For someone who spends 90% of her free time in front of a television, Paleyfest is Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and my birthday all wrapped up into one. It’s not even about going to see the shows I love anymore and staring wide-eyed as Cole Sprouse smiles at the audience and causes a crowd to spontaneously combust with excitement and hormonal overload all at once. It’s truly about being alongside fans who keep the gift of television alive.
This year I trekked from the South Bay to the Dolby Theater in the heart of Hollywood to not only see the cast and creators of Silicon Valley, The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Riverdale, and Stranger Things, but their fans as well — the people who make their shows what they are. Without fans, where would any of them be? Likely on the shelf alongside Traffic Light and many other shows that have failed to evoke fan reactions of any kind besides boredom.
That is clearly not the case of the shows mentioned above that delighted fans of Paleyfest this year. Each one gives something new to the TV landscape and that’s likely why each crowd was different from the last. Silicon Valley is the satirical darling of the bunch. A show that has been a favorite since its beginning in 2014, its fans ranged from tech bros to surprisingly a lot of couples. Whether they were in loving relationships or flying solo, everyone there for Silicon Valley was hyped to see the season five premiere a full week before it was to air on HBO. A great episode but I would have loved if Jimmy O. Yang (Jian Yang) had been there as he was the reason behind so many of the laughs that filled the Dolby Theater that night.
He would have been a delightful addition to what already is a very hilariously poised ensemble that includes Thomas Middleditch, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Amanda Crew, and Zach Woods. If we couldn’t have Jimmy O. Yang, then Woods was a favorable second as his scared as a cat in a bathtub faces were giving me life throughout the panel. While he was as eccentric in person as he is on the show, he offered up one of the most memorable moments in a conversation about the great minds who’ve made all of this once unimaginable technology and how they’re typically “socially inept.” He said, “We’re living in a world of coping mechanisms.”
That hits you. It hits you just as much as a fan working up the nerve to ask a question to their favorite stars, which was the case asked the creative minds behind Young Sheldon if they’d ever dive into the social differences Sheldon have such as the OCD. The answer was vague but the fan seemed satisfied with the answer. Which was great because of that panel as a lengthy one, likely due to the star, Iain Armitage, being as lively as one would imagine a child to be.
One cannot mention Young Sheldon without talking about The Big Bang Theory. The CBS shows actually shared an evening. While the entire cast of Young Sheldon was in attendance, a supposed sickness left fans without three of the seven. When you have such a great group, it’s kind of a bummer to be missing pieces but once things got rolling and they began talking about where they’d like to show to go, and what it’s meant to them, the absences weren’t as big a deal. Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki both teared up as they thought of not only the show coming to an end but what the show has meant to them. Cuoco can’t imagine the day she says goodbye but does want to use that damn elevator. Galecki, on the other hand, is just happy to know that their show has been responsible for getting so many people into science. It’s not just something he’s heard before, it’s something many fans reiterated during the Q&A.
If you’ve never been to Paleyfest, the Q&A portion is the last 15 minutes or so after the moderator has done their thing. This part is usually well, interesting — at least, that was the case this year on the final day of Paleyfest as it was Riverdale and Stranger Things. I hated myself as soon as I left my apartment because I forgot my earplugs. While The Big Bang Theory crowd proved to be the oldest I saw throughout the week, the final day was the youngest. Parents and a handful of people my age aside, both audiences for Riverdale and Stranger Things mirrored that of the Kid’s Choice Awards.
Screams aside, I will say that Riverdale was hands down the better behaved of the groups. We’ll get back to that in a second because first…OMG, we got to watch the musical episode of Riverdale and without spoiling it, I will say that it’s not as reckless as you’d think. What? I love this show but it gets insane sometimes but everyone’s singing (minus Archie’s because he’s the worst) is on point. Cheryl owns this episode though. Owns. It. By the end, you will have to pick your jaw up off the floor. At least that was the case when I watched alongside a sea of teens and tweens who screamed every time Jughead did the darndest thing.
Which he did often in the episode and in the panel and while the audience screamed (a lot) every time each character spoke, they were quick to calm it down to ensure we all heard the answers to questions like: What do you eat on set, Will the kids stay in high school forever, Their favorite day on set, and Are Cole and Lili dating in real life. Oh, yeah…Camila Mendes loves pears, Luke Perry said it’s possible to stay in high school a very long time (shout out 90210), Madelaine Petsch loved the season one finale in the snow, and Cole was sly to say “no comment.”
Cole also had some very insightful thoughts on getting into the entertainment industry. He said to not dismiss the little things that you do because most often don’t. They only see the major success of their favorite celebrity and don’t realize that that actor had to do so many little things to get there. Stranger Things‘ David Harbour oddly enough gave a similar speech later that night when he was joined by Winona Ryder, Paul Reiser, Sean Astin, Millie Bobby Brown, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, and Sadie Sink.
Three of the core Stranger Things cast were MIA like The Big Bang Theory but with this panel, I was thankful because I cannot imagine that crowd if they’d had even more stars on that stage. Remember when I said the Riverdale fans screamed and then pulled back? Yeah, Stranger Things did not do that. As soon as one excited fan shouted their love to Millie it set off a chain reaction. Then in the middle of Wil Wheaton handling the discussion like a boss, two fans ran down to the stage from out of nowhere to try and get a picture. I love fans, even the overzealous ones, but there is a time and a place and right in the middle of a discussion is not it. Be courteous to your fellow fans and more importantly do not freak out the actors. Especially when they are just kids themselves.
Despite the younger Stranger Things fans being a little extra, the panel itself was wonderful when you could hear it. You could tell Wil Wheaton truly loved the show and cast. He even gave advice to the younger actors on the stage: don’t let this experience take your childhood away. Along with that, Winona Ryder admitting that her ’80s crushes were indeed Wil and Sean Astin were the highlights of the evening. As was Caleb busting out some New Edition. In case you’re wondering, we didn’t get much about the next season.
Like Cuoco during Big Bang’s panel, I too teared up but it was during Riverdale. Not because the musical based around Carrie was that moving. It was when it was about to begin. Looking back on the other panels I’d seen that week and looking around at all the fans dressed as Vixens and Serpents, my heart was overwhelmed. It’s always remarkable to hear some insight into how some of my favorite shows came to be but I’ll always enjoy being tossed into a crowd comprised of fans who appreciate the small screen as much as me, even the crazy ones. For real though, don’t scare the actors or scream the whole time. Ain’t nobody got time for that.