It’s hard to believe that five years have gone by since the first annual New York Television Festival took place, and it has hit its stride. The sixth annual event kicked off last night at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan with the premiere of the pilot for Detroit 1-8-7, the ABC drama starring Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) that takes a look at the gritty life of Motor City homicide cops and how their normal lives intersect with their demanding work. (Imperioli, series creator Jason Richman and co-executive producer David Zabel were in attendance.) This new version of the pilot abandoned the fake-documentary feel of the original version — the producers felt it impeded the narrative momentum — and frankly, this newer version worked better, allowing viewers to connect more directly with Imperioli’s enigmatic character Fitch.
Watching a new show with an audience of roughly 200 people, and on a giant screen, is vastly different than sitting at home alone or viewing with a couple of friends. You can tell what works and what doesn’t. Hearing laughter or gasps or even silence can be quite telling. The audience last night warmed up to the show; we’ll see how it fairs in the ratings battle tonight. Imperoli, Richman and Zabel held an animated Q&A with TV Guide’s Matt Roush after the screening and answered some audience questions, after which the TV throng emptied into the lobby of the SVA Theatre for some wine and hors d’oeuvres.
The sixth annual NYTVF promises plenty of activity. The rest of the week is going to be jam-packed with undiscovered pilots from new and rising talent airing at the Tribeca Cinemas, plus numerous panel discussions including the likes of SNL cast member Jason Sudeikis, MTV reality star Andrew Jenks and Lost co-star Michael Emerson. David Cross will be on hand at the screening of his new IFC series The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret on Thursday night, and Will Arnett will appear to discuss his new series Running Wilde on Saturday night. Harry Shearer is scheduled to appear at the “My Damn Channel 3rd Birthday Hoo-Ha” on Friday night. Saturday’s creative keynote speaker will be Mitch Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development and the new comedy series Running Wilde.