Television can create a community of followers like no other medium. Whether bringing cult television shows back from the dead for new seasons or a feature movie, TV fandom has proven that it’s a force to be reckoned with.
It’s that sense of intense devotion and fellowship that the ATX Television Festival (June 6 through June 9) hopes to achieve once again in only its second year of existence. The TV festival looks at the past, present and future of the small screen medium with screenings, insider panels and chances to bond with fellow geeks of broadcast entertainment.
A friendly bond is what started the whole event in the first place back on the Fox lot in Los Angeles. Founders and co-executive directors Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson knew the industry from within, but they wanted a place to share their love of television with others.
“We really bonded over film and television,” says McFarland, “particularly, there were these screenings at the ArcLight… that we would go to and watch the Q&As afterwards and really loved that interaction.”
McFarland and Gipson tried to find a festival that brought that level of connectivity with creators and fans (similar to what you might find at a film festival), but their choices were slim. To solve the problem, they struck out on their own, made the move to Austin and decided to make it the next destination for television insiders.
“It really became this Comic-Con meets network upfronts meets a traditional film festival in that it’s a fan experience [and] an industry experience, with the structure of a film festival,” adds McFarland.
The second annual festival offers plenty for fans to experience, if they are able to grab a badge. Highlights include panels featuring the likes of Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars), Dan Harmon (Community), Scott Auckerman (Comedy Bang! Bang!), and many more show creators. Fans can also enjoy screenings of upcoming shows such as AMC’s new Low Winter Sun, or the insane 1999 pilot of Heat Vision and Jack from Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab.
The entire lineup of events features a lot of possible fun, such as the Friday Night Lights Outdoor Community Screening and Hasbro Studios’ Saturday Morning Cartoon Breakfast, both of which are free and open to the public.
But the biggest buzz surrounding the festival is, without a doubt, the reunion for Boy Meets World. The series is an icon of '90s sitcoms and was a cornerstone of ABC’s TGIF primetime lineup. Creator Michael Jacobs will join stars Ben Savage, Maitland Ward, Matthew Lawrence and Rider Strong for a screening and to discuss the show.
While the programmers of ATX Television Festival couldn’t bring in Topanga or Mr. Feeny, they still lucked out with the timing of upcoming spin-off Girl Meets World — and the fact that the cast still gets along in real life.
“We really got into this '90s nostalgia and actually had a friend who knew Rider Strong, and Rider said the cast loves each other and put us in touch with Michael Jacobs, the creator. And we really solidified the Boy Meets World reunion way before Girl Meets World was announced,” says McFarland.
“We don’t want to reunite a cast that doesn’t want to be reunited… We do not want anybody to come that feels like this is job obligation. This is a fun weekend. We want them to want to be here.”
Hopefully, local pop culture fans will embody that same spirit. After all, television is great at creating a sense of family among fans — and the talent behind a TV series.
Co-founder Emily Gipson says it best about the spirit of the ATX Television Festival. “It comes from that theory of if you’re a fan of a television show and you sit next to someone on a plane and it somehow comes up, the two of you literally have something to talk about from New York to L.A.”