Since 1975, the Paley Center for Media has dedicated itself to promoting the cultural significance of television and preserving its history. Long before “peak TV,” the non-profit organization was trumpeting the power of television as an art form, hosting panels and events for fans in New York and Los Angeles before they were ubiquitous.
Indeed, the Paley Center’s annual PaleyFest was a champion for TV before it was cool.
“When the festival began, you were always fighting the idea that TV was secondary to film. But that whole idea has flipped in the past few years,” said Rene Reyes, Executive in Charge of Production, The Paley Center for Media.
“There’s always been landmark programming, whether it was in the 50s, 60s, all the way through present day, that was really driving our culture. In many ways, I think, in a larger way that film can. The ability to show different groups of people or bring attention to different social causes has helped awareness in a larger way than any other medium,” he said.
Now that TV has killed the movie star, PaleyFest is a year-round proposition, much like the medium it celebrates, with events in the spring and winter in New York and spring and fall in Los Angeles. Paley Center members receive access to advance tickets and discounts to events throughout the year. Thanks to a longstanding partnership with Citibank, so do their cardholders.
But while it doesn’t feel like fall in LA, it is time for the annual PaleyFest Fall TV Previews, which launches September 6 with a screening of Showtime’s Shameless, followed by a panel with the fan-favorite cast at The Paley Center in Beverly Hills.
Before PaleyFest travels east in October, fans can RSVP for free screenings of the new fall season at The Paley Center in New York, starting Saturday September 9.
PaleyFest’s Fall TV Previews celebrate the new season, offering advance looks at what networks are bringing to the marketplace. They also sometimes feature returning favorites, like the aforementioned Shameless and a farewell panel with the cast of Hulu’s The Mindy Project, heading into its last season.
“The challenge is to keep up with all that’s out there. Thankfully, we care a lot for our members and what is resonating with them. We have an incredible curatorial team that has a historical perspective on television that decides what we honor,” said Reyes.
While the Paley Center seek to uncover new fan favorites in the Fall, the Spring festival commemorates the year’s greatest successes.
“We’re looking for creative excellence, for shows that are approaching the medium in a new way or revolutionizing something, and are resonating with audiences and our members,” said Reyes.
Every year, PaleyFest is trying to predict what show will capture audience’s hearts and become part of the zeitgeist. Last year, it was NBC’s This is Us.
“You could just feel the audience responding to it. When the twist was revealed at the end, there was a palpable intake of breath. When the cast came out, it was already this cohesive fully formed group. You could almost sense it,” Reyes said.
PaleyFest brought This is Us back for the March festival to a packed and rabid audience at Dolby Theater.
“We always look for those lightning in the bottle experiences, and I know we’ll have them again at this festival,” said Reyes, highlighting ABC’s The Mayor, Hulu’s Future Man and NBC’s Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders as possibilities.
But with innumerable conventions and pop-up events, the emergence of experiential marketing, and social media offering fans unequaled access to their favorite creators and actors already, will fans still be at PaleyFest to witness the next big thing?
“Standing out is challenging for anybody. But one of the things that helps us is that, we’re an organization comprised of members, whether they’re writers on television shows or fans, that all appreciate good television. All we do at the Paley Center is preserve and celebrate television. There’s no agenda beyond that,” said Reyes.
“It creates a special dynamic that’s unique to these events that sets them apart from some of the others,” he said. “There’s wonderful events at Comic-Con and different pop-up festivals, but I think because we have this history of celebrating excellence over many decades, that it’s just a different distinction.”
While most networks and brands are scrambling for content and for our time, Paley Center reaps the benefits.
“Peak TV has just been a wonderful boom for us. It’s drawn more people to our events and drawn a more diverse audience to television. It’s created so many more opportunities for different stories to be told. I love it,” he said.
“I want more. The more television there is, the more our audience at the Paley Center grows. The more archives we get within our collection.”
Indeed, there may be room for expansion on the horizon.
“I would love to do the festival in different cities. There’s great television being produced all across the country,” Reyes said, mentioning Chicago and South Florida as examples.
“I’m all for it. I think there’s room for all the different festivals that are popping out all over. There’s certainly enough television to go around for all of us. And that’s a good thing.”
The PaleyFest Fall TV Previews kick off September 6 and run through September 16. Tickets are available here, while some of the panels will be livestreamed on YouTube, Hulu or the free Paley App. Become a member of The Paley Center for advance tickets and discounts.