ATX Television Festival: Season Four
Premieres, panels, and parties
What a fine time to be alive for fans of serialized television. As DVRs swell with unwatched gold and a relentless schedule of year-round programming has premieres happening nearly every week on some format or another, it's no wonder that each year, the ATX Television Festival grows by leaps and bounds. This year, co-founders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson may have trumped themselves with the largest Gilmore Girls reunion heretofore seen on the planet, but there are plenty of other attractions that warrant your attention.
As if you don't have enough to watch, this year brings series and season premieres including the season 2 launch of local luminary Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn, the why-aren't-you-watching-it-yet season 3 premiere of The Fosters, plus a return of beloved Eighties stars to the small screen with John Stamos' Grandfathered and the Rob Lowe/Fred Savage comedy The Grinder. But our standout pick would be TV Land's Teachers, an acerbic comedy that follows six elementary teachers grappling with the white-normative standard of flesh-colored crayons while teaching today's youth about what exactly happened to Seal's face.
As far as we're concerned, this is where the festival thrives, putting creative minds and practical producers together for discussions on everything from whether a devoted niche audience is enough to sustain a show, to the nuts and bolts of fashioning a series finale that leaves viewers satisfied while remaining true to the characters. Any fan of contemporary television will not want to miss "The Evolution of The Simpsons," where co-creator James L. Brooks (also the recipient of this year's ATX Achievement in Television Excellence Award), writer/producer Al Jean, and director/producer David Silverman talk about how the 28-year-old show has defined childhoods, slyly critiqued notions of family, and consistently overcome (or has it?) the law of diminishing returns.
These parties are all about celebrating shows that have meant so much to us as to warrant justifiably maniacal behavior. Apart from the aforementioned Gilmore Girls event at the Paramount (sold out, natch), this year's fest sees the reunion of the American version of Queer as Folk (Hal Sparks will, unfortunately, not be there, but Gale Harold will!), and the 25th anniversary celebration of HBO's groundbreaking comedy Dream On (for better or worse, there would be no Friends or Sex & the City without it). Add to that the traditional Friday Night Lights party at the Hotel San Jose, and you have the makings for an Austin party done right.
Visit www.atxfestival.com for the full schedule of events, and frequent austinchronicle.com all weekend for recaps and highlights of the festival.