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Dinges: ATX Television Festival continues growth

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com
Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson, founders of the ATX Television Festival.

The ATX Television Festival is back for another year, bringing scores of Hollywood hotshots to Central Texas.

It runs this Thursday through Sunday at several downtown-area venues, including Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel and Google Fiber Space. Badges good for the entire weekend are sold out, but individual passes to some events are still available online at atxfestival.com.

About 1,700 attendees are expected this year, founders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson said. Attendance has grown by about 30 percent each year since 2012, when the festival was founded.

“This is the first year we’ve sold out,” McFarland said. “It’s not surprising, really, with the steady growth we’ve seen.”

The festival unites TV fans with actors and producers from some of their favorite shows, past and present. This year, reunions for “Gilmore Girls” and “Queer as Folk,” in particular, are getting lots of buzz, drawing many out-of-towners.

McFarland and Gipson estimate as many as half of this year’s attendees are from outside of Texas.

“We’ve got passionate fans who are willing to travel great distances,” Gipson said. “Every year they return, they’re bringing new friends with them.”

Other highlights of the festival include saluting several shows that were canceled too soon, such as “Boomtown,” which ran for just one season on NBC about a decade ago. And McFarland and Gipson will present James L. Brooks with the Achievement in Television Excellence Award. Brooks has worked on countless TV shows over the past 50 years, including “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Taxi,” “The Tracy Ullman Show” and “The Simpsons.”

Last year’s recipient, the first ever, was actor and director Henry Winkler.

“Honoring classic TV is such a big part of the festival,” McFarland said.

In addition to looking back, the festival also looks ahead, screening new episodes of many shows, including FX’s “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” “Married” and “The Comedians,” TV Land’s “Teachers” and the Austin-based El Rey network’s “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.”

Put it all together and McFarland promises this year’s ATX Television Festival will be the best yet.

“This year feels different,” she said. “It’s a definite jump. It feels like people finally understand that TV is a viable event space. I like that.”

Read my blog at tvradio.blog.austin360.com or follow @gdinges on Twitter to get the latest updates on local radio and TV stations.

ATX Television Festival