Sports fanatics have their championships, movie lovers have the Oscars, foodies have Chopped marathons, and people who live for television have PaleyFest. Every year casts and creators from the most talked about and beloved shows are gathered and take over LA to give their fans an inside look at their favorites in person. Special screenings are had, questions are asked, and memories are made. Having gone for a few years now, I’ve come to know what is expected and the things I love about these events always remains the same, as do the things that need to change to make it that much better.
This year’s PaleyFest kicked off with Fox’s phenomenon Empire, entered the Shonda-verse with Scandal and, of course, entertained with Scream Queens — but I didn’t walk into things until closer to the end when The Big Bang Theory packed the Dolby Theatre. If that sounds familiar, it’s where the Oscars are held. No big deal. Anyways, “Soft Kitty” and “Bazinga!” tees flooded into the venue and we were lucky enough to catch a whole new episode before the cast and creators walked out to do their Q&A. For anyone who has never seen these actors together outside of their roles, it’s a riot — much like a dysfunctional family dinner with Jim Parsons as the sassy grandma; Kunal Nayyar, the annoying but lovable younger brother; Simon Helberg, the wisecracking uncle; and Johnny Galecki, the sentimental grandfather always able to make you nostalgic with a tale. While I loved to laugh at Kaley Cuoco and Parsons’ quips at one another, it was Galecki’s heartfelt moments about the 200th episode and the story behind how Taxi’s Judd Hirsch came to be Leonard’s dad on the show that made the night.
Of course the night couldn’t have been without talk of the actual Big Bang of the season, Parsons’s and Mayim Bialik’s characters finally consummating their relationship. Bialik said it was like Sheldon and Amy were finally “joining all of humanity,” and added a hilarious story about when they first got the script and Parson’s joked when asked if he’d read it yet, “What, do we f**k?” Yes, those words came out of his mouth after asking if there were kids there. There were, but whatever. On top of dropping the f-bomb, he also admitted that he never imagined Sheldon would have sex, but was happy to do it because he’d never gotten to do a bedroom scene.
The great thing about these sorts of panels is that you get to see these actors outside of who they are on the show and can tell when a cast really gels well together, and while guys and gals of The Big Bang Theory are adorable little kittens, the cast of Hulu’s Difficult People are just catty — in the best way possible. Okay, so they’re not as horrendous as the people they play, but they are quick with the wit and even though we didn’t get a sneak peak in terms of a whole new episode, we got an elongated clip and if you loved the first season, there’s no doubt you’ll be into the next. You know how Nathan Lane owns whenever he’s on Modern Family? Well he’s going to do that on this show — but he’s playing himself. Plus, they have a trans character who will rival Billy’s sass, and a lot of returning favorites.
Not sure anyone can return who left us on Fear the Walking Dead, but we did see that walkers can still cause quite the scare while in water. Yes, they’re on the boat and according to co-creator Dave Erickson, we soon learn that they aren’t the only ones who left land for sea safety. Other than that, there wasn’t much to be discussed about the upcoming second season that premieres April 10 on AMC other than that it’s unlikely this crew will ever run into Rick’s, and that there will be some unlikely alliances made. The most interesting thing — well, one of them, other than Frank Dillane’s spacious looks as if he were his Nick Clark — was when Rubén Blades said that season one was all about discovery but the one coming up is about the reactions. They’ve seen the world end as they know it and had to come to terms pretty quickly, and now we’ll really get to see how they start to shift in who they are.
After seeing a variety of audiences throughout my time with PaleyFest this season, I was glad it ended on a high note with a packed house for American Horror Story: Hotel. One could’ve thought they accidentally walked into Justin Bieber’s show at Staples Center with the amount of teenage girls screaming at just the name “Evan Peters” on screen. Sadly, the longtime star of the anthology was not there, but there was plenty of eye candy to be had with Matt Bomer and Finn Wittrock on stage. While they were a delight to look at, it was Sarah Paulson and Kathy Bates’ back and forth banter that made the night worth the ticket. That, and learning about the very erotic birthday cake Lady Gaga got Angela Bassett. Let’s just say it involved their characters from this season in a very intimate arrangement. Other than that, we didn’t learn too much about what’s to come — other than Ryan Murphy saying they were coming up with two ideas of where to go next, but haven’t quite decided on which just yet, but he assured it would be soon. At least that’s what I think he said, it was hard to hear a lot of their answers over the girls in the crowd screaming at the actors about this and that. Really though, if you’re old enough to remember MTV’s TRL, that’s exactly what their Q&A looked like: young girls shaking and crying over the people they admire.
While each panel had its stand out moments like Jim Parsons’s sass or Kathy Bates’s, well, sass — there were some low points, and they were not the fault of the cast and creators, oh no. Here’s the thing, the Dolby is an outstanding venue. It’s the home of the freaking Oscars but for this, it seemed like some shows (and fans) would’ve benefited more from a more intimate setting. Not to say it should scale down to the Paley Center, but perhaps go back home to the Saban. The size of the place is probably what made some panels seem a little less than as a whole, but another thing to think about is moderators. Patton Oswalt and the man who owned American Horror Story‘s panel, you could tell those men watched the respective shows and knew the facts, the what’s what, and rarely needed note cards. Those are the people you want as a fan up there because as a fan sitting there, you want the best representation of yourself doing the job. If it could always be Oswalt, or other smart comedians — can you imagine the outcome? It’s like if they got Chris Hardwick for Fear the Walking Dead. That would’ve definitely helped that panel move a little more smoothly.
All in all though, this is the ultimate experience for TV fans because TV actors don’t get to do this as much as movie stars, who have elaborate premieres all the time. TV fans, we get a premiere date and are like, “Alright, this is it guys!” Rarely do we get to see these people in this kind of setting, so on that note, it’s much appreciated as a whole, but they may want to rethink the location and get more moderators like Oswalt (aka the star of the entire PaleyFest).