props they took home when the show ended (Britton took a Tami Taylor parking marker home and still uses it at her house, she revealed) and what cast member/character they each have a crush on. Some answers were disturbing (not cool to say “Lyla Garrity,” Brad Leland!), but the vote was overwhelmingly for Britton, whose subsequent show “Nashville” has just escaped cancellation and will continue on CMT with the actress. A few of the lead actors missing from the event included Kyle Chandler, Michael B. Jordan, Minka Kelly and Taylor Kitsch, but the show’s deep bench of characters filled out the stage, drawing huge cheers for actors including Louanne Stephens, who played Grandma Saracen; she also got into the act dancing on stage during a music set by Crucifictorious. That was led by a bearded Plemmons, who has gone on star in acclaimed shows including “Breaking Bad” and “Fargo.” He acquitted himself well through several songs and in their closer, “She Don’t Use Jelly” by The Flaming Lips.
The TV Fest continues through the weekend with “West Wing” and “Ugly Betty” reunions on the schedule for Saturday.
Austin’s Noah Hawley, who has a new thriller titled “Before the Fall,” sat down with Beau Willimon, the creator of TV’s “House of Cards,” on Friday to discuss Hawley’s new book at the ATX Television Festival. Hawley, who’s also the showrunner for the FX series “Fargo,” had a few choice words about doing double duty as a novelist and TV creator. Here are five highlights from the session.
1. Hawley says he has resisted restricting himself to one medium, like television, because of a simple fact: “If you do just one thing, then that thing owns you.” So he splits his time pursuing various passions, like writing movies, writing teleplays and writing novels.
2. Since he’s the showrunner, he also has a few tips on how to manage up, i.e., how to handle studio or corporate executives, especially when you’re trying to create art for a corporation, which is a bit subversive in itself. A notable piece of advice: Ask yourself: “How do I get what I want while making them think it’s what they want?”
3. Hawley, who’s a father of two, says he sees stories as an “empathy delivery device” for his kids. That’s why he thinks it’s important to tell stories to kids — especially stories that feature people “who aren’t like you.”
4. He always stresses characters when writing TV shows and novels. “If you can solve the characters, you can solve the mystery” of a novel or show, he says.
5. He’s intrigued by characters who have great power or wealth – and especially how they act. “The quality of a person is what they do with their power,” he says. “You can use it punch people down or lift them up.” And there’s a particular character in “Before the Fall” who pushes people down. He’s a TV commentator for a right-wing network.
If you’re interested in buying a signed copy of “Before the Fall,” the book is available at Trinity Hall, 311 E. 5th St., throughout the festival, which runs through the weekend.
The ATX Television Festival will be back next summer for a fifth year.
The event will run June 9 through 12 at several venues in the downtown Austin area.
Norman Lear, the man behind countless hit shows such as “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons,” will receive the ATX Award at the 2016 festival, organizers said.
“We’re humbled and honored to have the legendary Norman Lear accept our Achievement in Television eXcellence Award, which was created with the intention of acknowledging those who have dedicated their lives to television – participating in its history as well as its future – and there is no one better suited to receive that honor than Mr. Lear,” co-founders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson said in a joint statement. “We’re also thrilled to begin announcing our programming, as we strive to continue balancing our reunions, niche series, current shows and new series premieres, as well as some of the biggest hits from network, cable and streaming platforms.”
That programming will include a 20-year reunion panel for “Everybody Loves Raymond,” a writers’ room reunion for “The Shield,” a spotlight screening of former FX show “Terriers” and a script reading of the pilot for “Big,” a show that never made air.
If it feels like your favorite on-hiatus TV drama is taking forever to return for a new season, it’s not because the creator/showrunners are wasting time, that’s for sure.
That was the key takeaway from a Saturday afternoon panel, “UnSeasonably: A Look at Breaking the Traditional TV Season,” at the ATX Television Festival featuring showrunners from FX’s “Fargo” (Noah Hawley), “House of Cards” (Beau Willimon), CBS’s “Extant” (Mickey Fisher) and BBC America’s “Orphan Black” (Graeme Manson).
The panel, moderated by Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman, got off to an unfortunate start when he noted the panel was “Very diverse” (in terms of network outlets), a strange thing to say on a stage where five white men were holding court.
Nevertheless, the panel got back on track on issues such as how writer/creators maintain quality on their respective shows, how they keep audiences interested in the long breaks between seasons (for “Fargo,” for instance, fans will have waited about 18 months before the second season premiere) and whether extra web-only content is worth the hassle.
All seemed concerned about the glut of quality shows and the limited time their audiences have to enjoy all the great shows available (“We’re gonna need a bigger DVR, right?” Hawley said), but insisted that the best use of their time is not social media or extra content but focusing on making their shows stand out in the crowd.
“(Fans) will crawl over broken glass to watch something they love on this age,” Hawley said.
Willimon of “House of Cards” said that TV fans are hoping for instant gratification with their favorite TV shows, but that no matter how you do it, it still takes about a year to put together a quality season of television, though the formats are breaking down to allow for non-traditional TV seasons with varying episode lengths.
They all agreed that good shows can still follow the lead of “Breaking Bad” by being discovered by fans into their second or third season with online streaming and word of mouth.
But the challenge of making a great show consistently is so great that the thought of making extra content is worrisome, especially for dramas (which aren’t as viral online as short-form TV comedy). Manson said that a new “Orphan Black” comic has been a tough challenge because it requires extra attention and is always in danger of stepping on the show’s toes.
It’s a similar challenge when it comes to marketing — Willimon handles a lot of “House of Cards” marketing tasks himself (such as writing the Netflix episode descriptions), but ultimately, the most attention must be paid on the show itself.
“You don’t want to put anything out that’s not as good as the show itself,” he said. “And you want to focus on the main course.”
Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, and show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, as well as many others, have all confirmed attendance at the panel, which will be hosted by Entertainment Weekly. This reunion follows a surprise show by Stars Hollow staple Hep Alien last night at the Hotel San Jose. Alien’s set included covers of songs by the White Stripes and a performance of Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies.’
While tonight’s IRL reunion is exciting to say the least, Scott Patterson, better known as Luke Danes on the show, told Time last month that an on-screen reunion might also be in the works. “I can’t really go into any details, but there is some activity. I’m hopeful, and I’m in,” Patterson said.
So now the question becomes – will we finally be getting that rumored Gilmore Girls movie? We’re long overdue for a Luke and Lorelai wedding.
You probably want to stay on Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd’s good side.
The casting director of “Moesha” and “Being Mary Jane” joined fellow casting directors Tracy Lilienfield (“Grace & Frankie,” “Dream On”), Jen Euston (“Girls,” “Orange is the New Black”) and Alyssa Weisberg (“Lost,” “Workaholics”) in a lively, alternately serious and funny discussion of television casting Friday during the ATX Television Festival.
“I don’t see myself in the future!” African-American Byrd said late in the discussion, making a point about the lack of racial diversity in science fiction programming and pointing out that casting directors are often hamstrung by the characters that writers create.
“I think somebody’s trying to tell me something. I’m just thinking, where are the black people? Obviously there are no black people in the future. Okay, who created that? There’s gonna be a black woman in your future in the parking lot!”
The line drew huge laughs from the (mostly white) crowd.
Byrd basically told the crowd (which surely included some aspiring television writers) that it you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
“We’ve become a culture of complainers instead of appreciators or changers,” she said, referring to people who complain about lack of diversity in television. “It’s easier to complain. But start creating some stuff; start writing some stuff. Create the change you want to see and write in those characters.”
Panelists also pointed out that diversity doesn’t just pertain to race.
“Change is slow,” said Lilienfield. “(But) we have a responsibility, because we are the next thing after it’s on the page. We have a big chance to keep saying, ‘what about women? What if it was African-American? What if the guy was gay?’. And we have to. Sometimes it feels a little forced, I think, but I think everything that is a seismic change is a little forced at first and then it becomes the norm and it becomes easier.” Lilienfield cast the groundbreaking network sitcom, “Will & Grace.”
The point drew sustained applause from the crowd.
Panelists agreed that diversity is much more common on cable shows (especially pay cable) because the heads of those networks trust creators more and let them push boundaries beyond the rigid confines of broadcast television, whose honchos routinely give casting mandates. And the current boom in diversity is partly due to the fact that the exploding number of outlets for video programming has created a seemingly endless need for fresh and original content. Finally, in television, success breeds imitation.
The casting directors also touched on the challenges of the career, with all but one of them confessing that they get little sleep and have no lives outside of the job.
“Trying to date is very challenging,” Byrd revealed, speaking for the female-dominated occupation. “You can’t go to the movies; I can’t even watch TV with a man. You don’t even understand. I’m like, ‘stop! Stop that commercial! Run it back. Oh, she’s really good!’”
The ATX Television Festival started its first full day of 2015 programming on Friday with a few packed panels (if you arrived late, you likely didn’t get in to see “Bunheads” or “Brooklyn 99” panels) and a well-received screening of Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie” with co-creator Marta Kauffman.
Kauffman, who is known for her work on HBO’s “Dream On” and most notably as the co-creator of “Friends,” discussed how the show, which stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, came together and how working for Netflix has been different from doing network television.
Most notably, she said, the lack of format restrictions on Netflix have allowed her new show — about two women whose husbands (played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterson), late in life, have fallen in love with each other and left them.
The entire 13-episode first season of the show is already on Netflix, but the pilot appeared to be new to a lot of the audience, who gave the comedy its laughs, if not riotous applause when it concluded.
Kauffman said that the show came about when she was told that Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda were both interested in doing a television show and when she assumed they were talking about doing one together. 20 minutes after floating that idea, she said, they both signed on.
It was not a tough sell to Netflix, she said, based on its two stars. “Who doesn’t want Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin on their network?” she said.
The biggest advantage of Netflix, she said, is storytelling time. “On a network, you don’t get 30 minutes. You get 20 minutes. You can’t tell a deep story that way; you can only tell the jokes,” she said. “You can do different kinds of jokes on a single-camera show (on a network), but it’s still not gonna dig deep.”
She offered a few juicy tidbits about her new show, such as working realities; Lily Tomlin will overthink jokes if she’s given too much time and gets tired after 8 hours of work, while Martin Sheen typically insists on having the last line in any scene he’s in.
Kauffman also talked about her time on “Friends,” including an ongoing misogyny issue with an NBC network president, and what she learned about herself as a TV writer. Kauffman said what she brings to the table (apart from “food,” she joked) is humanity, warmth and heart. She said that TV characters “don’t have to be lovable but they have to be people you let into your home, You have to want them there… I bring that tone.”
Before the panel, fest co-founder Caitlin McFarland apologized for some growing pains the festival is experiencing with long lines and fast pass problems, which caused many to stand in lines outside venues in the heat. She said the fest is looking for feedback to make improvements as it keeps growing.
The ATX Television Festival is just around the corner, and the announcements keep on coming.
A farewell to FX’s “Justified” has been added, as well as a panel with producers and cast from “Boy Meets World” and “Girl Meets World” and one with Marta Kauffman, the creator of “Friends.”
Other panels will focus on Fox’s “Wayward Pines,” USA’s “Playing House,” ABC Family’s “The Fosters” and Comedy Central’s “Drunk History.”
“Boomtown” will be among the shows saluted during a special “canceled too soon” panel. The show aired for two seasons on NBC about a decade ago.
“I had such a great time at ATX last year for the ‘Hey Dude’ 25th anniversary reunion that I was eager to get back,” said Graham Yost, the creator of “Justified” and “Boomtown.” “This June, the whole cast of ‘Justified’ will be there to mark the end of the series, and I’m excited to reunite with cast and producers from ‘Boomtown,’ a show that will always be very near to the hearts of those of us lucky enough to have worked on it.”
Tickets for the ATX Television Festival, which runs June 4-7 at various downtown Austin venues, are available at atxfestival.com.