PaleyFest L.A., a chance to get up close with the creators and stars of your favorite shows, kicks off Friday night as hordes of TV fans descend on Hollywood's Dolby Theatre for a "The Walking Dead" screening and panel. (Don't get the fans confused with the zombies.) Over the course of 10 days, the festival, presented by the Paley Center, does one to two panels most days featuring the creative talent from a wide variety of TV shows.
This is the 34th year of PaleyFest. It started long before the current golden era of peak TV, when the previously New York-based organization (then the Museum of Television and Radio) wanted to put on a West Coast event celebrating TV.
"They put together the TV festival at a time when television was looked at as sort of a second-class artform. Film had great festivals, but PaleyFest was really the first time that a festival honoring great TV was put together," PaleyFest director Rene Reyes told KPCC.
PaleyFest L.A. highlights
Highlights to watch for this year, according to the festival's director:
- The Late Late Show With James Corden: Expect surprise celeb guests for this event. Reyes also teased the possibility of Corden doing some of his signature karaoke with the audience.
"Two years ago he hosted our panel with 'The Good Wife.' And just as he's walking out on stage, he turned to me and he said, 'You know, I've never interviewed anyone before.' And I said, 'Well, great! Have at it out there!'" Reyes said. "It was before he'd launched his show here, and he was so fantastic on stage. And that same sort of appeal that you can see watching him now was evident right there."
- NCIS: Los Angeles: One of the fans who comes to check out LL Cool J and the gang will be chosen to go backstage to meet the cast.
- Pretty Little Liars: The teen soap thriller is completing its run, launching the final season in April, so fans can get a sneak peek of that.
"It was I thought the perfect time to capture that lightning that's around it at that particular moment," Reyes said.
- American Horror Story: Roanoke: Reyes promises that show creator Ryan Murphy never disappoints, regularly using the festival to reveal something major for the following season. This will be the fifth time "American Horror Story" has been part of the festival, so get ready for Murphy to spill some details.
What makes PaleyFest a TV fan mecca
The festival has featured plenty of unique, memorable moments over the years. Reyes said that one of his favorites was the time they reunited the cast of "Lost" for the show's 10th anniversary. Making moments like that is part of the calculus that goes into how Reyes puts the festival together.
"We look at a number of things. Some of it is what's resonating with the public at any particular time," Reyes said. "Also, because the Paley Center is a membership organization, we hear from our members really throughout the year about what shows they want to see at the festival. ... And we also really look at what's resonating critically out there — who's doing new things in television, or using different platforms to really amplify what they're doing on their main show. Someone like James Corden is an example of that, whose use of web and social media has really helped expand the audience for his show.
PaleyFest draws fans of both TV as a whole and superfans of certain shows and actors, along with a large contingent of writers and aspiring writers, according to Reyes.
"My favorite PaleyFest experiences have been when someone who's on a panel on stage will remark that, 'Oh my gosh, I was in the audience three or four years ago when i was really trying to get my start in show business, and to be here on this stage now is really special,'" Reyes said.
Reyes said to come in, the water's warm — you don't have to deal with the massive crowds of something like Comic-Con, plus reserved seating means you don't have to fight for your spot.
"I don't think it's as intimidating as going down to something like Comic-Con, where you know you're just going to be immersed in thousands and thousands of people over a very contained amount of time," Reyes said. Not that a more orderly crowd is a bad thing — "When you're in a big room, with 3,000 people who like the same thing you do, I think that that's a really special kind of energy."
PaleyFest L.A. runs from Friday through Sunday, March 26, with other shows at the festival including "This Is Us," "Grey's Anatomy," "Orphan Black," "Bob's Burgers," "Westworld," "Scandal" and the full run of CW superhero shows — "Arrow," "The Flash," "Supergirl" and "Legends of Tomorrow."