Whedon to direct ‘Glee’

October 19, 2009

joss whedonAlthough my last post was also about Glee, I just couldn’t resist the chance to comment on the latest Glee news. Last week I mentioned my wishlist for future guest stars now that the series has been given a full season pick-up, but I never thought to consider the behind-the-scenes talent. EW columnist Ausiello reported today that Buffy creator Joss Whedon has agreed to direct one of the ‘back nine’ (as the 9 episodes that constitute a full season pick-up are called) episodes of Glee.

Whedon wrote and directed a musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer titled “Once More With Feeling” in 2001. The episode ranked fourteenth on TV Guide’s list of  “TV’s Top 100 Episodes of All Time” and was nominated for a Hugo award, which recognizes excellence in science fiction and fantasy. During the writers’ strike of 2008, Whedon created an Internet musical called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which has gone on to win a People’s Choice Award for “Favourite Online Sensation”, the 2009 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and an Emmy Award in the Short-format Live-Action category.

Glee Creator Ryan Murphy called Whedon, “a great, if unexpected, fit.” adding that he was “thrilled he’ll be loaning us his fantastic groundbreaking talent.” Glee and Whedon’s current project Dollhouse are both aired on FOX. Although the news might have caused Dollhouse fans some concern, particularly after the lackluster ratings the series has received thus far, Ausiello reassured readers that the job wouldn’t affect Dollhouse and would likely take place after the show completed its thirteen episode order.

FOX had previously announced that they would air all thirteen episodes of Dollhouse’s second season, stating, “We’re not saying we’re happy with those numbers, or accept them, but we don’t have to overreact. During [November] sweeps we might have to jack up the numbers a little [with other programming], but we plan on completing the order for this show.” This was due in part to the impressive DVR numbers the premiere of Dollhouse posted.

Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman also referenced the Whedon’s passionate fanbase, saying that the show’s fate was something of a no-win situation: “If you cancel it, you’re an asshole; if you renew it and then don’t put it back on, you’re an asshole. I’m still paying for ‘Terminator.’ ‘Dollhouse’ has a small rabid fan base that in the world of social media seems bigger than it is. We gave them another season knowing full well we were going to burn in hell if we pulled it.”

Whedon just posted his (humourous as usual) thoughts on directing an episode here. Concluding with, “I’m going to do my best, and more importantly, I’m going to do my best not to gush like a fanboy for eight straight days on set.”

Personally, I can’t think of a better fit for the snarky musical comedy than Joss Whedon. Unfortunately, he isn’t writing the episode as well, but hopefully if his episode goes well it could happen in a second season. Although none of my wishlist of guest stars have been announced yet, those hoping that Glee star Lea Michele (Rachel Barry) would soon have a male singer able to match her considerable vocal abilities are in luck. Her “Spring Awakening” co-star Jonathan Groff has signed on to appear in five or six episodes of the show as the male lead singer of competiting Glee club Vocal Adrenaline. He will also serve as a potential love interest for Michele’s character.

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Guest stars who would fill me with “Glee”.

October 14, 2009

gleetopA month ago I wrote about the return of Glee and my fear that too much hype might hurt the show. Fortunately we’re now six episodes into the series, with a seventh airing tonight on Fox, and I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. Glee became the first new series to get a full season order, premiering with a 3.5 rating among the 18-49 demographic and improving upon its So You Think You Can Dance lead-in.

The show’s music has been a hit as well, with ten Glee numbers among the iTunes Top 200 and 1.1 million Glee songs downloaded through iTunes so far. An album compiling these songs, titled Glee: The Music, Volume 1, hits stores November 3rd and a Glee music tour is reportedly in the early planning stages. Fox Broadcasting president Kevin Reilly hinted at the development, telling EW “We’ve had a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from our music partners. Certainly if these kids become stars in their own right, who knows? Live appearances. Albums. There’s lots of things that could happen.”

One thing that won’t happen is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.  Fourth place network NBC pulled the cast of Glee from this year’s Parade over “concerns that putting the show’s cast on one of the biggest events of the year would amount to outright promotion.” This caused an outcry among fans, known as “gleeks” who pointed out that floats had previously been painted for American Idol and High School Musical, similar competing franchises. Creator Ryan Murphy didn’t seem to mind but did get in a jab at the Jay Leno controversy, saying, “I completely understand NBC’s position, and look forward to seeing a Jay Leno float.”

Although Glee won’t be a part of this year’s parade, they have plenty to be thankful for, including brilliant guest appearances by Josh Groban (as himself), Victor Garber, Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth, and soon singer Eve. Kristin Chenoweth in particular made an impression as Will’s new Glee club recruit April Rhodes, who dueted on “Alone” and belted “Maybe This Time” from “Caberet”. With Glee receiving a full season order, I couldn’t help but consider who else I would like to see guest star in future episodes. Here’s some possible guest stars who would fill me with ‘Glee’.

Hugh Jackman

hugh jackmanAlthough he’s best known for his role in the X-men movies as Wolverine, Jackman has actually been on American television before. “Really?” you may be saying to yourself, “how did I miss it?” Well Jackman served as star and executive producer of the short-lived and critically panned series Viva Laughlin. After two episodes it became the first cancellation of the season. Despite this, Jackman is a true triple threat who has hosted the Oscars and the Tony awards with great charm, and he certainly has the singing chops for a role in Glee.

Idina Menzel

idinaIdina Menzel is something of a no-brainer. Best known for originating the role of Elphaba in the musical “Wicked”, for which she won a Tony, she has also appeared in the movies Rent and Enchanted. “Wicked” appeals to a younger demographic in the same way that Glee does, and with “Wicked” co-star Kristin Chenoweth already appearing on the show to great success, perhaps Menzel will be next! Additionally, she bears a certain resemblance to series star Lea Michele that could make for a familial reveal that would delight broadway fans.

Mandy Patinkin

mandyMandy Patinkin is no stranger to television, having starred in Chicago Hope, Dead Like Me, and Criminal Minds. As a fan still mourning the premature cancellation of Dead Like Me,  I would love to see Patinkin back on television… and I’m not alone. CBS has announced that he’ll be guest starring in an episode of their organ transplant drama Three Rivers, and commenters on this article have also concluded that he would fit right in on Glee. The writers on his previous shows have found ways to write songs into the story, and his work on Dead Like Me indicates that Patinkin is no stranger to quirky.

Neil Patrick Harris

neil pThis one is a long shot, as he likely has a contract with CBS that prohibits guest spots on competing networks, but I’d love to see this man on Glee. Last year he hosted the Tonys then the Emmys to great reviews, and he’s appeared on Broadway in Assassins. More recently, Harris took a break from How I Met Your Mother to play Dr. Horrible in Joss Whedon’s Internet musical and was “A Very Smart Fellow” in Prop 8: The Musical.

Naturi Naughton

naturiThe 2009 version of Fame was fun while it lasted but I don’t remember a lot of these kids’ names. The one exception is the fantastic Naturi Naughton, who stole the movie for me. With her acting ability and huge voice I’d love to see her on Glee, perhaps as a member of a rival glee club, battling it out with Amber Riley’s Mercedes.

Patti LuPone

pattiLuPone won her second Tony last year, twenty-nine years after her first one for “Evita”, and she’s even appeared on television before, in a recurring role in the final season of Oz. In the world of musical theatre she’s nothing short of a legend and she’d make a great guest star on Glee.

Patrick Wilson

patrickAlthough primarily a film actor, he’s appeared on Broadway in “Oklahoma” and starred as Raoul in the film adaptation of “Phantom of the Opera”. Despite his film star good looks, he’s often a character actor who takes on unusual roles and would fit right in on Glee.

Lin Manuel-Miranda

lin manuelIn the two-hour premiere of House Lin Manuel-Miranda made an impression as House’s roommate Alvie and I’d love to see him put in an appearance on Glee. Miranda wrote and stared in the Broadway musical “In the Heights”, which recently won a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album so he certainly has the talent. Episodes of Glee to date have included all genres of music from country to rap and Broadway, and Miranda’s free-styling would be a great fit.

Adam Lambert

adamA guest appearance by Lambert would not only fit right in with the Glee high school mantra of being yourself, but would also make business sense for Fox, the network behind both shows. Imagine what a crossover could do when Amercan Idol returns in the new year?! Lambert not only has a fantastic voice, but also has the broadway cred, having appeared in the touring cast of Wicked, and with his CD soon to hit stores, an appearance could be a valuable bit of promotion for both parties.

Who would you like to see appear on Glee in the future?


Follow Friday: TV and Twitter

September 18, 2009

twitterI admit it, I tweet. For the uninitiated, “tweet” is the term for the 140 character updates Twitter allows you to post, broadcasting your interests, boredom, or messages to fellow members. Although it has been compared to another social networking site, Facebook, that uses status updates in much the same way, the thing about Twitter is that it isn’t quite so personal. I have a Facebook page and use the site regularly, but I do so to keep in contact with friends and close associates.  I use Twitter to “follow”, the term used for receiving another user’s tweets, television stars, entertainment news blogs, and writers who I am not personally acquainted with.

Television and Twitter

There are a number of people involved in the television industry on Twitter now, and people have begun to take notice of Twitter as a marketing tool and a way to gauge popularity.  The social networking site uses trending topics, meaning that the more a topic is mentioned in an individual’s tweets, the higher profile it receives.  The most used subjects are pushed into the top ten trending topics.  Often this includes recent news items, such as Kanye West’s outburst at the MTV Video Music awards, or the death of a celebrity, but during Primetime hours the Trending Topics often include television shows.

When Fox aired the premiere for its new comedy Glee in May, after the ratings juggernaut American Idol, executives were less concerned with its ratings and more interested in regarding the sneek peek as a marketing initiative. Although they certainly took note of the fact that the pilot was watched by 9.6 million viewers, staffers also monitored iTunes, blogs, and Twitter in order to measure reactions to the show.  The debut was largely a success, and one Fox e-mail read “It was the No.1 topic all night on Twitter”.  Since then the show has continued to be among the top ten topics on Twitter each Wednesday night it airs.

Television fans have discovered the importance of Twitter as well, with some organizing awareness campaigns using the popular site.  Although NBC’s Chuck was picked up for a third season, it was a close call for Chuck fans, who decided to use the hiatus to generate publicity for the show.  The ‘Chuck Me Mondays’ campaign aimed to draw new viewers to the show by re-watching episodes of Chuck on Monday, its regular night.  Additionally they used twitter, tweeting #chuckmemondays in an attempt to make the trending topics list and generate interest in the show.  With the third season of the show not airing until early 2010, the fans are continuing their campaign, watching the second season from the beginning.  This week they tweeted We Heart Chuck in order to honour the campaign of the same name to raise funds for the American Heart Association, which has currently raised close to $20,000.

This TV enthusiast recalls being spoiled for Torchwood: Children of Earth when ‘Ianto’ appeared as a trending topic on the same night that “Day Four” was scheduled to air in the UK. Surely the trending of a character’s name couldn’t be good news.  There’s an argument to be made that I shouldn’t have clicked on the topic, but I was more of less sure that Ianto was dead as soon as I saw his name, the click only confirmed it.

Collins on Supernatural.

Collins on Supernatural.

Perhaps the most interesting occurrence of television on Twitter happened more than a week ago when fans of the CW drama Supernatural garnered attention by banding together to push the hashtags #Supernatural and #luciferiscoming into Twitter’s trending topics. In the season finale, brothers and demon hunters Sam and Dean Winchester began the apocalypse by inadvertently releasing Lucifer from Hell, so for Supernatural fans #Luciferiscoming referred to the fifth season, premiering that night, in which Lucifer was a character. Unfortunately the message was misinterpreted by some, including P. Diddy, who tweeted the following:

I’m calling GODS ARMY TO ATTENTION!! #GODISHERE #GODISHERE #GODISHERE let the devil know the fight he’s in for! Retweet all day! Make GOD #1

Soon there was a battle for the top spot, with Supernatural fans continuing to tweet #luciferiscoming while Diddy’s followers re-tweeted #godishere, even though Diddy had been informed by many that the hashtag referred to the fictional show and not to Devil worshippers.  The Twitter war caused confusion among the uninformed, “leading many users to question whether today held some religious significance or if the tags were in response to the anniversary of the 09/11 attacks upon the Twin Towers in New York back in 2001 – one user mused that perhaps the two trends were the result of sick, twisted humour in that regard.”  Twitter took action, removing both hashtags from the trending topics entirely, but Supernatural fans continued to Tweet, encouraged by actor Misha Collins, who plays the angel Castiel on the series.  However, new rallying cries, the more innocent #pdiddyisscaredofhistv and #twitterisafraidofmishasminions have also been blocked by Twitter, causing some to wonder about censorship.

Follow Friday

Twitter has its own set of popular hashtags for days of the week, including “Music Mondays” and “Follow Fridays”.  It would be impossible to rhyme off all users of Twitter who are involved with television, but for Follow Friday here are some of those worth following for fellow TV enthusiasts.

Nathan Fillion in Castle

Nathan Fillion in Castle

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Joss Whedon and his works.  Although the man himself is not on Twitter, many “Whedonverse” talents are, including Castle star Nathan Fillion, his Doctor Horrible co-star Felicia Day, who also stars in her own popular web series The Guild, and writer Maurissa Tancharoen.  Dollhouse stars Eliza Dushku (Echo), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), and Miracle Laurie (November) are also on Twitter.  Canadian Jewel Staite, who played Kaylee in Firefly, has an account, as do Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast members Anthony Stewart Head (Giles), Amber Benson (Tara), Tom Lenk (Andrew), and Alyson Hannigan (Willow).  To keep up to date on all Whedon related news, follow Whedonesque.

A number of other Television actors and actresses tweet.  Among them is the aforementioned Misha Collins, who has gained a lengion of “minions” with his humourous tweets.  Julie Benz (Dexter) has an account, as does Pushing Daisies star Kristin Chenoweth, and Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan.  It’s only fair that Aldis Hodge, who plays a hacker on TNT’s Leverage with the motto “Age of the Geek” has an account, but so do his co-stars Tim Hutton (Nate), Beth Riesgraf (Parker), and Angel alum Christian Kane (Eliot).

Jeremy Piven, voted “least deserving of their 2009 Emmy” by TWoP readers, is on Twitter, along with Corbin Bleu of the new show The Beautiful Life, which premiered with a dismal 1.5 million viewers.  If you’re missing Dirty Sexy Money you can follow two of its stars, Lucy Liu and Blair Underwood through the Social Networking site, or for someone completely different there’s John Lithgow, who plays the Trinity Killer in the fourth season of Dexter. Christopher Gorham, of the summer show Harper’s Island, has an account and for some Canadian content there’s Degrassi actors Adamo Ruggiero and Lauren Collins.  Fans of CW drama Gossip Girl are no doubt already following stars Leighton Meester and Blake Lively.  While for any Trekkies out there, Brent Spiner and Levar Burton are worth following.

Unless you have an iPhone you probably won’t find Heroes star Greg Grunberg all that interesting.  He tweets mainly to promote his money saving application Yowza!, but co-stars Zachary Quinto (Sylar), James Kyson Lee (Ando) and former Heroes actresses Kristin Bell (Elle), and Brea Grant (Daphne) might be more interesting.

Actors aren’t the only ones using Twitter.  Just as interesting are some of the writers and other individuals who work behind the scenes in television, including James Clark, the On Set Prop Master for Heroes, and Doris Egan, a writer and co-executive producer on House m.d. Former Buffy and Battlestar Galactica scribe Jane Espenson, who is currently working on Caprica, has an account as well.  Also on Twitter are Whedon brother Zack Whedon, who worked on the Emmy winning Doctor Horrible’s Sing-along Blog and Hart Hanson, the creator of Bones.  For the TV enthusiast who isn’t spoiler shy, following writers, and actors, on Twitter can mean getting tidbits about upcoming episodes.

Cory Monteith of Glee

Cory Monteith of Glee

With the network’s use of Twitter both to promote Glee and to air reruns with commentary that comes from Twitter comments made live by its cast, it comes as no surprise that most of the young cast have their own accounts, such as Lea Michele (Rachel Berry)  Cory Monteith, who plays Finn, even uses the nickname given to his character in the last episode, “Frankenteen”, as his account name.  The rest of the Glee cast is comprised of Chris Colfer (Kurt), Diana Agron (Quinn), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina), Kevin McHale (Artie), Mark Salling (Puck), and Amber Riley (Mercedes).

Another show with a strong presence on Twitter is So You Think You Can Dance.  It’s always interesting to read what the choreographers thought of the performances and the judges are quite good at interacting their their followers.  Nigel Lythgoe, Tabitha and Napoleon, and Lil C all actively tweet.  Less active are Mia Michaels and Tyce Diorio.  For fans of the Canadian version of the show there’s judge Blake McGrath, and back on the original series sometimes judge Debbie Allen. Of course no list would be complete without the new third judge on the show, Adam Shankman!  Former contestants on Twitter include Travis Wall, whose amazing piece of choreography should be nominated for an Emmy next year, contemporary dancer Courtney Galiano and, one of my favourite contestants, Mark Kanemura.

Naturally there are also too many American Idol contestants to name, including Adam Lambert, winner Kris Allen, and David Cook.  Other Idol personalities with accounts are Randy Jackson, new judge Ellen DeGeneres, and Ryan Seacrest.

Just as interesting to me as the television stars and writers are updates from entertainment blogs and journalists.  An article takes time to write up while Twitter is an instant way to communicate any breaking news to interested parties.  What better way to stay up to date with your favourite TV shows than to follow one or more TV journalists?  Personally, I’m fond of The Nick C Blog, James Hibberd of The Live Feed, and Hercules the Strong of Ain’t It Cool News, but other choices include Robert Seidman and, for spoilers more than anything else, Michael Ausiello.

spongeFinally there’s Happy Squared, a Twitter account that provides “Daily affirmations from everyone’s favourite sea sponge” with tweets like “When spying on a neighbor late at night, be careful not to be lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of his clarinet.” and “If you’re going to skip town and live under a new name, try to come up with something that’ll really fool ’em: like “BobPants SpongeSquare.”

Clearly in the Twitter Universe, there is something, or somesponge, for everyone.


Is too much Glee a bad thing?

September 9, 2009

GleeI’m a huge fan of musical theatre, so when I first heard about Glee I thought ‘sounds wonderful but it probably won’t last long’.  Imagine my surprise when Fox, the network behind the notoriously poor treatment and subsequent cancellation of such shows as Dark Angel, Wonderfalls, Keen Eddie, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and of course Firefly, actually started to promote Glee!  Likely hoping to cash in on the success of High School Musical, Fox has promoted the Hell out of this show, premiering the pilot during May sweeps after American Idol (where it was watched by an audience of almost ten million), and re-airing the pilot last Friday while its stars tweeted commentary.

Picked by critics as one of the top new shows to watch, Glee focuses on a high school Glee club in Ohio run by Will (Matthew Morrison), a Spanish teacher hoping to recapture his glory days.  The Glee club members include Diva Mercedes, wheelchair-bound Artie, Goth girl Tina, gay teen Kurt, and Rachel Barry, a Tracy Flick character played by Spring Awakening star Lea Michele, as the lead dreaming of stardom.  In the pilot Will blackmailed star football player Finn (played by Canadian Cory Monteith) into joining the Glee kids, and faced rivalry from Jane Lynch’s scene-stealing Coach Sylvester, who is not about to let the Glee club steal the spotlight from her cheerleaders.

Don’t let the high school setting, popular vs. unpopular theme, and the likely blossoming attraction between Finn and Rachel fool you though, this is not High School Musical.  For one thing the stars can actually sing, and Morrison and Michele are former Broadway stars.  The musical numbers range from standard musical theatre songs, like Barry’s audition piece “On My Own” from Les Miserables, to classic songs, such as the Glee club’s first group performance to Journey’s “Don’t stop believin’”, and Top 40 Hits.  “Rehab” and “Don’t Stop Believin’”, both performed in the pilot episode, were released on itunes and placed on the iTunes Top Songs chart.  A soundtrack will be available November third and the track listing has already been released, revealing other songs to be performed this season on the show.  These include Kanye West hit “Gold Digger”, “Sweet Caroline”, Rihanna track “Take a Bow”, and show stopper “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.

Glee has lined up the guest stars, including Tony award winner Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies), Josh Groban, and Broadway alum Victor Garber (Eli Stone), as Will’s dad, but most importantly, the show is funny.  I admit that I’ve never seen anything of creator Ryan Murphy’s, so I can’t compare the humour in Glee to say Popular, but it has been described by critics as “cynical”, “biting”, and “snarky”, all good signs in my book.

glee2Understandably, for a show about underdogs, Glee also has a lot of heart.  The Glee club remain, at their core, a group of outsiders who want to be a part of something fun and the performance of “Don’t Stop Believin’”, where Will sees what his club can do and everything comes together is a great television moment, but is too much Glee a bad thing?

Although the hype surrounding the show is a great sign, and hopefully it will keep audiences interested and attract more than the niche audience I expected to tune in, is it possible that too much buzz is a bad thing?  Buzz doesn’t always translate into viewers and, blame my inner pessimist for this comment, sometimes high expectations are a bad thing.

After the unjust cancellation of Dead Like Me I was thrilled when I heard that Bryan Fuller was working on something new featuring a man who could bring people back to life with a touch of his finger.  This was, of course, Pushing Daisies. As a huge fan of anything A) quirky and B) done by Bryan Fuller I expected by have borderline obsessive love for Pushing Daisies.  Oddly enough I didn’t, and some of that was due to the huge hype surrounding it.  Yes the show was different from anything currently airing and its stars were great, but while I enjoyed Daisies it was never must see TV for me and given the ability to renew one show, I would have picked Kings over Pushing Daisies in a heartbeat.

Or how about Dollhouse?  I don’t mean the pilot, which tended to be reviewed by critics as ‘meh but with potential’, but the sixth episode we kept hearing about.  “Man on the Street” was supposed to be a huge game changer, the episode where the show turned around and we saw Joss in all his glory… except that we didn’t.  “Man on the Street” marked an improvement in the show yes, but after all that discussion and disappointed fans waiting for the magical number six, it just didn’t live up to expectations, much like Dollhouse itself.

Another example from the world of cable is Mad Men.  I’ve never watched Mad Men but the sheer volume of critical hype, including its nomination for four of the five writing in a drama category Emmys, has actually resulted in this TV enthusiast never wanting to hear another word about the show, rather than an intense desire to tune in.

Sometimes hype is a great thing that can boost a show from something you don’t have any interest in to something you’ll consider watching, and that’s fantastic, but when it reaches fever pitch, sometimes it creates unrealistic expectations or, worse, becomes an item of pop culture you never want to hear about again.  I enjoyed the pilot of Glee immensely, I’m thrilled that Fox is promoting it at all, and I’m certainly hoping that Glee will succeed.  I just hope that too much Glee isn’t a turn-off.

glee3

Glee airs tonight at 9:00 EST on Fox.


San Diego Comic-Con for the TV enthusiast

July 11, 2009

In response to an article on the ever-expanding Comic-Con, one fan wrote, “If anything needs to be changed about the San Diego Comic-Con, it’s the name.  The way it’s been and the way it is now, it should really be called the San Diego Pop-Culture-Con.”  It’s an accurate assessment, as Comic-Con International has expanded in both size and content from its modest origins.  The first convention, held in 1970 at the U.S. Grant Hotel, drew only 300 people.  Last year’s Comic-Con boasted a record 126,000 attendees.

This increase is not without resentment, with some comic book fans unhappy about what the convention has become, and the over-crowded San Diego Convention Center resulting in a wait of two or more hours to secure a place at some of the more popular panels.  Yet despite the lines and the crowds, genre fans are eager to flock to Southern California between July 23rd and 26th for glimpses at exclusive television or movie clips, a chance to see their acting, writing, or comic book idols, and to soak up the atmosphere of thousands of equally excited fans.

Although I don’t read a large number of comic book titles, I do enjoy and respect the comics world.  I regularly read Runaways and I’ve enjoyed titles like Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and the classic Watchmen.  Still, I have to admit that my main interest in Comic-Con is television.  A number of recent articles have discussed the increasing presence of television at Comic-Con.  Warner Brothers is bringing a studio-record 11 shows to the convention and while some premiering shows, like the alien invasion remake V, or the CW’s teen drama The Vampire Diaries, have a clear connection to genre, the link to science-fiction and/or fantasy in other shows is increasingly tenuous.

Comic-Con is now used as a test ground for new pilots, a marketing experiment to see how a television product will be received.  Networks air exclusive clips of returning shows and choose to debut pilots at the event to create buzz.  After-all, what better promotion could there be than a pop-culture phenomenon which has already sold out all 4-day and single-day membership passes for this year’s event?

Marking its 40th convention this year, San Diego Comic-Con is expanding its content.  Last year CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory made its Comic-Con debut.  With its inclusion of comic book references and discussions of science fiction and fantasy, the show fit nicely into the event.  However, this year the door has opened for panels on shows with considerably less genre appeal.  USA’s spy comedy-drama Burn Notice will be a presence this year along with Fox’s procedural Bones and, perhaps the oddest pick of all, new sitcom The Middle, staring Patrica Heaton as a middle class mother of three.  If this sounds like a stretch it’s because it is.

Certainly there’s enough genre-related content out there to wet the palettes of the TV enthusiasts at Comic-Con even without the inclusion of these odd picks, but I can think of a number of people who aren’t about to argue with a chance to see David Boreanaz on a panel and yes, even though one of these things is not like the others, I’m interested in hearing about the panel for Fox’s eagerly anticipated Glee.

This TV enthusiast hasn’t yet made it to Comic-Con, although it does have a high place on my as yet unwritten list of things to experience before I die, but I’ll be hoping for youtube footage or some illuminating tweets on the more interesting panels.  Bound to be popular this year are the Doctor Who panel, with departing creator and head writer Russell T. Davies and David Tennant, in his first appearance at Comic-Con, and the Dollhouse panel, with Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku presenting the unaired episode “Epitaph One” for the first time.

If you don’t fancy waiting in line or have some time between panels, Comic-Con also offers a floorspace for exhibitors, an autograph area, and the convention staple Artist’s Alley, where comics artists sign autographs and sell sketches.

If you’re a TV enthusiast lucky enough to attend, or just want to know what you’ll be missing, here’s a look at some of the Television events announced for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at Comic-Con 2009:

Wednesday, July 22nd

Between 6:00 and 9:00 PM, Comic-Con offers a special preview night for attendees who have purchased 4-day passes.  Warner Bros.  will present the pilots of three new series for the 2009-10 Television season – Human Target, V, and The Vampire Diaries.

Human Target is a midseason replacement show based on a DC comics title. It stars Mark Valley (Fringe), as a private contractor who takes on cover identities in order to protect his clients,  Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies), and Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen).

V, staring Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost) and Morena Baccarin (Serenity) is a remake of the 1983 miniseries about alien contact.

The Vampire Diaries, based on the book series by L.J. Smith, is a drama about two vampire brothers, one good and one evil, at war over a human girl.  Paul Wesley (Everwood) and Ian Somerhalder (Lost) play the brothers while Nina Dobrev (Degrassi: The Next Generation) plays the girl, named Elena.

Thursday, July 23rd

Fans of the short-lived ABC Family series The Middleman won’t want to miss it’s cast reunion and lost episode table read (11:15-12:15, Room 6A), featuring creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and the complete cast.  In the same room ,actor/author Richard Hatch joins special guests for a “review,  discussion, and Q&A” of Battlestar Galactica‘s past four seasons including its controversial ending (12:30-1:30, Room 6A).

If you prefer your television a little lighter, there’s USA network’s Psych panel featuring stars James Roday (Shawn) and Dule Hill (Gus) along with other cast and creative team members.  The panel will feature new outtakes, a season four preview, and a video diary segment (1:15-2:15, Ballroom 20).  If you’re also a fan of Burn Notice, remain in the room for a panel with stories from the writers’ room, an exclusive look at upcoming season three episodes, and tips on surviving Comic-Con from Michael Westen.

If you’d prefer to take a look at the technical side of things, head over to the Costume Designers: Designing for Television Production panel with costume designers from Dollhouse, Lost, True Blood, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2:00-3:00, Room 32AB), before bringing your questions to ask J. Michael Straczynski about professional writing in movies, television, comics and print (3:30-4:30, Room 7AB).

Perhaps the most interesting panel promises to be Entertainment Weekly’s Wonder Women: Female Power Icons in Pop Culture.  The description says, “EW will moderate a conversation with Sigourney Weaver (Avatar), Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost), Kristin Bell (Veronica Mars) and other stars about the actresses who have redefined the rules and the female characters that have shattered the glass ceiling for all women. Basically: a discussion with women who kick ass” (3:45-4:45, Ballroom 20).

If you’re interested in the industry, there’s The Pitching Hour, demonstrating the process of taking an idea from conception to production. This includes creating a pitch document, obtaining an agent, and getting a pitch meeting. There will also be a Q&A for the audience to ask any questions about obstacles they may encounter (5:00-6:00, Room 2). To learn more about the science behind the great sci-fi head to Mad Science: The Science Behind Science Fiction for an exploration of science as a product of who wields it. Included are writers from Eureka, Dollhouse, and Fringe to discuss science used for good and evil (6:00-7:00, Room 6DE).

Meanwhile, if you’d prefer more television, Comic-Con offers a panel on the action-adventure series Legend of the Seeker , which is based on Terry Goodkind’s fantasy series The Sword of Truth., in the form of a Q&A with a few executive producers and cast members (4:45-5:45, Room 6DE).  Or head over to Ballroom 20, where Showtime presents a Dexter panel with Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Julie Benz (Rita), Jennifer Carpenter (Deb) and series executive producers, featuring clips from the upcoming fourth season (5:00-6:00 ).

For a more academic panel there’s The Anthropology of Star Trek, with students discussing the anthropological themes in Star Trek (6:30-7:30, Room 30AB), or spend the evening singing along to the California Browncoats’ screening of Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, followed by Commentary! The Musical (8:00-10:00, Room 6A).  Finally, finish your day with an animation fix, courtesy of the Green Lantern: First Flight world premiere.  The voice cast includes such television talents as Victor Garber (Eli Stone), and Christopher Meloni (Law and Order:SVU) (8:00-9:30, Ballroom 20).

Coming up: Comic-Con for the TV enthusiast schedules for Friday and Saturday.

Comic-Con International takes place at the San Diego Convention Center July 23rd-26th.