If you were in downtown Austin recently and happened upon lots of recognizable TV stars, you weren’t the only one. Despite this being the fifth year of the ATX Television Festival, it still feels somewhat under the radar for an Austin event. People always seem surprised when they see people like Mae Whitman or Scott Wolf wandering around, yet those of us who hit the festival every year know that it’s customary to run into many famous faces.
The thing I love the most about the festival is that it isn’t oversold. It feels intimate and accessible. It’s a small conference for TV insiders and passionate fans, and everyone feels lucky to be there, from the badge-holders to the volunteers, to the TV stars. After all, Austin knows how to show guests a good time and people are more than happy to visit. Industry people and fans alike seem equally happy to geek out over the love of TV.
I spent the weekend conducting interviews, watching panels, screenings, and soaking it all in. I was especially happy to attend a panel for Royal Pains, which is a guilty pleasure of mine. The final season is about to air and we were treated to an early screening of their musical episode, which was hilarious and campy. The cast and creators were pretty open, discussing everything from the medical terminology in the dialogue to the evolution of their characters. If fans of the show are wondering whether they will ever see Hank settle down with a woman, this final season may not wrap everything up in a neat bow. They revealed that all previous attempts to match up Hank had been rejected by the audience. No one is good enough for our Hank!
It’s an unwritten rule of the festival that everyone needs to be cool and not swarm the stars. I don’t ask for autographs or photos with celebs and unless it’s an official interview I tend to shy away from attempting conversation. If I’m honest, there have been a few people that I’ve wanted to gush over that I’ve run into at the festival or other events. H. Jon Benjamin comes to mind, along with Megan Mullally, Adam Scott, and Uzo Aduba. This year my big fan crush goes to Ben Feldman.
Ben’s been a number of shows I love: Drop Dead Diva, Mad Men, Silicon Valley, and NBC’s Superstore, which was just renewed for a second season. The cast of Superstore was in Austin to talk about the show and I was one of the lucky few who got to interview them.
If you haven’t seen the show, it’s a smart workplace sitcom with a lot of heart. Producer and writer Justin Spitzer is known for another little workplace comedy that you may have heard of called The Office. So I have high hopes for this show and really enjoyed the first season. In addition to Ben Feldman, America Ferrera, and Kids in the Hall’s Mark McKinney, the cast is filled with talented actors who make up a motley crew of blue collar workers in a Walmart-type store called Cloud 9.
America and Ben made the observation that blue collar comedies have fallen out of favor in recent years, replaced by shows that focus on fantasy, rather than reality. The entire cast spoke about working in on a set that looks exactly like a store and how they were forbidden from taking any of the real-life products. The pilot was actually shot in a real Kmart, with the cast and crew filming through the night. The experience inspired the episode All-Nighter, where they are locked in the store overnight.
If you want to watch (or re-watch) the first season it’s available on the NBC website.
Another show that was getting a lot of buzz at the festival is Pitch, which premieres on FOX on September 22nd. It’s the (fictional, obviously) story of the first woman to play MLB. Kylie Bunbury plays Ginny, the talented pitcher who joins the San Diego Padres. Mark-Paul Gosselaar plays catcher Mike Wilson and he and Kylie spoke candidly about their physical training for their roles. Hers was more physically intense, while Gosselaar joked that his training mostly consisted of growing a beard that his wife hates.
Despite my lack of interest in sports, I do think baseball is the most tolerable and I’ve never seen a baseball movie I didn’t like. So I’m definitely going to be watching this series in the fall. Check out the trailer for yourself. This show is great.
Did you miss the ATX Television Festival this year? Badges are already on sale for 2017. See you next year!