The 10 Biggest Takeaways From Variety’s TV Fest

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Variety’s Virtual TV Fest ran from June 8 to 10, bringing together the entertainment industry’s premier content creators and stars for a number of panels about the very best in television. Keynotes and conversations spanned the examination of content development, writing, casting, marketing and distribution.

The virtual event assembled the leads of Marvel’s three TV shows for the first time ever, in addition to reuniting the cast of “New Girl.” More importantly, it highlighted the future of television, bringing insight to how storytellers and executives alike can standout among the competition and be receptive team players.

Here are the 10 biggest takeaways from Variety’s virtual TV Fest:

‘The Equalizer’ Original Creator Gave His Blessing Right Before He Died

Queen Latifah stars in the CBS reboot of “The Equalizer” franchise, a crime drama series that first ran from 1985 to 1989. In developing the new show, the creators paid did their due diligence by including the series’ original co-creator, Richard Lindheim, as an executive producer. However, he died in January before the new version even premiered.

“He was just happy with the script and everybody involved,” executive producer Debra Martin Chase said during the keynote panel with Queen Latifah. “When we shot the pilot, the studio sent him the cut on a Saturday and he sent an email back that night and said he loved it and he was so proud of what was happening with the show.  And he left us, he passed away the next day. … It was just so poignant. He knew that his baby in really good hands.”

Content Specificity Attributes To International Success

BritBox’s panel “A Look Inside The Pembrokeshire Murders” went behind the scenes of ITV’s 13th miniseries that featured a notorious British murder mystery case. During the discussion, executive producer Simon Health said one of the strengths of the series is its “great specificity,” which he believes attributed to its international success.  “I think audiences more and more like to get a window on another world,” he said. “So the fact that a true crime takes place in Sweden or Norway or Wales or Scotland isn’t a barrier anymore.”

The TV Adaptation Of A Book Is Its Own Thing

The top authors behind some of television’s biggest hits discussed adapting their books for the screen during the “TV Origin Panel.” “Firefly Lane” author Kristin Hannah said one important thing that viewers should remember is that the TV adaptation of a book or any other type of media is its own thing.

“It has to be loved in its own way and the readers are going to follow or not based on whether what was created matched the emotional impact of what they felt when they read that novel,” Hannah said. “What I say to my readers is that the novel is always there. Pick it up anytime you want, it is in amber. It will always be there, but try to enjoy this expanded version as I have. There two different pieces of art.”

Streamlining And Collaboration Are Key For A Studio’s Future Success

During the “The Women of NBCUniversal” panel, top executives from the company discussed their new leadership vision for content storytelling across its varied platforms. Pearlena Igbokwe, the chairman of the Universal Studio Group, said it’s important to be collaborative with NBC — despite being on separate teams — whenever possible as they are under the same umbrella. “I think in a really competitive environment that we’re working in right now, that behind the scenes streamlining and collaboration is really important for the future of our studio,” Igbokwe said.

NBC Hopes To Bring Back The Golden Globes In 2022

Toward the end of “The Women of NBCUniversal” panel, there was a small indication that the Golden Globes could make air on NBC in 2022, at least if certain circumstances are met. Frances Berwick, chairman of entertainment networks at NBCUniversal television and streaming, said that she hopes the organization can return after the recent controversies surrounding the HFPA.

“I think, obviously, they need to take time to do the work on the HFPA, and they certainly have work to do,” Berwick said. “I don’t think that anyone can argue with that, but it is our hope that they can get that done.”

NBC Would Be Interested In Bringing Back ‘This Is Us’

It was confirmed last month that “This Is Us” will officially end its run on NBC after the sixth season, which will air during the 2021-22 broadcast season. The top-rated drama series has been a smash hit for NBC, so it wasn’t too surprising to hear executives say they want the Pearsons’ stories to live on in some capacity. During the “The Women of NBCUniversal” panel Susan Rovner, chairman of entertainment content at NBCUniversal television and streaming, said she would be interested in bringing the story back with approval from creator Dan Fogelman.

“If Dan Fogelman would like ‘This Is Us’ to live on in another way, we are here with open arms,” Rovner said. “We would like it, we would definitely be interested as well.”

Active Listening Is Essential

During the conversation with the vice-chairman of NBCUniversal, Bonnie Hammer, she discussed some of the most important traits that she believed attributed to her success. For Hammer, she learned how to trust her gut as well as the distinction between “willing to take the risk of voicing an opinion” and “when to listen, when to sit back, when not to speak.” Variety co-editor in chief Cynthia Littleton said knowing “how to listen and not feeling like you’re the smartest one in the room all the time” was “masterful advice” given by Hammer.

There’s Not Just One Stereotypical Drag Queen

During the “Artisan of Unscripted” panel, crew members from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “The Challenge: Double Agents” and “The Real World” discussed the importance of the music, choreography, set design and casting of unscripted series. Leland, who writes the music and lyrics for “Drag Race,” emphasized that while he has given a lot to the show, the queens have also taught him valuable lessons.

“There’s not just one stereotypical drag queen,” Leland said. “Underneath the drag umbrella are so many different queer stories that are being told — the backgrounds, the perseverance that you have to have just to express yourself as a drag queen. As the show has expanded into different countries and cultures, I have learned so much, and it is so beautiful.”

Padma Lakshmi’s ‘Taste the Nation’ Started Off as a Cookbook

“I am an immigrant, I came here when I was 4[-years-old],” Padma Lakshmi said. “I got sick of people speaking for immigrants rather than hearing directly about the immigrant experience.”

During the Non-Fiction Reality panel, producers and creators of “City So Real,” “Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi,” “Indian Matchmaking” and “What the Constitution Means to Me” discussed how their projects are breaking through to audiences. Lakshmi, who also hosts “Top Chef,” described the process of creating her series, noting she originally brought the idea as a cookbook proposal, but it soon turned into much more.

“We decided we would do a show about immigrants, but we would start through the lens of food, because that’s the language that people in American media are used to me speaking,” she explained.

As an Actor, “Your Path is Your Path”

The supporting actor roundtable featured a handful of TV’s favorite stars — Nicola Coughlan, Rosie Perez, Anthony Ramos, Courtney B. Vance, Hannah Waddingham and Michael K Williams — who dove into fighting through imposter syndrome and maintaining your identity through the ups and downs of the entertainment industry. The group offered their best pieces of advice, with Perez remembering one piece of wisdom she was once told by a friend.

“You know what her problem is? She compares, she compares her career to everybody else and she’s so bitter,” she recalled her friend saying. “It’s the worst thing an actor can do is to compare. Your career is your career, your path is your path. That’s all you need to be concerned about because otherwise you’re just going to be a miserable person.”

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