Cultural Reflections on Comic Con 2008

While I’m genuinely addicted to Twitter most of the time, being away over the weekend and thus mostly away from my Twitter account was a good thing. Many of the people I follow, most of which I’ve met through some great times at the /Filmcast, were lucky enough to be out in San Diego, California for the biggest event in geekdom: Comic Con. My jealousy knows no bounds, as it sounds like an extremely exciting event that covers the gamut of entertainment.

Once mostly a haven for comic book adaptations and the like, the convention has taken on new life as pretty much “Any show that has fans on the internet or any kind of fantastical elements” when it comes to television presence. So this includes a show like The Big Bang Theory, which embraces its geek sensibilities on a regular basis, and a show like Prison Break that is really just there treating it as a fan convention in general terms. I won’t attempt to make an argument for the exclusion of such shows, though, because for the most part the convention has taken on a life of its own…and that life has brought a lot of new TV news to our attention.

Heroes

NBC’s highest rated drama series came to Comic Con with a devoted fan base to satisfy and a lot to prove to critical people like me who thought the second season was almost completely garbage. Perhaps realizing this task, they decided to placate both crowds and actually show the entire Season Three premiere. Now, some have commented that a show like Lost didn’t do anything similar (I’ll get to them in a minute), but Heroes has the added bonus of having started filming Season Three extremely early after NBC cut the second season short, so they’re in a unique position.

While I’m not reading the detailed recaps like Adam Quigley’s over at /Film or Dave3’s over at GeeksofDoom to avoid spoilers, there’s been positive word of mouth that this is, at least, better than last season’s entry (And perhaps better than the show’s pilot, which was kind of weak). I remain skeptical of Kring as a showrunner, though, and what I read of Adam’s review tends to indicate that the annoying dialogue and the tendency to delve into pointless subplots have not disappeared even as the quality elsewhere ramps up. Still, it’s a smart move to please both fans and critics alike, and once the pilot hits in September I’ll judge for myself whether they’ve got the quality to back it up.

Lost

While the lack of real Season Five footage (It doesn’t premiere for another 7 months, realistically) is certainly a bit of a downer, what Lost brings to the table is its usual blend of intrigue and mystery. While they weren’t there with new footage, they did have a new Orientation style video that seems a bit different. Although the YouTube link below is off a screen, it still seems to be higher quality than what we’ve used to. After the jump, I’ll go into some discussion on why this video has a LOT of ramifications (And is infinitely more interesting than an episode of Heroes).

Okay, so I’m not some obsessed Marvin Candle freak (the guy in the Orientation videos), but this one has the most ramifications because FARADAY IS OPERATING THE CAMERA. There’s been a lot of speculation that Charlotte could be the crying baby, and Miles could in some way be related to Candle, so there’s a whole lot more questions in play. Clearly some form of time travel has taken place, and that Faraday is organizing to reconstitute the Dharma Initiative (Something that makes sense considering the nature of his arrival on the island and his knowledge of both the island’s workings and the Others’ various security plans.

But is this before or after Faraday got onto the island? One has to presume that there’s a lot more to his story coming up soon, but was his need for a constant caused by this trip to the past? And who was the video intended for? Unlike the other Orientation videos, which always had expressed purposes, this one has a lot of other intentions which are yet unknown.

The panel was also noteworthy for various presumptions about new storytelling techniques, ways of telling say Rousseau’s story without the traditional flashbacks or flashforwards. I’m really intrigued to see where they go with Season Five, so such insinuations give me more to ruminate on for the future.

Battlestar Galactica

They apparently showed some new footage, and talked about people using giant guns, but I’m officially on spoiler watch for the final ten episodes. You can read a big ol’ report over at /Film, but for the most part it’s more of the same. No final confirmation of the Fall TV Movie long rumoured (and being written), and still no final words on pretty much anything. And that’s the way I like it: the wait will be excrutiating enough as it is, although the comparison of the finale to Apocalypse Now has got me thinking way too much already.

The Middleman

I’ve been lax in getting to talking about The Middleman, a show I’m really enjoying, and am quite sad to see its poor ratings. An event like Comic Con is really the type of place where the show could find its fan following, however, and ABC Family better be smart about the show and its fanbase. I don’t want to see ABC Family turning into The CW where they’ll cut any shows that don’t cater their tween girl demographics without realizing that expanding their audience is a smart strategy. The Middleman is a damn intelligent show with a lot of humour, some great nods to classic cinema, and generally speaking more quality in a minute than The Secret Life of the American Teenager manages in an entire episode – hopefully fan support like that at Comic Con, where it was revealed that the finale will feature a mirrored universe where the Middleman is evil, will keep the show moving forward – however, as TV Squad reports, it appears that ABC Family didn’t spend much on the show’s presence and this might be yet another signal (along with a cut episode order) that the show is not long for this world.

Pushing Daisies

Information from the Pushing Daisies panel seems mostly scarce, but Ain’t it Cool News arrives with news of an exciting crossover. Beth Grant, who has recently done character work on The Office (As Dwight’s date in “Dinner Party”), Jericho and No Country for Old Men will actually revive a guest character from Fuller’s Wonderfalls, a fantastic dramedy that aired on FOX a number of years back before being treated in the usual FOX fashion. The show wasn’t perfect, but it was extremely charming and the idea of that universe mixing with Daisies has a lot of potential (Lee Pace, who plays Ned, starred in the series as the lead character’s brother). The Pie Maker, a great fan site, has the entire panel in podcast form, which you can listen to at the link.

Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles

This is a show that grew on me as time went on, and there was a strong finale cliffhanger that could lead into a strong second season. The only real news from the panel is that a member of the cast will be dead by the end of the season (My bet is on newcomer Shirley Manson or Brian Austin Green), but for the most part I’m just glad that the show is finding itself at least some type of fan base. The show got a lot of unfair criticism at first, but as a drama series taken away from comparisons to the original films it simply works.

Other Comic Con Observations

  • New shows were mainly represented by Fringe, Dollhouse and Kings, NBC’s David/Goliath drama. The latter is a really interesting gamble, and having already seen the Fringe pilot and Dollhouse reshooting its pilot, the information flowing out is limited at best. There was also a panel for True Blood, where they aired the version of the pilot recently leaked online, perhaps to try to latch onto the hype for the other Vampire property on the floor, Twilight.
  • Showtime’s Dexter also had a presence, demonstrating an acknowledgement that the Showtime show (with no real elements relating to fantasy) has the type of fan base who attends these types of events. They’re right, of course, and the trailer for Season Three looks strong even if I’m a bit concerned it moves too closely to Season Two’s storyline. There’s some nice work, however, at discussing Dexter’s scenario beyond Harry, something that will serve the show well.
  • NBC’s Chuck was also in attendance, where there were some various tidbits learned about next season’s myriad list of guest stars and a whole host of little story beats that give me faith in the show’s knowledge of what really clicked last season (It was a lot of things, in my mind).
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