Terrifying Television: This Year’s Halloween Episodes

October 26, 2009

buffy hallAs I mentioned in a previous entry on my favourite Thanksgiving episodes, I like to celebrate the holidays in true TV enthusiast style… by watching a marathon of themed episodes. Predictably my marathon includes episodes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dead Like Me, but each fall, new Halloween episodes air, some of which will become instant classics and be added to my annual marathon in years to come. This year, with supernaturally-themed new shows like The Vampire Diaries and Eastwick, the amount of Halloween content seems to have increased. Here’s a look at the Halloween-themed episodes airing this week.


Teen hit Gossip Girl has Lily and Rufus celebrating Halloween in “How to Succeed in Bassness” tonight on The CW, while ABC drama Castle has a nice surprise for any Browncoats out there in the new episode “Vampire Weekend”. The episode features Castle and Beckett investigating the murder of a vampire fetishist, whose body is found with fake fangs and a stake through his heart.


With a show about witches and the devil, it would have been crazy not to have a Halloween episode of Eastwick. In “Bonfire and Betrayal”, Roxie envisions an ill fate for her loved-ones and tries to prevent it from happening. Meanwhile Kat attempts to reunite Will and Joanna, who continues to encounter misfortunes after having trouble with her career and love life. The ABC drama hasn’t received a full season pick-up and it’s ratings have not been promising, but maybe a little Halloween magic can turn that around.


NBC has a full night of Halloween comedy lined up beginning with a Day of the Dead party on Community, a Halloween party on Parks and Recreation, and finally a themed episode of The Office, in which the office plans a haunted house for kids in the community. Meanwhile, the pairing of the CW’s best performing show The Vampire Diaries and genre hit Supernatural is a no-brainer for Halloween. Although the later doesn’t specifically have a Halloween episode this season, it’s demon-fighting theme and tendency to tackle urban legends make most episodes holiday appropriate. Lead-in The Vampire Diaries will air the new episode “Haunted”, which includes a visit to a haunted house. Freshman drama FlashForward is also getting into the spirit with an episode titled “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps”, and CBS has a new episode of The Mentalist titled “Red Scare”. On The Mentalist, witnesses claim that a wealthy man was killed by a ghost haunting his mansion.


With CBS’ double feature of Ghost Whisperer and Medium, Friday is already a night for the supernatural, so it’s fitting that both shows will air Halloween episodes this year. Melinda encounters the headless horseman in a themed Ghost Whisperer episode called “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and Alison dreams she has been cast in the zombie film Night of the Living Dead in a Medium episode titled “Bite Me”. The night wraps upon Numb3ers, where the body of a dead woman  turns up at a decommissioned air base where paranormal activity has been happening.

There’s plenty of spooky new television to be had, but if you’re ready for more Halloween content there’s always the numerous specials and horror movies airing all this week. A more complete list can be found here.


The Heavy Hitters Return, FlashForward premieres

September 24, 2009
Joseph Fiennes in FlashForward.

Joseph Fiennes in FlashForward.

Monday may be my personal night of television, but Thursday is the night when the most competitive shows go head to head in a battle for ratings. Hoping to reel viewers in before the juggernauts of television return, new Thursday addition Fringe premiered last week, while CW shows The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural began two weeks ago. The Thursday night ratings thus far have generally been good. Although The Vampire Diaries slipped in its second week, the numbers are still encouraging and the CW has ordered an additional nine scripts for the series, “which is the closest step executives can take without committing to a full pickup.”  With both CBS procedural CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy returning tonight at nine though, the question is how much will these popular shows cut into the ratings of the other Thursday night competitors?

Eight o’clock is a slightly less competitive, but still significant, timeslot with the aforementioned Vampire Diaries up against Fox’s popular procedural Bones, Survivor: Samoa, NBC sitcoms SNL Weekend Update and Amy Poehler’s Parks and Rec, and the series premiere of FlashForward.

Easily the most talked about new drama, Flashforward has been compared to Lost, and with the sci-fi drama entering its final season in January, FlashForward might be just the replacement ABC is looking for. ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson said, ”The intention was not to imitate Lost, but we’ve certainly been looking for that next hit, and I don’t think we’ve had as special an idea as this since then.” It doesn’t hurt that the cast even includes a couple of Lost alums in the form of Dominic Monaghan, who played fan favourite Charlie Pace, and Sonya Walger, who had a recurring role as Desmond’s love interest Penny. Monaghan’s character Simon will not appear until episode 5 or 6, but in an interview with SFX magazine, he said, “There’s certainly a [Lost] influence on FlashForward in terms of the model of the show, in the same way that Lost has a large international cast”.  The large cast of FlashForward includes a number of familiar faces, such as Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love), John Cho (the Star Trek reboot), and Jack Davenport (Norrington in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy).

Based on a science fiction novel by Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer, FlashForward focuses on the aftermath of a mysterious global event in which everyone on the planet loses consciousness for two minutes, seventeen seconds. During that time, everyone in the world experiences their life six months into the future. FBI agent Mark Benford (Fiennes) creates a database of people’s flash forwards from around the world called the Mosaic Collective in order to determine what exactly happened and why. Naturally, there is already a tie-in website that features accounts of people’s flash forwards which you can find here. Perhaps the best news for potential viewers is that although based on a science-fiction novel, those involved are shying away from the label, with executive producer David S. Goyer promising that ”the only leap you have to make is the existence of the flash-forward”. Additionally, story arcs have already been worked out for five full seasons, which shows an awareness of the difficulties shows with intricate mythologies often face (including Heroes and Lost). This TV enthusiast will certainly be tuning in.

The real competition begins at nine though, with the tenth season of CSI and the two-hour premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. Both shows are extremely popular but have something to prove this year. The departure of William Petersen’s Gil Grissom impacted the procedural’s ratings and although I enjoyed Laurence Fishburne’s replacement, Dr. Raymond Langston, in the few episodes I caught, Grissom is a hard man to replace. CSI cast members and producers admitted that the show stumbled during its ninth season but that this year the show has ‘found its rhythm’ again. Tonight’s premiere, titled “Family Affair”  begins with the team investigating the death of an actress killed in a suspicious car accident and features the return of Jorja Fox’s Sara Sidle.

izzieSimilarly, Grey’s Anatomy had a rough year with the universally despised “ghost sex” plotline that dragged on for far too long and actually managed to make me wish the amicable Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who played Denny on the series) would just go away already. The “cliffhanger” last season left the lives of George (T.R. Knight) and Izzie (Katherine Heigl) hanging in the balance, but even non-spoiler addicts know who survives, so tonight’s episodes are not likely to have anyone on the edge of their seat. The two-hour premiere sees the staff of Sacred Heart dealing with George’s death and Cristina and Owen finding it difficult to abstain from sex, as instructed by Dr. Wyatt.

New to Thursdays is Fox’s supernatural drama Fringe, starring John Noble and Joshua Jackson. The show was heavily promoted by Fox during its first season and was picked up for a second year, but moving the show to the most competitive slot in primetime is a risky move.  After a game changing season finale, in which viewers learned that Peter (Jackson) was from a parallel universe, Fringe premiered last week to almost 8 million viewers and a 2.9 in the 18-49 demographic. The numbers were only a slight drop from its season finale, but there’s no indication of how Fringe will do against Grey’s and CSI. Even the most fanatic of TV enthusiasts only have so much room on our DVRs.  Creator J.J. Abrams is not pleased with the move either saying,“There are many places I’d rather be than there, but I’d rather be picked up for a second season than not.” Tonight’s episode sees Walter trying to recreate travel between realities using frogs while the Fringe division investigates the disappearance of a  highway construction worker in Pennsylvania.

The cast of Community.

The cast of Community.

Also in competition are NBC comedies The Office and Community. Last week The Office had its lowest rated premiere in four years, yet was also the highest-rated show of the night, while the series premiere of Community held onto most of its lead-in for impressive numbers. Community, about a group of misfits who attend Greendale Community College, was well reviewed by critics.

Finally there’s a new episode of Supernatural on the CW (or Sun TV in Canada) titled “Free to be You and Me”. After the Winchester brothers parted ways at the end of last week’s episode, Dean teams up with Castiel to find the Archangel Raphael, who may know where God is, and decides to make Castiel’s last night on Earth memorable. Meanwhile, Sam tries to give up hunting but receives an unexpected visit from an old flame.

Once again being Canadian means more choices in your television schedule. CTV is showing The Vampire Diaries at 7:00PM in order to accommodate both CSI and the 2-hour premiere of Grey’s Anatomy so you don’t have to choose between the procedural and the medical drama.

Happy television watching!

Vampires and Demons and Lucifer! Oh my!

September 10, 2009

sam and deanKeep a wooden stake on your coffee table because Thursday is genre night in TV land.  Tonight the CW has the series premiere of The Vampire Diaries and the fifth season opener of Supernatural, while Fox and ABC have the season and series premieres of their genre shows Fringe and FlashForward on September 17th and 24th, respectively. For the TV enthusiast who isn’t a fan of science-fiction, there’s always the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, or CBS procedurals The Mentalist, and C.S.I., all shows I’ve also watched and liked to varying degrees, but as a fan of genre shows, my night is pretty full.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains one my favourite shows of all-time, so it may come as a surprise that I’m not a big fan of vampires.  I don’t have any desire to read the Twilight books, haven’t watched Moonlight or Blood Ties, and never tried Anne Rice. In fact the only vampire themed show, aside from Buffy and Angel, that I’ve watched is True Blood, and although I enjoyed the first season I don’t particularly care for Bill or Eric.  So I won’t be watching tonight’s premiere of new CW show The Vampire Diaries.

Although the show hopes to capitalize on the popularity of True Blood and Twilight, the story actually predates both of them.  L.J. Smith’s series of young adult horror novels were originally published in 1991 & 92, but in 2008 she announced plans for a new spin-off trilogy, the first of which was published in February of this year.   Like the books, the show revolves around Elena Gilbert, a Virginia high school student who is torn between two vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon.  The lead actors are familiar, but not too familiar, faces, having played teen roles before.  Nina Dobrev (Elena) has been seen on Degrassi: The Next Generation as single mother Mia, while Ian Somerhalder (Damon) is best known for his role as Boone on Lost but has also been seen in Smallville and Young Americans.  Paul Wesley guest starred on teen-targeted shows Everwood and Smallville before getting the role of the good vampire brother Stefan.

vampireAlthough The Vampire Diaries may not be my cup of tea, it has been receiving generally favourable reviews from critics.  EW’s Ken Tucker gave the pilot episode a B+, writing that the show “promises us a season of sharp-tongued amusement”, and IGN called it “exactly what you’d expect from a marriage of Dawson’s Creek and Twilight, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your tastes,” rating the episode a respectable 7.0 out of 10.  Only time will tell if viewers have had their fill of vampire tales or are ready to sink their teeth (yup, I went there) into a new show.

As I said in a previous post, I’ve become a Supernatural convert over the summer and I’m looking forward to tonight’s season premiere.  When we last saw the Winchester boys Sam had killed the demon Lilith, only to find out seconds later that she was the sixty-sixth seal to be broken and that her death would release Lucifer.  Dean had been told that God wasn’t giving the orders anymore and that the Angels wanted Lucifer to rise, and Castiel had chosen to disobey, turning his back on The Host to help Dean.  The episode ended with Cas facing off against an archangel, Heaven’s most fearsome warrior, and Sam and Dean watching helplessly as the last seal broke.

Although the stakes have increased with each season and this year, with Lucifer (played by Dexter and Lost actor Mark Pellegrino) at the core, promises to have its darker moments, Supernatural clearly hasn’t lost its sense of humour.  Heiress Paris Hilton will guest star in an October episode as a demonic creature taking the form of… Paris Hilton.  For those who shudder at this announcement, just remember that she also had a guest role in an early episode of Veronica Mars and that didn’t turn out so badly!

It may or may not be the final season for the CW drama.  Creator Eric Kripke set out with a five season plan for the show and has “every intention of ending the story with a bang and not drawing it out or watering it down,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for the Winchester brothers.  Kripke says, “I’m looking at this season as the last chapter in this particular story. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a new story. Buffy did it. The X-Files did it. You close a chapter on a big mythology storyline and then you begin a new one.”  It’s also helpful to note that stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have deals in place that cover a possible sixth season, although Kripke himself does not have a deal beyond the fifth season.  As a latecomer to the show I’m hoping for a sixth season, but whether this is the end for Supernatural or not, I’m going to enjoy the ride.

Quotes from Comic-Con

July 27, 2009
Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory

Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco in The Big Bang Theory

As I’ve said before, San Diego Comic-Con is on my list of things to do before I die. Hopefully in a few years I’ll get the chance to experience all the madness and the joys of being there firsthand, but until then, this TV enthusiast is making do by reading everyone else’s tweets and blogs, and by enjoying the youtube videos of panels that inevitably emerge. For anyone else who didn’t get a chance to attend the event, or for those who don’t spend quite so much time gathering information and quotations from various television resources, here’s a look at some of the great quotes of Comic-Con this year.

One of the best comedies on television has to be The Big Bang Theory, so it comes as little surprise that their cast offered a number of memorable quotes.  Although this year the show will be moving towards Leonard and Penny in a relationship, a portion of the Internet community prefers the idea of Sheldon and Penny as a couple.  Personally I agree with the writers’ stance that Sheldon’s mistress is science and I can’t picture him in a romantic relationship, but one fan who felt differently asked if he would ever get a girlfriend.  Jim Parsons (Sheldon) replied, “Do you want me to sit here and prognosticate? Because you’ve got the writers.”  After co-stars Kaley Cuoco (Penny) and Johnny Galecki (Leonard) commented on his great word choice, Jim said, “Thank you.  I said I’m not dumb, I just don’t get the science.”

The idea of Sheldon and Penny as a couple did get an enthusiastic response from some of the attendees at Comic-Con, leading to this exchange:

Writers: Ten minutes and she’d shoot him.  She’s from Nebraska, they have guns.
Jim Parsons: I don’t know that Sheldon’s man enough for Penny.
Kaley Cuoco: She would eat you alive.
Jim Parsons: Uh huh.

Yet the most memorable moment came when one fan asked Jim Parsons, referring to the show’s Christmas episode “The Bath Gift Item Hypothesis”,  if he would use a napkin so that he could “grow his own Jim” for his little sister.  Kaley wiped Jim’s brow before handing the napkin back to the fan.

Although I don’t watch the show, I’ve heard a great deal of praise for Battlestar Galactica, which was recently snubbed at the Emmy nomination ceremony.  Executive producer Ron Moore had this to say on the subject, using the BG substitute expletive ‘frak’ while shouting to enthusiastic applause:

“It was a fraking crime that the entire cast of ‘Battlestar’ was never recognized for the performances they gave week in and week out.”

Tru Blood the drink will be available soon.

Tru Blood the drink will be available soon.

At the True Blood panel, series creator Alan Ball announced that the popular synthetic blood drink from the show would now be a reality.  The beverage will be available on HBO’s website as of September 10th, just in time for the second season finale.  But just what will the drink consist of?

Ball: We put together a nice little mixture of a kind of delightful Chateau, cabernet, with some actual blood of hemophiliac European royalty, a little vodka, a little vicodin, a little viagra, and ecstasy. Unfortunately it’s completely illegal.”

The label is an exact replica of those used on the show and the drink will actually be a blood orange soda.  The panel also announced that Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels that the show is based on, has signed a deal to write three more books.

Other big announcements at Comic-Con included the fact that Supernatural might get a sixth season.  Creator Eric Kripke has had what so many writers inexplicably don’t – a plan.  His five year plan for the show would have made this year the last hurrah for the Winchester brothers, but Kripke says that he is open to doing another year of the show and that stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are signed for a possible sixth season.

Finally, Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse panel offered some insight on which Whedonverse stars would be appearing in the Dollhouse this season.  ‘If the stars aligned’ Summer Glau, of the recently cancelled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, would guest star.  Felicia Day, who appeared in the unaired episode thirteen, titled “Epitaph One”, will also be appearing in the first episode of season two, while Alexis Denisof, known to Angel fans as Wesley, will put in an appearance this season as well.

Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon and star Eliza Dushku.

Dollhouse creator Joss Whedon and star Eliza Dushku.

Between offering hints of what’s to come, Whedon found time to quip, getting in some great quotes as follows:

When asked how he knew that Alan Tudyk was the right one to play Alpha:
“I met him.”

On what’s next for Dollhouse:
“We talked about a lot of ideas for going forward after we accidentally forgot to get cancelled.”

On his obsession with big corporations:
“Have you been in America?”

And finally, getting in a dig at Heroes:
“As long as we don’t send anyone back to feudal Japan we’re pretty much okay.”

With Lost entering its sixth and final season, the actors speculated on how they would like to see things turn out for the island’s characters.  Nestor Carbonell (Richard), Michael Emerson (Ben), and Jorge Garcia (Hurley) commented on the Sawyer/Kate/Jack love triangle in an interview with Michael Ausiello:

Michael: I think that Kate should find another man altogether.  I really do, there’s just so much baggage now.  It’s not a healthy triangle I don’t think.  It would be better if someone had the nerve to bust out.  It’s a large role, there are a lot of nice people out there.”
Jorge: Have Kate go ruin someone else’s life.
Nestor: I’d be happy if Kate ruined Richard’s life.

Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer, had his own theory about season six:
“Me and Hurley will hook up and live happily ever after.”

Only executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse hold the answers and they presented a locked box at the beginning of the panel which they said contained the last page of the final episode’s script. They claimed that they would open the page on Jimmy Kimmel after the series finale aired. However, near the end of the panel Josh Holloway took to the stage with a taser and forced Cuse to open the box so the final scene would be revealed to Comic-Con.

Paul Wesley from the new CW series The Vampire Diaries commented on being compared to heartthrob Robert Pattinson of Twilight, “It makes me so uncomfortable.  9  of 10 girls in this room would throw me under a bus to get to Edward Cullen.”

While Freddy Prinze Jr., who is joining the cast of 24 this year, recieved a response for mentioning watching television with his wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar who starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  As the audience screamed, he snorted, “I forgot she’s big here.”

John Barrowman and David Tennant in Doctor Who

John Barrowman and David Tennant in Doctor Who

Some of the most eagerly anticipated panels were those for Torchwood and Doctor Who.  Introducing the Easter special Planet of the Dead to American audiences, star David Tennant said “Tonight you’re going to see the American premiere – the legal American premiere of Planet of the Dead.”

He also joked about American pronunciations telling the audience “I love America, you say premieres and awesome.  I’m taking awesome back to London with me.”

But the highlight for some was John Barrowman, there to introduce the screening of Torchwood: Children of Earth, reacting to David Tennant kissing him.  After Tennant planted one on him, he pretended to faint and let out a fangirl scream.  Recovering, he said “I’ve slightly gone all flustered, I really have.  I’ve been waiting for that for years, thanks David.”

At the Fringe panel, actor Joshua Jackson (who plays Peter in the series), talked about the revelation that his character was from an alternate universe, saying, “As an actor, you never want to read the line ‘And he looks at Peter’s grave’.”

Alexander Skarsgård of True Blood

Alexander Skarsgård of True Blood

True Blood‘s thousand year-old vampire Eric Northman, played by Alexander Skarsgård, received cheers at the HBO panel, and in an interview afterwards Skarsgård and co-star Deborah Ann Woll, who plays fledgling vampire Jessica, talked about what they would like to see for their characters.  Deborah hoped her character would get a little loving in the future, prompting the interviewer to ask if she was saying that she wanted Skarsgård to play her love interest.  Deborah replied, “Who wouldn’t?”

Fan favourite Johnny Depp even made a Comic-Con cameo, appearing to support Tim Burton at the Disney 3D panel, where he was previewing his live action ‘Alice in Wonderland’ adaptation.  Depp reportedly walked onstage to cheers, said “Hey. Happy to be here.” into the mic, and departed.  Burton quipped, “He was in the neighbourhood visiting Sea World.”

Dexter stars Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, and Jennifer Carpenter were joined by guest star John Lithgow, who will play a murderer known as the “Trinity Killer” on the show, on the Showtime panel.  Referring to his popular 3rd Rock from the Sun character, Lithgow said, “On ‘Dexter’ I play a serial killer and his first victim is High Commander Dick Soloman.”

But it was Comic-Con favourite Robert Downey Jr., there to promote Iron Man 2 who arguably had the best quote of the event as he said had this to say about co-star Mickey Rourke, “And I thought I was eccentric.”

San Diego Comic-Con for the TV enthusiast (Saturday)

July 12, 2009

Recently more and more shows are continuing in comic book form, creating a link between comics and television that fans of both genres, like this TV enthusiast, no doubt enjoy.  Comic books allow television writers and producers to go places budgets would never allow them to go on the small screen, much to the delight of fans.  Despite being an Angel fan, I have to admit that I have not yet read the canon series of comics, but for those who have there’s Saturday, July 25th’s panel Angel on the Rise.  The panel will reveal the new monthly Angel writer and give fans a chance to ask Juliet Landau (Drusilla), and writers Brian Lynch and Peter David about what’s next for one of our favourite vampires with a soul (10:00-11:00, Room 7AB).

For fans of spy comedy Chuck, its appearance at Comic-Con this year is a triumph.  This May, as the networks announced their fall schedules, Chuck was very much a bubble show and it looked like it might become a casualty of NBC’s decision to replace the ten o’clock hour of primetime with five nights of Jay Leno.  Fans put together a smart campaign to buy a five-dollar subway sandwich on Monday to show Subway, the show’s major sponsor, Chuck could be profitable and NBC got the message, renewing the show for thirteen episodes.  The Comic-Con Chuck panel includes a Q&A with co-creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, along with cast members Zachary Levi, Adam Baldwin, and Yvonne Strahovski, and a highlight reel (10:00-11:00, Ballroom 20).

I wouldn’t have any interest in the Desperate Housewives meets Charmed new show Eastwick if it weren’t for its male stars, Matt Dallas (Kyle XY) and Canadian Paul Gross (Due South).  So yes, it may be shallow but I’ll be giving the pilot a try to see Gross back on television.  If you’re at Comic-Con you can see the pilot ahead of the masses by attending this panel, where series stars Rebecca Romijn (X-men), Lindsay Price (Lipstick Jungle), Jaime Ray Newman (Veronica Mars) and yes, Paul Gross will answer audience questions after the screening alongside executive producers David Nutter and Maggie Friedman (10:15-11:15, Room 6A).

If you know the answer to the question “who lives in a pineapple under the sea?” you might be interested in Nickelodeon’s panel Ten Years of Spongebob Squarepants!  The panel features a live table read of a classic episode with the entire voice cast, including Spongebob himself Tom Kenny, a Q&A with the cast and crew, and an airing of the upcoming episode “Greasy Buffoons.” (10:30-11:30, Room 6DE).

Curious about what’s in store for the new, and final, season of Lost?  Attend the Lost: The Final Season Begins panel and have your questions answered by co-creator/executive producer Damon Lindelof and executive producer Carlton Cuse in the show’s final Comic-Con appearance (11:00-12:00, Hall H).

Fans of Fox cartoons won’t want to miss events featuring Family Guy, The Cleveland Show!, the recently resurrected Futurama, and The Simpsons. First Seth McFarlane offers a sneak peek at the Empire Strikes Back parody and discussion of what goes on behind-the-scenes of Family Guy. Next up is a preview of Family Guy spinoff The Cleveland Show! with its creators and voice cast members.  Have a laugh as, according to the Comic-Con website “a top-ranking FOX executive decides live, on stage, whether Futurama will make yet another triumphant return or whether it is gone forever!”  Before joining a panel including creator Matt Groening and showrunner Al Jean for a look at the record-breaking new 21st season of The Simpsons.  The afternoon of laughs takes place in Ballroom 20 (11:15-2:30).

However, if you prefer your comedies a little more musical, you probably watched and loved the preview of Fox’s new series Glee.  The series includes broadway talents Lea Michele (“Spring Awakening”) and Matthew Morrison (“The Light in the Piazza”) and each episode is peppered with catchy songs, like the pilot’s unforgettable version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”.  Realistically I’m not sure how long this show will be able to run before storylines begin to repeat, if it manages to find and hold an audience to begin with.  All the same I loved the pilot and I’m praying that the rest of the season measures up come fall.  Those who attend the panel will be able to judge for themselves as a never-before-broadcast episode is aired, with discussion from Michele, Morrison, and Cory Monteith to follow. (1:30-3:00, Indigo Ballroom).

Or if you’d prefer to stick to science-fiction, there’s a panel for the new Syfy show Warehouse 13 with stars Eddie McClintock, Joanne Kelly, Saul Rubinek, and Allison Scagliotti (2:15-3:15, Room 6A).  If you missed it on Wednesday’s special preview night, there’s another screening of ABC’s midseason show V, featuring a Q&A with stars Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost), Morena Baccarin (Serenity), Joel Gretsch (The 4400), Morris Chestnut (The Cave), and Scott Wolf (Go), along with the show’s executive producers. (2:45-3:15, Ballroom 20).  Between the roller-coaster third season, the departure of a number of the show’s writing staff (including Bryan Fuller), and the rumours of Claire’s lesbian college hookup I’m not sure how much faith I have left in Heroes.  If you’re still willing to give it a chance though, creator Tim Kring will be on hand to answer fan questions and premiere a trailer for Volume 5: Redemption.  The Comic-Con schedule notes that the Q&A will be with Kring and “some of the cast” but doesn’t name names so you’ll just have to see who shows up (3:15-4:15, Indigo Ballroom).

We Control The Vertical: Writing and Producing for Television offers a change of scenery as some of television’s writers and show runners”discuss the writing and production of your favorite television shows, past and present, and share amusing anecdotes from the television trenches.” (4:00-5:00, Room 8 )  Yet I suspect many TV enthusiasts will opt out in order to take in the Fringe panel.  After last season’s buzzed about reveal, I’m sure several fans will be lining up up hear what executive producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman have to say.  Stars Joshua Jackson, John Noble, and Anna Torv are also scheduled to appear. (4:00-5:00, Ballroom 20).

If you missed the Wednesday pilot screenings for Human Target and The Vampire Diaries, here’s your chance to see what you missed.  I imagine the best part of the Human Target panel will be the presence of its stars, Mark Valley (Fringe), Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies), and Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen).  Fans of the original DC Comics series take note; Len Wein, co-creator of the Human Target will also be answering questions at the panel (4:45-5:55, Room 6BCF).

It’s a battle of the vampire shows as HBO’s True Blood and CW’s The Vampire Diaries are scheduled opposite one another… at least at Comic-Con.  The smart money is on True Blood, which just attracted a series high 3.9 million viewers last Sunday, to take a bite out of the competition (5:15-6:15, Ballroom 20).  The likely younger skewing The Vampire Diaries, also based on a series of novels might be able to draw an audience with its teen love story of a good and evil vampire brother at war for the soul of a human girl.  Series stars Ian Somerhalder (Lost), Paul Wesley (Killer Movie), and Nina Dobrev (Degrassi: The Next Generation) will be joined by executive producers and writers for a pilot screening and Q&A. (5:55-7:00, Room 6BCF).

Once you’ve had your share of vampires for the night, there’s a Mythbusters Q&A and sneak peek with series stars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.  The Discovery channel show, about determining the truth behind urban myths through science, will also debut footage from upcoming episodes (7:15-8:15, Room 6BCF).  Or a panel on Showtime’s Weeds, about a suburban mother who begins to sell marijuana after the death of her husband leaves her with financial woes.  The panel will include a Q&A with creator/executive producer Jenji Kohan and some cast members (8:00-9:00, Indigo Ballroom).

The real attraction of the night, However, is the screening of Torchwood: Children of Earth episodes and the Doctor Who special “Planet of the Dead”.  To be perfectly honest, I caught this Doctor Who special over Easter will in Ireland and I was utterly unimpressed.  It’s not something I have an urge to watch again, but with David Tennant soon to depart the role I’m trying to enjoy every last minute of his screentime as the Doctor.  This special finds the Doctor teaming up with Lady Christina, played by Bionic Woman‘s Michelle Ryan, an enigmatic jewel thief.   Together they must restore a double decker bus to Earth after it lands them, and a series of passengers, on a sand planet, without the TARDIS, while an enemy approaches.

I’m considerably more interested in Torchwood’s shortened season, although I admit that this is partially my curiosity about how North American fans will react to the darker third season.  Children of Earth has already aired in the UK and me being the person I am, I have naturally been spoiled for it.  Perhaps the only thing more intriguing than these screenings is what sort of response creator Russell T. Davies will receive during Sunday’s panel from fans.  The screenings run from 7:30-10:00 in room 6DE.

Coming up: Comic-Con for the TV enthusiast schedule for Sunday.

Comic-Con International takes place at the San Diego Convention Center July 23rd-26th.  Full schedules of events and panel descriptions can be found here.

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.