Tomorrow, I fly out to California for my second-ever visit to the San Diego Comic-Con (and then for my umpteenth Television Critics Association summer press tour, but we can discuss that next week).
Last year I was working alone, and confused by my surroundings and the crowds, and I didn”t get to cover half the things I wanted to, but I had a fun time moderating the “Chuck” panel (a job that mainly requires nodding at Zachary Levi and letting him go), I got to see the last “Lost” panel and caught a half-dozen other cool things.
This year, I”m a sorta-veteran, plus I”m now covering the Con as part of Team HitFix(*), which means I can split off from Fienberg to try to cover more ground.
(*) And it”s not too late to enter the contest to win a What”s Alan Watching? t-shirt at the Con. Apparently, Drew McWeeny is wiping the floor with me, so there are definitely shirts still available.
Dan posted his run-down of the most-anticipated TV panels last night, and after the jump, I have some thoughts on some panels I”m looking forward to covering. Keep in mind that our battle plan for the most part is for Dan to stay in Ballroom 20 all day each day for all the big panels while I roam around covering other stuff and doing interviews, so some of the obvious panels (“Dexter,” for instance) will be covered by him.
“Chuck” (Saturday at 10 a.m., Ballroom 20): Last year”s panel was a blast. The show was coming off the exuberance of the Subway fan campaign that helped get it renewed, Jeffster! came out to play “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” and the crowd was as crazy as at any panel I attended that weekend. So how do Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak and company top that this year? I have no idea, and they refuse to tell me – or Fienberg, who is joining the fun for co-moderating duties this year. (We will figure out how to make that work on the drive from LA to SD, I”m guessing, but if you have suggested questions, feel free to put ’em in the comments.)
“The Walking Dead” (Friday at 11:30 a.m., Room 6BCF): “Shawshank Redemption” writer/director Frank Darabont is adapting Robert Kirkman”s graphic novel series about the survivors of a zombie apocalypse for AMC. It may not seem at first like on-brand for the home of “Mad Men,” but AMC is also home to “Breaking Bad,” which once put a man”s severed head on top of an exploding tortoise, so there is a continuum there from Don Draper to tortoise head to zombies, I think.
“The Event” (Saturday at 11:15 a.m., Room 6A): This is one of NBC”s big shows for the fall, one of those complicated globe-spanning mystery shows, and the pilot is both slickly-produced and absolutely determined to tell viewers nothing about any of those mysteries (including what “the event” is). They”re screening it at Comic-Con, and if I can make it to that panel (it”s right after “Chuck” and very far away, so I”m skeptical), I”ll be curious whether the fan reaction is audibly excited or frustrated.
“Community” (Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront next door) and “Sons of Anarchy” (Sunday at 2:45 p.m., Ballroom 20): These are two of my favorite shows, but their presence at Comic-Con is a bit tenuous, since most shows that come down either have sci-fi or supernatural elements (“True Blood,” “V”), have actors who once starred in shows with those elements (“Castle” with Nathan Fillion, “Bones” with David Boreanaz) or feature actual nerds as the heroes (“The Big Bang Theory”). Neither the pop culture-referencing hijinx of “Community” nor the biker melodrama of “Sons” quite fits any of those categories (though I imagine many fanboys can relate to Danny Pudi as Abed from “Community”), so I”m wondering exactly how they”ll be treated in their maiden voyages to San Diego (including how many fans show up for each panel). But the “Community” cast and creative team are wicked-funny with or without a script, and I suppose Ron Perlman gets geek points for “Hellboy,” “Alien: Resurrection” and “Beauty and the Beast,” so things should be fun.
“Human Target” (Saturday at 6:15 p.m., Room 6BCF): In its first season, the Fox action drama was fun but disposable, worth tuning in for stars Mark Valley, Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley, but not deep enough for appointment viewing. (There were a few times where if I didn”t see an episode live, it sat on my DVR for a long while before I felt compelled to put it on.) The season finale promised a stronger engagement, and now the show has a new producer in “Chuck” alum Matt Miller, who will be at the Con with his three very charming stars. Hopefully, they have encouraging things to say about a new direction.
“Burn Notice” (Thursday at 1 p.m., Ballroom 20): Remember what I said above about how shows with actors who have sci-fi shows on their resume get grandfathered into the Con? “Burn Notice” sidekick Bruce Campbell is perhaps the greatest example of that. Because of his work in the “Evil Dead” movies, and countless other sci-fi B movies, and his own hard-earned reputation as one of the most fan-friendly actors in the business, Campbell is like a god at Comic-Con. He”s so beloved – and so owns the crowd – that USA didn”t bother sending actual “Burn Notice” star Jeffrey Donovan, instead doing a panel with Campbell and two of his producers. It won”t be newsworthy, but it should be very quotable.
Entertainment Weekly: The Visionaries (Thursday at 3:30 p.m., Hall H): EW is bringing together geek icon producers JJ Abrams (“Alias,” “Lost,” “Star Trek”) and Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly” and the upcoming “Avengers” movie) for a discussion of the future of entertainment. Should be a love-in for all involved (at least, for those who can get in).
“Our Heroes Have More Fun: the Anti-Heroes of Showtime” (Thursday at 4:45 p.m., Ballroom 20): Multi-show jam panels can be amusing, particularly if there”s a strong theme like this one, featuring Michael C. Hall from “Dexter,” David Duchovny from “Californication” and Mary-Louise Parker from “Weeds” (and their respective producers, not that they”ll likely talk much). Hall got a huge reception from the Con a year ago, and that was before he publicly beat cancer. Duchovny has massive geek cred from his “X-Files” days, and Parker is unfiltered and quick-witted. I”ve never much liked “Californication” or “Weeds,” and I wax and wane on “Dexter,” but this should be an entertaining spectacle.
Also keep in mind that reports from various panels and interviews will appear irregularly, based on the reliability of wi-fi, availability of power outlets and me having time to write them up. I can’t wait, and I hope to see many of you there.