Last weekend, a whole bunch of TV nerds headed to Austin for the fourth year of the ATX Television Festival and feasted on panels, screenings and a few dynamite parties. It was awesome, it was epic, it was pure heaven-- and several FYAers lived to tell about it. Without further ado, here's our recap of season four!
Photo by Waytao Shing
Canceled Too Soon: Bunheads (Meredith)
I've made no secret of my love for Bunheads, the ABC Family series by Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, starring Broadway queen Sutton Foster, Gilmore Girls' matriarch Kelly Bishop and Friday Night Lights' Stacey Oristano. With Sherman-Palladino secured for the Gilmore Girls reunion, ATX scheduled a Canceled Too Soon clip show (curated by Sherman-Palladino herself) and Q&A with the showrunner and three stars, and it was a moving, long-overdue goodbye to a brilliant, hilarious, completely unusual and really important show that was given only eighteen episodes and an unceremonious canceling after months of waffling by the network. Every clip broke my heart, because every clip was a reminder of what a special, fleeting gift we had in this beautiful show.
Highlights from the Q&A, mostly by the fast-talking and foul-mouthed Sherman-Palladino, my hero. Every time she said something shocking or raunchy, which was a lot, Bishop, Oristano and Foster would giggle:
Amy Sherman-Palladino - "This show is one of the least planned things of my life." Regarding "Dame" Sutton Foster: "Yes, I can say she's a fucking dame...She is, what we say in the biz, THE BEST." And Kelly Bishop is "Countess Kelly." Regarding ABC Family: "It's not a real network...The thing about Bunheads is that we had no money. Like, NO money." And finally, as no surprise to anyone, why she writes these wonderful female stories: "I think women are fascinating." She didn't bring any other choices to the network for the characters of Michelle, Fanny and Truly: it was Foster, Bishop, Oristano or bust. And when it came to casting the kids - Boo, Sasha, Ginny and Melanie - she didn't bring many choices either, because finding young actresses and dancers of that caliber was the hardest part of the casting process.
Get more deets on the panel from Meredith here.
Photo by Jessica Mims
A Conversation with Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec (Mandy C.)
On Saturday afternoon, Kevin Williamson—writer of Scream and creator of Dawson's Creek—and Julie Plec—executive producer of and writer on shows including The Tomorrow People and The Vampire Diaries—sat down to talk with The Originals writer Carina MacKenzie about their working relationship, which began thanks to Scream and was solidified over Kenny Rogers' greatest hits.
Since the late 90s, the duo have worked together on many other projects, from Dawson's Creek to the The Vampire Diaries, and both credit their careers to the other. During the convo, they spoke about various projects and their creative method. "If you don't love what you're doing, there's really no point" Julie said. And Kevin revealed that "panic is a great creative drive."
When speaking about The Vampire Diaries, which Julie described as an "outlet for grief/an allegory for being alone," they discussed how, as the show progressed, each of them gravitated toward certain characters; they understood them and their actions better than the others, and therefore could write them better. But Julie added that she eventually started writing for her actors' abilities and how they portrayed the character. (They were also asked a question about the future of the show post-Nina Dobrev's exit, and although they didn't reveal much, they did say that it would be darker, and Damon will be quite different than he's ever been.)
Kevin also gave some excellent advice, which could be quite useful for writers of all genres (not just TV). He said that, when developing a new character, he thinks first of their highest highs and their lowest lows, and how someone that comes from those two extremes can fit into a show. If it wasn't already obvious that he and Julie had a deep connection before this moment, it became crystal clear when Kevin said "Figure out what their biggest secret is ..." and Julie finished with, "And how they hide it."
Photo by Tammy Perez
A Kiss Is Just a Kiss (Kandis)
GLAAD presented the A Kiss Is Just a Kiss panel, moderated by Wilson Cruz (who is just the best). Panelists talked about the evolution of gay characters on television, from the comical stereotypes, to honest three-dimensional portrayals. Ron Lipman and Daniel Cowen wrote An Early Frost, which premiered on TV in 1985 and was the first movie about AIDS in America. The couple in the movie weren’t allowed to show any affection, for fear that viewers would turn off their televisions, and the message was too important to risk that. Gina Fattore talked about her experience producing on Dawson’s Creek, especially the groundbreaking episode, featuring the first gay kiss on television. She said it had to be shot from far away, but that executive producer Kevin Williamson (who wasn’t on-set that day) instructed her that “it better be a real f--king kiss.” Peter Paige, talked about his days on Queer as Folk and how amazing it was to get to play a femme gay man, who actually liked himself, and how unusual that was for the time. He also talked about his current job, as a writer and producer of The Fosters, and the positive and negative reactions they’ve had to their recent storyline where two boys kiss. The panel was alternately hilarious and emotional. I wish there had been time for them to talk about Wilson’s seminal gay teen, Rickie Vasquez, even though My So-Called Life was cancelled too soon for him to have an onscreen kiss. Not that I’m still bitter.
Teachers & Younger (Posh)
I headed to this panel for Younger, obvs (because it's terrific) so I was pleasantly surprised when Teachers turned out to be pretty hilarious! Based on the web series by the Katydids, it centers around a group of women who have no business molding young minds, and if you enjoy watching asshole adults interact with kids as much as I do, then you should check out this show. Plus, it's great to see an all-female ensemble writing and acting in a show. During the Q&A, the gals dropped some serious truth bombs (and a few f-bombs) about female business, and I immediately got the sense that we could be besties.
Although I was bummed that Hot Josh couldn't make it for the Younger panel, Sutton Foster showed up looking GLAM (nice stems) and talked about sharing her character's confusion over aspects of Twitter and the consummate professionalism of Hilary Duff. We all watched the finale together, and I left feeling VERY glad that this show got renewed.
Photo by Jack Plunkett
Dawson's Creek Writers' Room Reunion (Mandy C.)
Later on Saturday, Kevin Williamson joined a panel of his former Dawson's Creek colleagues: Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, iZombie), Jenny Bicks (Sex & the City, The Big C), Gina Fattore (Gilmore Girls, Californication), Paul Stupin (In Plain Sight, Switched at Birth) and Anna Fricke (Everwood, Being Human). The panel was moderated by Julie Plec (who apparently also spent some time working on the show, but that might have been a secret).
The biggest reveal of the panel—and a total shock to my 20-year-old self—was that Joey was thisclose to ending up with Dawson in the show's series finale. Paul, who was the only member of the panel who worked on the show for its entire run, asked Kevin to come back to write the series' ending, and up until about halfway through the process, Pacey was not in the picture. Thankfully, we all know how it ended, and that Joey ended up with the right guy. (Hey, at least Dawson got his career?)
Gina and Paul also informed panel attendees that Jack's kiss with Tobey was the first real (i.e., swoonworthy) kiss between a gay couple on network TV, but in addition to filming it up close, they had to film it from across the street—just in case. (#groan)
Rob, who we all know has gone on to do great things, wasn't on the show long, but it was his real first foray into TV writing. "Like Jon Snow, I knew nothing," he said with a laugh.
And Kevin, who was apparently on a roll that day, continued with the great general advice when discussing the relationships on the show: "Do not delay gratification too long, or it will get painful; people will get bored." Hear, hear, Mr. Williamson!
Gilmore Girls (Posh)
Meredith already penned an incredible recap of the Hep Alien show and the Gilmore Girls reunion here, but I had to give a shout-out in this post to the ATX FYA book club and our extreme pride in calling Emily Gipson, co-founder and co-executive director of the fest, one of our own. There were so many moments (like the one above, taken at the closing night party "in Stars Hollow") when we could barely contain ourselves, because it was all just TOO AMAZING.
We like to call Emily our fairy godmother, because she makes our dreams come true. I mean, hello, a Hep Alien concert? IS THIS REAL LIFE? It meant so much to share this incredible weekend with each other, and we are forever indebted to Emily and her co-founder, Caitlin, for building this wish-granting factory known as ATX TV.
Photo by Waytao Shing
Orphan Black (Kandis)
At the Orphan Black screening, they showed the previous night’s episode, which was especially helpful for those of us that had been festing and hadn’t gotten to see it yet. Then, creator Graeme Manson and Kristian Bruun, who plays lovable schlub, Donnie Hendrix, talked about the episode, as well as the casting process and what goes into making the show. Graeme told us his favorite scenes are Sarah and Cosima laying on the bed together, having a metaphysical conversation, and of course, the clone dance party. Kristian, who is not so schlubby in person, explained all that goes into the multi-clone scenes and how phenomenal Tatiana Maslany is at doing it all. They’re obviously a close cast, and he got a little emotional talking about Dylan Bruce leaving the show. (I’m not over it either, Kristian.) If you watched last week’s episode, you’ll know why his current favorite clone to work with is Helena. For some reason, Kristian thought that we wouldn’t want to see him doing a demonstration of his twerking moves on a Sunday morning. He was wrong.
Dawson's Creek Pilot Script Reading (Meredith)
The final day of ATX brought the most surprising triumph of the festival in the form of a Dawson's Creek pilot script reading directed by creator Kevin Williamson, with a gender-bent cast featuring only one actual Creek castmember: Kerr Smith. "But wait," you might reasonably object, "Jack isn't in the pilot?" That's true, he's isn't, but Jen Lindley is, and that's the character Smith totally nailed in this hilarious and completely original panel. After all, Jack and Jen were BFFs, so who better to play the role if Michelle Williams can't take time away from her busy Oscar-winning, Broadway-rocking, cutest daughter ever-having schedule?
Mae Whitman was AMAZING as Dawson - seriously flawless. So confident and assertive with that mouthy Dawson dialogue, quick and funny and emotive. She gave us one second of Dawson Leery cry face and it was the greatest thing I've ever seen. Suits' Patrick J. Adams was Joey, and he kept chewing his lip and skewing his mouth in the most perfect Katie Holmes impersonation. Rectify and Burning Love's Abigail Spencer was Pacey, and she had that smug, cool, weirdly confident Pacey Witter thing down pat. Friday Night Lights’ Louanne Stephens was Grams, and she gave us this just-right cold, sniffy "JENNIFAAAAH," while FNL's Derek Phillips and Stacey Oristano (also of Bunheads, of course) were hilarious as Mitch and Gail Leery. The Vampire Diaries' and Gilmore Girls' Arielle Kebbel was Pacey's naughty teacher Tamara, and it was super fun watching her seduce Abigail Spencer while they were both sitting down and separated by four people. Finally, Orphan Black’s Kristian Bruun was SO GOOD as Bessie and mean girl Nellie, and Roswell and Revenge's sexy Nick Wechsler was Bodie and Dawson's would-be film teacher Mr. Gold.
It's hard to say what was the best part of this event: re-living one of my favorite pilots ever while the creator cringed at all of his own tortuous dialogue, or watching each and every one of these actors lose their mind in hilarity when their colleagues nailed a certain cue. Best reactions: that JENNIFAAAAH, Pacey/Abigail's "I'm the best sex you'll never have!" and the high-five shared by Mae and Patrick when Dawson tells Joey he "walks his dog" in the mornings, to Katie Couric. I also loved when Kerr Smith, mid-way through one of Jen's flirtations with Dawson, broke character and muttered to himself, laughing, "This is so weird."
This was the perfect way to close out the festival - it sent me home grinning all the way through my three-hour-drive. After we finish up The O.C. Rewatch Project, Britt and I are next embarking on Dawson's Creek here at FYA, and this pilot reading has me even more excited than I already was. After all... "I just think our emerging hormones are destined to alter our relationship and I'm trying to limit the fallout."
If we haven't made it clear by now, the ATX TV Festival is beyond awesome, so grab a badge and join us for Season Five!