PaleyFest: Friday Night Lights and Judd Apatow

I finally wrote something up about my experiences at this year’s PaleyFest in LA. It was hard to write about, since while I had a blast as a behind-the-scenes TV geek, I’m not a huge fan of either session subject I attended. So that’s basically what I wrote about – being an outsider at a very inside event:

Deleted Scenes:

I ended up deleting large chunks of this one, since I found myself writing more of a recap than I wanted. But consider this a DVD extra if you’re interested in a few more tidbits, since I’d already scribbled these notes before cutting:

Friday Night Lights

I had something in there about moderator Michael Ausiello being mercifully far less obnoxious and fawning than he is on the TV Guide site, but it seemed mean. Not too mean for here, though.

Since the writers strike cut the season short, meaning the show’s football season was also cut short, Katims said a third season would probably start with a new football season. However, some personal stories that should have been wrapped up with the football season will carry over in order to give fans closure. He wants to focus on football more next season since he felt the criticism was right, that it was lost too much in the truncated season two.

Without stating point blank that cast members are expendable, Katims made it clear that, well, they are. The Panthers are the focus, so as team members graduate, other characters will need to be introduced, and Scott Porter stepped in to say that the cast were aware from the beginning that if the show were to run for several seasons, they were not guaranteed to stick around for the duration.

Judd Apatow

For years, I’d had an unfairly bad impression about Apatow as a person after reading an angry exchange between him and Mark Brazill of That 70s Show. But re-reading it now, I discover I’d conflated the players in that little drama. It was a shrill and petty Brazill who thinks “get cancer” is a witty insult and Apatow who was initially conciliatory and always funny. That makes me even happier for Apatow’s recent megasuccess, if just out of spite. Hearing his colleagues praise his supportiveness and the pleasant atmosphere on his sets only strengthened that feeling of … what’s the opposite of Schadenfreude? … even though I’m not a huge fan of his films.

The most telling theme was Apatow’s quest for world domination, or at least domination over his own creative works. Apatow explained that he turned to producing as a way to retain control over his material. Jason Segel recounted Apatow’s years-long attempts to get members of his de facto repertoire into leading roles, and recent relief at finally being allowed to cast Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Apatow pointed out that his persistence by that point had very little to do with Segel, and everything to do with wanting to be proven right. Now he says he can rest easy (but shouldn’t he wait for the box office of Forgetting Sarah Marshall?)

As producer, Apatow’s imprint is clear on the movies he doesn’t write. After an audience question, Seth Rogen testified to the nurturing hand that could also be the boss’s dictate when it came to script revisions, making it apparent that Superbad, for example, or the upcoming Pineapple Express were very much shaped by Apatow as well as credited writers Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

A pregnant Busy Philipps was the token female on the panel. She compared ER and particularly Dawson’s Creek very unfavourably with the working conditions on Freaks and Geeks. She came up with the premise for Blades of Glory – she has story credit on the screenplay – and said it was an “idea waiting to be discovered.”

Shandling and Apatow made the un-PC pronouncement that only Jews are funny, so when Tom Arnold started rambling, Shandling made a comment about him not being Jewish. Arnold countered that he is, Apatow pointed out that he’d converted to marry Roseanne so it didn’t really count, but Arnold said his mother was Jewish anyway. So apparently they can’t claim that all Jews are funny, then. (Though I have to say I’ve found Arnold bizarrely charming and funny in the past – he seems to have lost it somewhere along the way.)

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