The William S. Paley Festival Celebrates “The Hills” And Its Contribution To Television Culture

I have to admit I’m disappointed with the way the Museum of Television and Radio’s William S. Paley Festival has turned into a slightly more candid version of the upfronts. When they originally got the idea of assembling the casts and crews of various TV shows and having them come out on stage for a panel discussion, they emphasized current shows — as they should — but always tried to include a few older shows in the mix. Even in the earlier part of this decade, they’d throw in an In Living Color or a St. Elsewhere. But this year’s festival doesn’t have a single non-current show unless you count Swingtown and Pushing Daisies (and I don’t, though I envy the audience members who will get a first look at the unaired PD episodes).

The fest, which will take place April 10-23 at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, will open with FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Other programs to be honored are “90210” (April 11), “True Blood” (April 13), “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (April 14), “Dollhouse” (April 15), “The Big Bang Theory” (April 16), “The Mentalist” (April 17), “Desperate Housewives” (April 18), the unaired episodes of “Pushing Daisies” (April 19), “Battlestar Galactica”/”Caprica” (April 20), “The Hills” (April 21), “Big Love” (April 22), “Fringe” (April 23) and “Swingtown” (April 24).

I’m not saying anything against those shows — well, okay, I have something to say against several of them, but that’s not the issue here — but it seems like all you need to get the cast and crew recognized up on the stage at the Paley Centre is to have had a new episode listed in TV Guide within the past year. Look at the list of Paley Festival lineups over the years and it’s clear that they used to have some kind of willingness to honour the history of the medium, even the recent history (10 years ago still counts as history). But now it’s, as I said, just the upfronts under a different name. Not to begrudge any of those casts/crews their spot on the stage, even The Hills, but it’s ironic that a festival organized by a museum has chosen to completely ignore the past.

Update: See Daniel Fienberg’s post “Has the Paley Festival Lost Its Way?” for more on how the festival has done away (this year, at least) with  panels that are often the most interesting and valuable. And I also agree with him that The Hills could actually make a decent panel if they get a good moderator.

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