Everyone has their favorite form of entertainment, and for as long as I can remember mine has been television. Nights when my mom worked late, weekends in high school when I had no plans (more often than not), most days when I was avoiding learning in college, and even today as an adult, television has and will always been there.
I learned everything from the ABCs to the birds and the bees from a various small screens since Big Bird won me over all those years ago. So the fact that an event like PaleyFest exists and continues to allow fans like me who are more than a little obsessed with television to be in the same room as the characters who make life a whole lot easier week after week — it makes my heart smile.
It’s not only about being in the same room as Oliver Queen or Linda Belcher, but it’s about being surrounded by fans who are as in love with television as you are. Seeing and hearing their reactions when each member of the cast walks out onto the Dolby Theater stage, it sends an energy through me that is mostly made up of happiness. Happy is what I was from start to finish as I watched every superhero from The CW and the whole casts of Bob’s Burgers and American Horror Story: Roanoke sit and embrace their fans with open arms.
The one thing that can break one of these and make it unbearable is a horrible moderator. Thankfully though, Kevin Smith — yes THE Kevin Smith — was in charge of The CW superhero Q&A. Perfection. That’s all I can really say as Smith came out and basically did a standup set confessing that he was not always on board with these shows, and that it was his Jay (Jason Mewes) that got him on board. In his words, The CW’s demographic is basically “12-year-old girls and Jason Mewes.”
Now a legit fan, it was like watching one of your own take control of this panel. Each cast member and producer had their chance to talk, which sometimes isn’t the case. Smith made sure each had their own question, but it was Supergirl’s Melissa Benoist who really stole the show when she spoke of not only stepping into an iconic role, but also wearing the shoes of a legit role model to super girls of all ages.
Almost a week later I was back at Dolby but this time on the red carpet with the cast of Bob’s Burgers coming down the line. Never having done that, H. Jon Benjamin popped my cherry and really, I think I startled him a bit when I explained how his Bob is basically a DILF and asked him for his favorite TV DILFs. Of course I had to explain the acronym, but he was stumped. The others who bring the Belchers alive were a little less taken aback by the Qs and were able to give some As.
John Roberts (Linda — mah girl) said playing the matriarch had given him a more maternal feel over the years, Eugene Mirman (Gene) said he could never really see Gene going through a stereotypical middle child phase because of his character’s positive outlook on life, Kristen Schaal said she could see Louise loving Merida from Brave, and Dan Mintz (Tina) felt that while Tina has never outwardly said she’s a feminist, he’s all about her being an icon in that realm. He also agreed with me that she deserves better than Jimmy Jr. Although, he did say that Archer would be a great fit for Tina once she got older. We awkwardly stared at one another after I pointed out that’d be creepy since that’s basically her dad’s voice.
Really though, I wish I could’ve had at least an hour with creator Loren Bouchard because, first off, he has a voice that makes you want to have his babies. Secondly, he is obviously isn’t a guy who just got lucky. You can tell by how he presents himself that he knows his shit when it comes to television. Having him for a quick second, I wanted to know why he chose to not go the more satirical route like South Park and Family Guy. He said basically because he knew if that’s the route Bob’s had gone, it would’ve been a second rate version. He said that with the most sincerity I’ve ever heard as he showcased the utmost respect for the likes of South Park and The Simpsons. Speaking of, each and everyone I talked to said they would be down to do this show as long Fox continued to renew them.
When it came to the panel, moderated by their own creator, the Q&A was short and sweet. It was overshadowed by the live table read of what will be the season premiere this coming fall. Prepare yourself because the Belchers are taking on brunch and Dame Judi Brunch will be your new favorite character — I guarantee it. Also, we got wind of another live show they’ll be doing in LA come June, and more about the long-awaited album featuring over 100 songs — songs that many in the crowd wanted to hear that night, but they weren’t in too much luck with that.
Luck was on my side, however, a couple of nights later when I walked into American Horror Story: Roanoke because I went from the back to the sixth row — which was close enough to see Cuba Gooding Jr. expose the hell out of Sarah Paulson’s nether regions after he took lifting her dress a little too far. Awkward for those who caught the moment, but a great pleasure nonetheless if you’re into AHS: The Sarah and Kathy Story. Paulson and Kathy Bates could have been the only two on that stage and it would’ve likely resulted in the same panel discussion. Like best friends a teacher forgot to separate the first day of school, they played around (almost too much) but while I wanted them to simmer it down, the fans ate up every second, and in the end would have indeed gone back for seconds if they could.
Discussion wise, we didn’t learn too much of what was to come. Perhaps that’s because Ryan Murphy was MIA, or perhaps it’s because they have no idea where the next season is heading just yet. We did learn, though, that the house we saw was built especially for the show out in Malibu, Sarah Paulson got heatstroke a few times, Cheyenne Jackson does an amazing Angela Bassett impression and, according to Cuba, Bassett may just be immortal. His reasoning? She played his mother over two decades ago, and then was able to play his sister. Black don’t crack, indeed.
Every year, though, it’s the fans who make or break the last half hour or so of any PaleyFest event and AHS, well, they have an adoration not quite met by the other fans who came out throughout this year’s festivities. Some star struck, others just wanting a selfie, and one — oh, one who damn near ruined the whole Q&A portion when she asked if there were going to be “anymore famous people” involved in the show like Beyoncé. Rude when you look at that stage and see Oscar and Emmy winners. That question was met comically by Paulson, Bates, Gooding Jr., and Denis O’Hare walking towards the exit, and Paulson flipping the bird. Safe to say, that was answer enough as the rest of the crowd wanted nothing more but that girl to sit down, and for things to move on.
Great or not, fandom is what makes these shows exist. And it’s why these events continue. It’s also why I will always love television. My boyfriend questions the sanity of these super fans, while I can only say I totally get it. Whether or not you love the actors, it’s the TV characters they play that make you fall in love with a show. I will always love Mike Seaver, but Kirk Cameron? He’s a weirdo that I can’t deal with. Anyways, these characters come into our homes week after week, even if just for an hour, or even a half hour. These characters take us away from a reality and give us solace whether it be making us feel heroic on The CW, full of optimism with the Belchers, or scaring the shit out of us with a little horror.
All in all, another successful year for PaleyFest. They killed it with The Walking Dead and This Is Us, both panels absolutely flooding the Dolby Theater. They also gave way to some heartfelt goodbyes as the casts from Orphan Black and Pretty Little Liars came out to spread the love to their fans as they bow out into their final seasons. Then of course you have the heroic casts and crews of The CW shows, the livelihood of Bob’s Burgers, and the hysteria caused some by the fans of AHS, but mostly by Sarah Paulson herself — a woman who truly loves the limelight. The only thing I really loved that they only did once was the network mash-ups. A salute to some of the lesser celebrated ABC comedies like Speechless, American Housewife, The Middle, and The Goldbergs would be phenomenal together. Just a little recommendation from a fan that one hopes the Paley Center folks run with in any way, shape, or form.