It’s really not a secret to my nerdy friends that ATX Television Festival is my absolutely favorite convention to attend every year. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the guests interesting and accessible, and the topic is television. What’s not to love?
For those who have never attended, ATX Television Festival takes place usually within the first week of June every year. For a weekend, various venues in Downtown Austin offer screenings, sneak peaks, and discussions with everyone from classic television actors to brilliant television showrunners. If you want a glimpse into what it’s like to make your favorite TV show, look no further than ATX Television Festival.
2016’s convention, also known as Season 5, was a fantastic adventure, but also a low key affair. This year, the biggest draw was for the reunion panel focusing on The West Wing. Ugly Betty was also a point of focus, as well as a giant tailgate party for fans of Friday Night Lights. New shows, such as Survivor’s Guilt, The Jim Gaffigan Show and Kingdom went up against returning fan favorites from networks like AMC and FX, such as Tyrant and Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll.
ATX Television Festival uses a fast pass system for fans who really want to go to multiple panels, but might not be able to just walk in and find a seat for the more popular offerings. This year, attendees were asked to pick 8 different options in order of their interest, and a random drawing selected a ticket. However, if you ignored The West Wing panel, this really wasn’t necessary. Whether it was due to the large biker rally (ROT Rally) or the horrific tragedies in Orlando, Sunday and Saturday were somewhat less attended than last year. This made for incredible surprises, such as being able to walk into The Preacher panel for AMC with no pushing elbows and no concerns. It also meant that it was possible quite a few times this weekend to discover advertised guests as suddenly missing or not mentioned at all, even with their names in the programming guides.
It was a delight to see showrunner Graham Yost bounce from panel to panel. He discussed his involvement with Sneaky Pete, an upcoming show for Amazon, only to show up quickly at the Google Fiber space to go over his time on Justified. The man is hilarious, and one of my favorite moments involved him flipping off Ben Blacker in the Westerns: Then and Now panel. While Firefly’s Tim Minear was a no show to this panel, it was a delight to hear from writer Lisa Joy in regards to HBO’s upcoming Westworld. Not only does the show look amazing, it was incredibly powerful to hear Lisa Joy discuss the importance of female writers and what they can bring to a Western storyline. The trailer for Westworld had many attendees gasping. HBO appears to be trying to make Westerns cool again, the way they made Fantasy an office water cooler conversation with Game of Thrones.
My favorite panel was for AMC’s The Preacher. Following a screening of an episode that had not yet aired to the general public, actors Dominic Cooper, Ruth Nega, Anatol Yusef and showrunner Sam Catlin discussed the direction of the show, the off the wall story lines and what’s to come. Noticably absent was Ian Colleti, the actor who portrays “arseface” on the show. It was pretty funny to watch Cooper and Yusef enjoy a beer while speaking with the audience. Ruth Nega is an incredible talent and Sam Catlin let attendees know that Annville isn’t the permanent setting for all thing Preacher this season.
ATX Television festival always leaves me with interesting tidbits about the television industry and excitement over current or past TV Shows. After this weekend, I can’t wait to see Westworld, binge watch Justify and look for the whole wealth of programming Amazon has planned for the rest of this year and next.
ATX Television Festival is a TV nerd’s dream.