The day one lineup of the ATX Television Festival shows just how eclectic people’s TV watching preferences can be. Women’s prison dramedy? Check. Childhood staple? Check. The hottest cartoon spy ever? Check. Slow-burn small-town family drama? Check. “Orange Is the New Black,” “Hey Dude,” “Archer” and “Rectify,” respectively, were the panels this TV devotee was most excited to see on Friday.
My two favorite panels of the day were “Archer” and “Rectify.” As the FX representative who introduced the “Archer” screening and panel said, “Archer” consistently manages to be one of the funniest and smartest comedies on TV. Through its five seasons so far, the animated spy series has built a compendium of its own in-jokes and call-backs that rivals “Arrested Development.” After watching the season five finale, we were treated to a hilarious Q&A with executive producer Matt Thompson and voice actors H. Jon Benjamin (Sterling Archer), Chris Parnell (Cyril Figgis) and Lucky Yates (Dr. Krieger) during which we learned, among other things, that the show has been renewed for two more seasons and that we can look forward to the action returning to spying as the ISIS crew leaves their days as cocaine suppliers behind when the sixth season premieres in January 2015.
Of all the shows I watch, I can’t think of any that packs as much of an emotional wallop as “Rectify.” Judging by all the sniffles I heard during the screening of the season two premiere, I’m pretty sure everyone who was in the audience at the panel agreed. For those who haven’t caught up with the drama, its six-episode first season is currently streaming on Netflix Instant, and the new season premieres on the Sundance Channel on June 19. Set in a small Georgia town, the story follows Daniel Holden, who has been released from death row 19 years into his sentence for the murder and rape of his high school girlfriend after some new DNA information comes to light. His family, the town and obviously Daniel himself all struggle with his reintroduction into society in different, beautiful and heartbreaking ways. Despite just six episodes, “Rectify” and its characters feel lived-in and thoroughly authentic, due in no small part to the singular vision of creator Ray McKinnon and its main cast. Executive producer Mark Johnson and actress Abigail Spencer, who plays Daniel’s forthright and fiercely loyal sister, Amantha Holden, were there for the post-screening Q&A, and even Spencer had tears in her eyes as she made her way up to the stage after watching the premiere. This is a special show, and the Q&A only showed me even more why that is, thanks to the dedication and care given to this story by its cast and crew.
After a day of TV watching and festival-going, a little primetime party action was exactly what the doctor (even Dr. Krieger) ordered. Netflix sponsored a blast of a party last night at downtown’s Searsucker, which was the perfect way to slap some end credits on the first day of the fest. The food at Searsucker was top-notch and whet my appetite for more TV on day two.
(Official photos by Jack Plunkett [“OITNB”] and Gary Miller [“Archer” and “Rectify”]}