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Remote Life: Events like PaleyFest offer valuable insight from TV cast and crew members

By Samantha Suchland

March 5, 2012 11:41 p.m.

PaleyFest is a television fan’s dream come true.

Each year The Paley Center for Media, located in Beverly Hills, invites a dozen or so popular television shows to participate in a week of television appreciation. PaleyFest, which began Friday and will continue through March 14, consists of panels of cast and crews talking about their shows.

Attending PaleyFest has been on my UCLA bucket list since my freshman year, and for one reason or another, I’ve never actually attended. But each year I await the release of the participating shows like other people await the Coachella lineup. This year’s line-up includes “New Girl,” “Vampire Diaries,” “Modern Family” and “Sons of Anarchy.”

And what do you know, this year I finally shelled out the money for a ticket. But now I’m left wondering, why am I so desperate to hear these people talk?

This isn’t a new phenomenon; fans have flocked to these sorts of events for years. From Comic-Con, the grandfather of film and television talks, to events for specific shows like Gallifrey One, the “Doctor Who” convention held in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.

But PaleyFest doesn’t share the fan-fueled foundation of these of other conventions, where costume contests and show paraphernalia take center stage. It’s literally about listening to people from shows talk about their shows.

When someone shells out money for a Coachella pass, they know that they’re going to see their favorite bands perform their music. And theoretically, their music is the reason that people like them in the first place.

It’s not like the actors at PaleyFest will perform a live rendition of an episode. If anything, the illusion is going to be shattered a little bit when you see the cast of “Mad Men” on stage in 21st century clothing.

And it’s not like you’re going to get to meet them (OK if you stalk the back door, you might meet them). So it’s not as if the reason you pay to see them is just the celebrity factor.

The appeal is quite simply hearing cast and crew members talk. It’s the same reason that behind-the-scenes videos and DVD commentaries are so popular.

For me, the best moment is when you realize that the biggest nerds about a show are the people on them. They actually live with these characters and have insight at the level of a mega fan because it’s their job to know their character inside and out.

In many cases, they have even more insight because they were in the room when a decision was made. Whether it’s a story arc, a love interest, a line of dialogue or a costume choice, they actually sat around for an hour and chose what color dress Betty Draper wore in each scene.

It’s funny that I am now obsessed with hearing all about the behind-the-scenes. When I was little I was convinced that seeing the man behind the curtain was the most destructive thing a film and television fan could do.

When “Titanic” swept the 1997 Academy Awards, I distinctly remember thinking, “poor Kate and Leo” as the film picked up each of its 11 awards. To my 7-year-old mind, the greatest tragedy was that Kate and Leo would never be able to enjoy “Titanic” the way that everyone else has. Here was a movie that had people crying buckets and buying knock-off blue diamond necklaces, but for Kate and Leo, this was just another job.

Clearly I was a weird child.

Now, I would do anything to hang out on the set of my favorite TV show, hear every step of the process and watch off-set interactions between the cast members. I use PaleyFest and DVD specials as the next best thing.

Of course there’s always the danger that your favorite cast members are dull idiots who don’t know how to articulate an anecdote if their life depended on it.

Let’s be honest, that’s too painful to imagine.

If you are attending PaleyFest or are just obsessed with DVD commentaries, contact Suchland at [email protected].

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Samantha Suchland
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