ATX TV Festival

This past weekend was the ATX Television Festival. This is the 4th year the festival has taken place and this year drew the largest attendance to the festival to date. I’m not at all surprised that the most people came this year and that is due to one thing: Gilmore Girls. You tell the fans that there is going to be a reunion and we will come running. And yes, there was literal running, but I’ll get to that later.

The weekend consisted of many different panels for the television lover. There was Bunheads, Empire, Drunk History, Brooklyn 99, The Simpsons, Teen Wolf and more. There was no way to attend every panel, so my best friend and I picked what we most wanted and set out from there.

Saturday morning we really wanted to get into “Coffee with Amy” (Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of Gilmore Girls). But on our way to the panel, we heard that people started lining up for this panel around 5 that morning. (The panel didn’t even start until 10). So we knew there was no way we were getting in to that. Luckily, we had picked a backup in case we didn’t get in. As awesome as I’m sure “Coffee with Amy” was, the panel we went to was amazing.

The panel was presented by GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), entitled “A Kiss is Just a Kiss”. The panelists were Ron Cowen, Daniel Lipman, Peter Paige and Gina Fattore and it was moderated by Wilson Cruz. Before the panel had even begun, I was excited. Wilson Cruz is probably best remembered as Rickie Vasquez on My So-Called Life, but he has guest starred on many shows, including Grey’s Anatomy, ER and Pushing Daisies. He was a recurring cast member on Red Band Society. He’s even played Angel in the stage production of RENT. He’s amazing and I love him.

The first panelists talked to were Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman. They have written and produced many projects together and the two talked about here were the 1985 made for TV movie An Early Frost and Queer as Folk.

In 1985, the country was in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. It had claimed more than 5,000 lives. An Early Frost was the first major film, made for television or feature film, to touch the topic of AIDS. The film is about a successful lawyer named Michael, played by Aidan Quinn, who has always hidden the fact that he’s gay from his family. When he discovers that he has AIDS and is dying, he is forced to open up to his family and look to them for support.

Cowen and Lipman discussed that An Early Frost made a plea for compassion for everyone who was affected by AIDS. Lipman mentioned that writing about AIDS was very important to them, because they were part of that time and lost many friends.
The film was a way to stress that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact. Thanks to the film, people were able to have more open conversations on the topic of HIV and AIDS. Wilson Cruz spoke of how he had a gay uncle who later lived with them, and he remembered watching the movie on TV at his house with his mom, and how it really opened up the lines of communication. This film was able to pave the way for honest and equal representation in the future for gay characters.

Fast forward many years later and Cowen and Lipman create the US version of Queer as Folk, which was one of the first shows solely focused on a group of queer friends and made no compromise or apology for the straight viewer. Queer as Folk was one of the first shows to prove that gay characters were more than just the random best friend or the funny caricatures. He talked about how they were always clowns or eunuchs, never just people. And I liked Peter Paige making them promise that just as often he was shown wearing an outrageous, flamboyant outfit, he would also be shown just wearing sweat pants and t-shirts, just to make him that much more real.

I learned that even casting the show was complicated. None of the major agencies would send actors to audition for it. Wilson Cruz said that his agency declined for him, without even telling him about it.

A majority of the actors who were cast for the show were straight, but a couple of them wouldn’t reveal for a few seasons if they were gay or straight because they didn’t want to detract from the show.

Cowen talked about the importance of the show by saying “It’s very disturbing psychologically over years of your life to never see a reflection of yourself in the media. It’s as if you don’t exist or only part of you that isn’t really you exists on TV or on film. We knew this may have been the only chance to do this.”

Wilson Cruz moved on to panelist Gina Fattore, who wrote for Dawson’s Creek, to discuss an episode entitled “True Love” in which the first “passionate” kiss between two men took place on primetine tv. At the end of the episode, Jack McPhee goes to Boston to try and win back Ethan and kisses him. Fattore said that she knew that scene was history in the making and spoke of the hardship they had even getting the scene on tv. The studio wanted it to be shot from across the street, from a farther angle. But they knew they needed to be more honest to Jack’s character and his intentions. They didn’t want it to be just a small peck. The point of the interaction was that Jack was really going for it. That’s what the kiss needed to be. And though there was plenty of nervousness from WB executives, they decided that airing the scene would be in their favor. Even if it brought backlash, it would also bring viewers.

Finally, Cruz moved on to Peter Paige. Paige played Emmett Honeycutt on Queer as Folk and created The Fosters, currently airing on ABC Family. The Fosters is produced by Nuyorican Productions, Inc., which is Jennifer Lopez’s production company. Paige was approached to pitch an idea for the company, which would be put on ABC Family who has the slogan “A New Kind of Family” and Paige joked, “Oh, here’s a new kind of family for ‘ya. A family with two mama’s, one white, one black, one biological kid, two Hispanic adopted kids and two foster kids, one of which is gay. How’s that?” (Paige also mentioned that originally, they intended for the character of Jude to be trans, but executives came back and said, how about we just make him gay.)

Paige said that The Fosters is usually met with acceptance and love. The only backlash he’s encountered regarding the show came from the end of season two when Jude and Conner, both 13, finally kissed. This kiss had been in the works from the beginning, Paige said. They made it very clear to the actors and executives where they wanted to take the story with Jude and Conner.

When Paige is questioned about the kiss, his response is simple. “Everyone has a first kiss and you remember it. How old were you? We are here to tell the true stories of what it is to grow up and these are true stories of what it is to grow up as a young, potentially gay person. It’s the truth and that’s all. That's never been done on television before, seeing two 13-year-olds navigate young love and they both happen to be boys. Gay adults start as gay kids. Now they've got to figure out how to be with each other and be with family, friends.”

Going to the panel was incredibly powerful and really impacted me. And it probably impacted me more because I am part of the LGBT community, but it should be important to everyone. What I got out of the panel the most is that the quantity of representation is important because visibility is important for members of oppressed groups in society. But just increasing the number of LGBT characters alone is not enough.

Me with Wilson Cruz and Peter Paige

By far, the best part of the entire weekend was the Gilmore Girls reunion. I’ll admit, Kat and I were among the many, many people loitering outside the Paramount Theater in anticipation. The official line wasn’t supposed to start until 5 pm. We thought about going to “The Evolution of The Simpsons” panel that started at 3 and got out at 5, but had we done that, we wouldn’t have made it into the theater. There had been officials wandering around saying “there is no line. I don’t know why you guys are lining up when there is no line”. And they would make us scatter. And then, at about a quarter to 5, one official said “the line hasn’t started yet, but when it does it will be on the north side…” and at that point, it was every man for himself and people just started running to get in line, including us.

Technically, there were two lines. There was a line for people who had obtained Fast Passes and then there was a general admission line. Both lines wrapped all the way around the block. So we stood in the general admission line with hundreds of other people for over two hours. They didn’t even start letting people in the theater until a little after 7. By the time Kat and I got into the theater, there were definitely less than 100 seats left and hundreds of people still in line.

Note from Kat - I felt so bad for all of them, but still so grateful that we got to be in that room! And we celebrated getting in with a biscotti moment. And before, it was incredibly nice of Scott Patterson to walk the line and shake hands and thank people for waiting, so that I could steal your handshake. Right out from under you. (It’s true, she stole my handshake from Luke.)

Fifteen cast members were there, plus Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel, who also worked on the show. There was Lorelai (Lauren Graham), Rory (Alexis Bledel), Emily (Kelly Bishop), Luke (Scott Patterson), Jess (Milo Ventimiglia), Lane (Keiko Agena), Michel (Yanic Truesdale), Paris (Liza Weil), Logan (Matt Czuchry), Miss Patty (Liz Torres), Dean (Jared Padalecki), Doyle (Danny Strong), Jackson (Jackson Douglas), Zack (Todd Lowe) and Brian (John Cabrera).

Kat - I like that they had Miss Patty sit between two hot young men, and teensy little Doyle sit between the two tallest, biggest guys. Also, Arielle Kebbel introduced the whole thing. We practically forgot she was there before the end of the show, but Lindsey was there too. I liked her better on The Vampire Diaries anyway.

Amy said the idea of Gilmore Girls kind of came up as a whim. She had a pitch meeting with Warner Brothers and she told them a bunch of ideas, that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Then she said, and I have this idea about a mother-daughter who are more like friends and it’s set in a small town, maybe the mom works in an inn, and the WB loved it. She then called her husband Dan and asked, “what is that? I don’t know what that is.” "And by the time Monday came around, it all came into place."

Kat - She said her and Dan went on vacation in Washington Depot, famously the inspiration for Stars Hollow. And she knew she didn’t want the parents to be too close, so she picked Hartford for them, not too close but not far off. And she talked about people actually being friendly and knowing each other, and that it was fall and there were pumpkins everywhere and that it was “leafing season”, aka “fall”.

Lauren, Alexis and Kelly were the first three cast members talked to. Each of them loved the script the moment they got it. Alexis said she had an instant connection to Rory. Kelly said when she was reading the script she knew exactly who that woman was and that she loved the words. Lauren wasn’t originally available for the show, as she was supposed to be part of another show, so she didn’t even want to look at the script. But when she did finally read the script, she said something really clicked and she couldn’t stand the idea of anyone else playing the part of Lorelai.

Sadly, they have no idea in what context some of our favorite lines were said. They were asked what line gets quoted to them the most. For Lorelai, it’s “Oy with the poodles already”. Lauren looked at Amy and asked when she says that and then looked at the audience and asked “Why do you like it so much?” Amy mentioned that the way the Gilmores interact and meddle in each others lives reminded her Jewish families, so she decided to throw in some Jewish vernacular for Lorelai.

Alexis couldn’t even remember a specific line that gets quoted to her, so she posed the question to the audience. What got shouted back to her the loudest was “Copper boom!” The best part was then Alexis questioned “What’s copper boom?”

Lauren said she gets told often that is looked like she and Alexis had instant chemistry. Amy said it was pure coincidence that Lauren and Alexis both had dark hair and blue eyes. She said that the fact that they looked alike was something she “attributed to magic like pixie dust.” But part of what shows that instant chemistry people talk about was also partly due to the fact that this was Alexis’ first acting gig and part of Lorelai keeping her arm around Rory was really Lauren manhandling Alexis, getting her to be on her mark.

Amy Sherman-Palladino, Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel and Kelly Bishop

One of the best moments of the reunion was toward the beginning, when they had a tribute to Edward Herrmann (Richard Gilmore), who passed away late last year. The tribute reel showed some of Richard Gilmore’s best moments, such as when he takes Rory golfing in the first season. It also showed the scene where Richard and Emily renew their vows and “Wedding Bell Blues” by Fifth Dimension plays in the background. It was a truly touching moment.

When the screen lifted after the tribute, the stage had been decorated with various Stars Hollow memorabilia, such as signs for Luke’s, Doose’s Market, Miss Patty’s, Kim’s Antiques and the Dragonfly Inn and there were the rest of the cast members, with an chair left empty at the end for Ed Herrmann. Amy said that Ed was the first one to say he wanted to be part of the reunion.

When Rory’s boyfriends were asked who they thought was best for Rory, none of them picked their characters. Jared said he was on Team Jess, as did Matt, while Milo said he was on Team Dean. In typical Luke fashion, Scott piped up and said “None of you were good enough for Rory.”

They went around the group and asked where they think their characters are now. Scott thinks Luke may have closed his diner and lives on a lake and has opened a bait shop. To which Lauren quipped “does he have a girlfriend?” Lauren thinks that Luke and Lorelai probably got married, which Scott agreed is a much better answer. Alexis thinks Rory is off being a reporter somewhere. Milo thinks Jess is still out being Jess and causing a little bit of trouble. Keiko thinks the band is still rocking and that she’s still figuring out how to be a good mom. That she wants to be like Lorelai, but definitely has some Mrs. Kim in her. Yanic thinks that Michel may have gone back to Paris. Better yet, he posed a question I never thought to ask, which is, how did Michel end up in Stars Hollow in the first place? Something we’ll never know. Liza and Danny agree that Paris and Doyle are still together and taking over the world. Doyle probably thinks that whoever he’s working for is an idiot, and is probably right about it. (#ParisandDoyleForever). Matt knows that Logan is definitely not working wherever he is. Liz thinks that Miss Patty eventually took over Taylor’s job as town mayor, but still calls Taylor at 3 in the morning asking how to do things. Jared thinks Dean took over Doose’s Market and it’s now Dean’s Market. Jackson thinks that the vasectomy never took, so he and Sookie now have 35 kids, and that he’s still selling produce and making crazy hybrids.

Kat - At some point Jackson said they were just farming kids! I just barely refrained from making a free child labor joke.

Todd agrees that the band is still rocking and he’s enjoying being a dad. And John thinks that his best friends are now the twins Steve and Kwan.

Liza spoke about how she originally went and auditioned for the part of Rory and got a call that they really liked her, but that she wasn’t quite right. But that if the show went on, maybe they’d find something else for her. And they created the character of Paris just for her. Liza said “The younger version of myself was really freaked out that they’d think I could do that. Now I think it’s very flattering and I’m very glad.”

The cast was asked if any of them stole anything from the set. Keiko lamented that they didn’t know the show was ending, or else she would have. She really wants the glasses she wore for seven seasons. John also wanted Brian’s glasses. And Milo admitted that he has Jess’s leather jacket.

Amy said she hasn’t seen all of the seventh season, including the series finale. That watching it is hard for her not to be able to say cut that final time. She has seen some in reruns since she keeps her TV on ABC Family and they show reruns all the time.

Everyone in the cast seems to want a Gilmore Girls movie. Though Amy did say this "I'm sorry, there's nothing in the works at the moment. But here's the good thing: Nobody here hates each other; that's a very important step. It would have to be the right everything — right format, timing, budget — it would have to be honored in a certain way. If it ever came around, I think we would all jump in and do it."

And as par for the course, Amy is still not going to reveal the final four words she had in mind for the series finale. She says it’s going to be her Rosebud. Though, Lauren Graham added that she didn’t want to know the words unless she was the one saying them or listening to someone else on the show say them in the way it was intended. “Otherwise, it would feel sad to know it was something I wasn’t part of.”

Kat - I loved Dan swearing over and over that one of those four words was “limburger”

Going to the ATX TV Festival was so much fun and it was a great weekend spent with my best friend! Being able to be in the same room as the actors from my favorite show was incredible. And knowing that everyone in that room loved the show just as much as Kat and I did was amazing! I invested seven years of my life to that show, starting from the beginning. It was such an important part of my life. My sisters and mom and even my dad bonded watching this show. You had to be smart to get this show. There were so many references, from history to pop culture to literature, and so on. If you didn’t catch the reference, a lot of times you didn’t get the joke.

If you haven’t watched the show, you should! Even if you have watched it, watch it again! I’m sure you’ll get more out of it after another viewing than you did the first time. Or even the 8th time. I know I catch different things all the time. 


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