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.

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When Good Shows Go Bad

August 11, 2009

Television Without Pity recently published an item on the “worst of the best”, choosing the worst episodes of great shows including Veronica Mars, House m.d., The Sopranos, and The West Wing.  Even the most consistently good shows have their missteps, those episodes that fail to live up to expectations or, Tv gods forbid, ones so bad you wonder how the episodes ever made it past the writers room.  We console ourselves with those truly great hours of television that we can watch over and over again, including such classics as How I Met Your Mother’s “Slap Bet”, or Doctor Who‘s “Blink”, but what about those entirely forgettable, or worse, memorable for all the wrong reasons, episodes?

Television Without Pity’s comprehensive list covers many of the obvious television missteps, from the “Jack’s tats” episode of Lost (titled “Strangers in a Strange Land”) with guest star Bai Ling, to the preachy Veronica Mars episode “Un-American Graffiti” with its messages about bigotry and underage drinking.  I don’t actually think any Dexter episode has been bad enough to land on one of these lists, but I can see the reasoning behind sticking second season finale “The British Invasion” there, and I was glad to know that I wasn’t the only one disappointed by the Doctor Who Easter special “Planet of the Dead”.  I do, however, have a few additions to their list.  Here are some of my picks for worst of the best:

Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episodes: “The Zeppo” and “Beer Bad”

Buffy steps down he evolutionary chain in "Beer Bad"

Buffy steps down he evolutionary chain in "Beer Bad"

TWoP included Buffy in its list, but chose the poltergeist-inspired sex episode “Where the Wild Things Are” instead.  It’s certainly a worthy choice, as I really can’t remember anything happening in this episode beyond crawling vines, Buffy and Riley having a lot of sex, and a girl hacking off her hair in a closet, but here are a few other possibilities.

“The Zeppo” is, in my opinion, the black mark on my favourite season of the show.  I have some bias here as this is a Xander-centric episode and I’ve never been a fan of the character, but I found the third-season episode, which sees Xander getting a car and spending a harrowing night away from the scoobies, very dull.  This is one of those episodes I rarely re-watch and could wipe from my DVD set without a second thought.

However, the Buffy episode that is truly the worst of the best is the universally loathed “Beer Bad”.  I’d love to know how this was pitched in the writers room and the response it received.  Did it really seem like a good idea on paper?  The episode features Buffy, still hurting from Parker’s rejection after they slept together,  getting drunk with four college boys and waking up the next morning to more than a hangover.  The beer turns them all into Neanderthals and the boys begin a fire that Buffy saves Parker from.  In the episode’s only good moment, Neanderthal Buffy beats him with a club when he apologizes for his actions.

Show: Lost
Episode: The Kate-centric episodes (including “Eggtown” and “Whatever the Case May Be”)

Evangeline Lily plays ex-con Kate Austen in Lost.

Evangeline Lily plays ex-con Kate Austen in Lost.

Since the beginning I’ve had a few issues with Lost.  Plotlines and monsters were introduced only to be forgotten about or never explained and more new characters than should ever be on a supposedly deserted island kept coming out of the woodwork.  The main problem though was consistency and much of this depended on the character who was featured in the episode.  So I came to dread the Kate episodes, preparing for what was bound to be a dreary hour.  As an ex-convict, Kate should really be more interesting than she is.  Instead I find her to be the dullest character on the island, and her episodes about retrieving toy planes, miraculously not being convicted of murder, and being unable to choose between Sawyer and Jack do nothing for me.

Show: How I Met Your Mother
Episode: “The Best Burger in New York”

Regis Philbin guest stars on How I Met Your Mother

Regis Philbin guest stars on How I Met Your Mother

Many shows rely on, or become famous for, their stunt-casting.  Some of them genuinely aren’t that funny without that “special guest star”, but How I Met Your Mother is a genuinely funny sitcom with great characters and some wonderful writing.  It really doesn’t need cameos by Britney Spears, Enrique Iglesias and, in this episode, Regis Philbin, to be hilarious.  The episode revolves around the quest to find a burger place Marshall ate in eight years earlier that served “the best burger in New York” but it just doesn’t have the same sparkle or the heart of other episodes.  The repeating joke of Robin’s burger being the last to arrive isn’t all that amusing, and descriptions of just how good the various burgers taste are only funny for so long.  That said, this is my no means a terrible half hour of television, it just doesn’t live up to the comedy and heart of other episodes.

Lily: This burger is so good, its like Christmas in my mouth. Meat Christmas.
Ted: Its like an angel from heaven landed in
the kitchen of McClaren’s… where the chef killed it and ran it through the meat grinder.
Barney: I love this burger so much I want to sew my ass shut.

Show: Torchwood
Episode: “Cyberwoman”

Ianto's girlfriend Lisa in Cyberwoman

Ianto's girlfriend Lisa in Cyberwoman

Let’s face it, Torchwood didn’t exactly start out as high art.  During the first season the show was campy, tried a little too hard to convince us that it was the darker adult cousin of Doctor Who, and went out of its way to show the fluidity of human sexuality.  It also routinely borrowed and twisted plots from Angel, including having the female lead wake up nine months pregnant by a demon/alien and using an alien/demon who stays alive through sexual intercourse that destroys their partner.

Still, the first season had some good episodes, it’s just that “Cyberwoman” was not one of them.  The first episode focused on mysterious tea boy Ianto Jones revealed that he had been keeping his girlfriend Lisa, partially converted during the Cyberman Invasion (which occurred during the Doctor Who episodes “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”), in the Torchwood Hub basement in hopes of curing her.  Her Cyberman programming soon takes over though and Captain Jack tries to feed her to the resident pterodactyl.  Really the fact that Jack sprays Lisa with special barbeque sauce to help the pterodactyl identify its prey speaks for itself.

Show: Star Trek Voyager
Episode: “Threshold”

Janeway and Paris go through some... changes in "Threshold"

Janeway and Paris go through some... changes in "Threshold"

Not even the writers defend this episode of Star Trek Voyager, which co-executive producer Brannon Braga called a “royal, steaming stinker”.  It has even been unofficially erased from canon by fans and the production staff.

In “Threshold”, Tom Paris takes on a mission to break the Warp 10 barrier in a shuttlecraft.  However he begins experiencing symptoms upon his return and rapidly mutates into a new form of life.  Paris escapes his planned treatment, kidnaps Captain Janeway, and steals the shuttlecraft.  Here’s where we get to the bad part because the cast of Voyager track the shuttle only to find two amphibious creatures and their three offspring(!)  Luckily there is enough human DNA remaining for the ships’ Doctor to reverse the mutation and restore them to normal.  Lizard mating?  This is another one that speaks for itself.

Show: Dead Like Me
Episode: Dead Like Me: Life After Death movie

George faces off against new leader Cameron.

George faces off against new leader Cameron.

I absolutely love Dead Like Me and it is certainly at the top of my “gone but not forgotten” list of shows cancelled before their time.  The show, which followed the unlife of Georgia Lass after she is hit by a flying toilet seat and becomes a grim reaper, was full of colour, thoughtful, and found the humour in death to great success.  Its cancellation after just two seasons, and for no apparent reason, was disappointing but fans found hope in the news that there would be a direct-to-DVD movie.

I’m glad I read the reviews about the film before watching it or I would have been sorely disappointed.  It isn’t that the movie is bad, so much as it just isn’t the Dead Like Me we knew and loved.  The role of Daisy Adair was recast, as Laura Harris was committed to another project, and replacement Sarah Wynter always felt “off” to me.  At that time Mandy Patinkin was starring in Criminal Minds and his lead reaper Rube Sofer was replaced with a new character, played by Lost star Henry Ian Cusick.  I enjoyed the subplot with George’s sister Reggie, which answered the question left open in the show’s series finale about whether or not Reggie had recognized her sister in the graveyard, but the movie just didn’t have the same feel as the series.  The real pity is that Harris’ show Woman’s Murder Club was cancelled that year and Patinkin famously departed Criminal Minds.  If the movie had been delayed, the whole cast could have reunited.

And one for the road…

Although I’ve seen most of Star Trek: The Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager, I haven’t seen more than one episode of the original series and don’t have a strong desire to do so.  I haven’t included episodes generally regarded to be poor unless I have seen them myself but this is my one exception to the rule.  “Spock’s Brain” seems to have the same universal loathing in fans of the original series that “Beer Bad” inspires in Buffy fans.  The synopsis seems to be that aliens steal Spock’s brain and that the episode is, according to this site, “the most sexist hour of television that I’ve ever seen.”

But wait – there’s more!  It’s featured on a website called the agony booth under the “Worst of Trek” title, and a website featuring fan created Star Trek motivational posters has one just for the episode which says the following:

Spock’s Brain

Look, not every episode can be “City on the Edge of Forever,” okay?

I’m sure my list will continue to grow as I discover new shows and as my favourites misstep but these are my “worst of the best” so far.  I’d love to hear other ideas though, feel free to let me know some of your “worst of the best” television episodes!


Thoughts on Torchwood: CoE

August 2, 2009

children+of+earthIt’s been a week since day five of Torchwood: Children of Earth aired here in North America, and although I did mention the Save Ianto Jones campaign, I haven’t actually written about my thoughts on the miniseries.  Although I generally have positive comments about ‘Children of Earth’, it is my firm belief that it works only as a series finale.  Unfortunately, all signs seem to indicate that there will be a fourth season of the show, with creator/writer Russell T. Davies in charge and stars John Barrowman and Eve Myles returning.  Wondering why I wish this was the swan song for the Torchwood team?  Keep reading.

Upping the Stakes

What ‘Children of Earth’ did well was up the stakes for Torchwood.  In previous seasons, the show mainly focused on an ‘alien-of-the-week’ formula, similar to the old ‘freak-of-the-week’ familiar to fans of Smallville during its earliest seasons.  The show mixed humour with drama, and even the possibility of the world ending was faced with deadpan humour by the Torchwood team.

Owen: What if they can’t stop it?
Tosh: They’ll stop it.
Owen: Yeah, but if they can’t?
Ianto: Then it’s… all over.
Owen: Let’s all have sex.
Ianto: And I thought the end of the world couldn’t get any worse.

‘Children of Earth’ featured one story arc unfolding over five episodes and dealt with a much greater threat than the Torchwood team had faced before.  The problem with this was that it didn’t allow for a continued build-up of evil.  If the show is going to return how can it top this latest series?  As far as villains go, how much worse can you get than an alien race who wants to use 10% of the Earth’s children in order to get high?

American science-fiction dramas, which creator Davies has said influenced Torchwood, have used escalating evil very successfully during their multi-season runs.  In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the title slayer begins by facing one ancient vampire, escalates to facing a pure demon, and dies facing a god, while the final season pits Buffy and her friends against the first evil itself.  Its spin-off Angel has a similar pattern of escalating evil.  During the first season the vampire with a soul takes on weekly cases, but by the series’ final year, Angel and his team face a powerful group of foes and must wrestle with the morality of working at an evil law firm that keeps demons and vampires as clients.

Torchwood: Children of Earth certainly built on the evils shown in its first two seasons but I believe it went too far too fast and did not follow a natural progression but jumped ahead to a future evolution, like in H.G. Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’.  Torchwood very quickly became a tense melodrama rather than a sometimes light-hearted drama.  This change in tone is not necessarily a bad thing, but it comes with the price of not being able to go back to simpler times.  The remaining members of the Torchwood team have been too affected by the events of ‘Children of Earth’ to go back to being who they were before, and the show has now lost the ability to play between the lighter comedic moments and serious drama.

This change particularly affects Captain Jack Harkness, a character who was so refreshing because he had elements of the common brooding heroic figure with a dark past, but was also capable of being a flirtatious rogue.  Having watched his lover die and sacrificed his grandson, it is safe to say that we will no longer see that half-brooding, half-flirting Jack Harkness who takes it on the chin, and if we do, what does that say about him?  Is he a character we want to know and who we can sympathize with, or is he a monster?

Kill ‘Em All

the original Torchwood team.

the original Torchwood team.

However, my main issue with ‘Children of Earth’ is that it has taken the ‘anyone can die’ theme to the extreme.  Certainly television characters who constantly face danger must occasionally die; if they didn’t then the viewer would never believe that their favourite characters were in any real danger, but Torchwood has gone to the opposite extreme and killed three of its main characters in the span of five episodes.  This is worsened by the fact that the show’s ensemble cast was not large, like the casts of Lost or Heroes, but only had five people to begin with.

The idea of creating a dramatic ending by killing off multiple characters has been used in many mediums, including the Harry Potter series where the final battle results in the loss of fan favourites Lupin, Tonks, and Fred Weasley.  The problem here is that it isn’t the end for Torchwood.  If ‘Children of Earth’ was not an extraordinary occurrence but a regular week in the life of the Torchwood team, do we really want to continue watching such a dark series on a weekly basis?

While I certainly appreciate the need to write-off characters and show the cost attached to working for an organization like Torchwood, I worry about a show that kills off characters so quickly and recklessly.  Doing so doesn’t give the remaining members of the Torchwood team a chance to realize their grief about Tosh and Owen, who were only briefly mentioned at the beginning of ‘Children of Earth’, before killing Ianto.  This is not drama but melodrama, a never-ending tragedy.

Recently there have been comparisons between Davies and Buffy creator Joss Whedon, both of whom have no problem killing lead characters.  The difference for me is that Whedon doesn’t lightly kill a character for the sake of dramatic effect then seek to replace them.  Tara’s devastating death was not only the catapult for Willow turning to dark magic, but continued to be mentioned through Willow’s guilt over beginning a new relationship, her receiving messages, apparently from Tara, in the episode “Conversations with Dead People”, and a visit to her grave.   Although Willow did begin a new relationship, Tara was always remembered.  I worry that Tosh, Owen, and Ianto, will not be remembered in the same way and this takes away the meaning their deaths may have had.

Unfortunately Davies has made his attitude towards his characters clear.  In an interview with EW’s Michael Ausiello, Davies has this to say about continuing the show after killing half the cast:

I will just sit down and invent new stories and characters. That’s what I’ve spent my entire life doing. It’s not difficult at all. I could write the first 10 scenes in an episode right now.

The flippancy with which Davies claims he will just sit down and invent new characters is problematic.  To kill characters for a reason after a story arc is one thing, but to kill them for the sake of melodrama when their stories are unfinished is another.  Tosh, Owen, and Ianto were characters who the audience had come to care for over the course of two thirteen-episode seasons.  Since Davies has not introduced any new potential characters, except perhaps office assistant Lois Habiba, will he be killing off team members shortly after they are introduced?  Do viewers want to sit down and bother investing in the story and new characters if Davies is just going to kill them four episodes later?

Death of the Coffee Boy

The death of Ianto Jones

The death of Ianto Jones

Although I am a fan of the Ianto Jones character, it is not the fact that he died, rather than Gwen Cooper or Rhys, that bothers me but the way in which he died.  Although Ianto’s death was clearly conceived to be a great dramatic moment, all I kept thinking was how poorly plotted it was.  Senseless deaths happen in real life, so moments like Tara, shot by a stray bullet meant for Buffy, or even Kutner on House m.d., committing suicide seemingly out of the blue, I understand.  I also understand making a final stand against a great evil, which accounts for the deaths of Anya and many a potential slayer in the seventh season of Buffy, or the other Torchwood deaths of Tosh and Owen in “Exit Wounds”.  What irks me are deaths that the writers clearly mean to be purposeful but that the viewer sees as absolutely preventable.

I always found Charlie’s death on Lost to be a prime example of this, although some people have since explained that the hanger door he closed could only be locked from the inside and that was why he couldn’t save himself.  I do still think that since this obviously confused many people, and for me cheapened his heroic death, the writers should have articulated it better.

I find Ianto’s death to be problematic for much the same reason; it was entirely preventable if the characters had stopped to think at all.  This was death for the purpose of melodrama.  Why else would Jack, the man who tried to convince Gwen not to go along with Captain John Hart because it was dangerous and she might get hurt, take the all too mortal Ianto along with him to essentially peeve the aliens by telling them you’re not going to obey their commands?  There was no reason for Ianto to be there, except to die a horrible death in Jack’s arms.

Davies’ response, that someone had to die because “The threat to the world was just so great it simply would have been unlikely if everyone had survived,” indicates that there was no purpose to Ianto’s death except that he seemed to think someone should die.  What Davies doesn’t get is that someone did die, a child at that, not to mention the others involved in the 1965 deal with the 456.  Did their deaths mean less because they were not main characters?  Perhaps they haven’t provoked the fan response that Ianto’s demise did but I hardly think no one was sacrificed.  I doubt audiences were unaffected watching John Frobisher kill his wife and two daughters, and finally himself, because he couldn’t stand to watch them suffer the fate of the original eleven children.

The Ego Has Landed

Russell T. Davies

Russell T. Davies

Clearly I disagree with Davies’ decisions, particularly his idea that someone has to die in order to create drama or make danger believable.  There are other ways to create drama and killing characters does not make something good.  Certainly the 456 were fuel for nightmares, but despite all the insistence that Torchwood is “darker”, “sexier” and an “adult show”, episodes of Doctor Who have created better drama and been scarier, including “Blink”, which will ensure that, regardless of your age, you never look at a statue in the same way ever again.

What annoys me even more than the moments of sloppy writing towards the end of ‘Children of Earth’, is Davies himself.  I remember first being introduced to the man’s writing through a thought-provoking TV movie “The Second Coming”, and then of course through the new Doctor Who.  Certainly he’s a capable writer who has written some great episodes, such as “Turn Left” and “Midnight”.  Yet there are other great writers in the world.  Personally I love novelist George R.R. Martin, comic and television writer Brian K. Vaughan, Dead Like Me creator Bryan Fuller, Joss Whedon, and fellow Doctor Who scribes Paul Cornell and Stephen Moffat.  So I am a fan of Russell T. Davies’ writing, but not of his ego.  I am even impressed by the way he has been treating his fans.

In a previous entry I detailed the current campaign to save Ianto Jones.  I don’t have any hope whatsoever that it will be successful in reviving the character, and that’s a shame, but regardless it is a labour of love for fans who miss a character and should not be so easily dismissed.  More importantly, the fans of Ianto and actor Gareth David Lloyd have currently donated 4500 pounds to charity.  So when I read interviews with Davies where he tells fans who didn’t like ‘Children of Earth’ to “go watch Supernatural, because those boys are beautiful. And don’t tell me they’re brothers.  Not in my mind.” I get angry.  To put down the very fans who have kept you on the air for three years and to dismiss Ianto as nothing more than a pretty face, or his relationship with Jack as simply eye candy, is a low blow in my mind.

He has also said, regarding the backlash, “It’s not particularly a backlash. What’s actually happening is, well, nothing really to be honest. It’s a few people posting online and getting fans upset.”  Yet the 4500 pounds were hardly raised by a few people, and www.saveiantojones.com has received 59,165 hits.  Davies has also mocked those sending coffee to the BBC, claiming only 9 packets have been received although tallies indicate a number in the hundreds, and called upset fans “nine hysterical women.”

I agree that a writer can’t always pander to fan reaction.  Sometimes characters will be killed regardless of how much audience members enjoyed them, and they will stay dead.  What I have a problem with is the way that Davies has been treating a group of fans who have done nothing more than show their love for a character and raise money for a charity that will benefit children!  Surely there is a polite and respectful way to tell fans that although you appreciate their support over the years and understand their love for Ianto, he will unfortunately not be coming back, but you are touched by their efforts to raise money for charity in the character’s name.

Lessons Learned

New head writer Moffat.

New head writer Moffat.

I don’t have a great desire to watch another season of Torchwood, although I am confident that there will be one given the ratings ‘Children of Earth’ received.  To be honest, I am far more interested in seeing how new head writer Stephen Moffat handles Doctor Who with eleventh doctor Matt Smith and companion Amy Pond.  What I do hope is that he has learned from Davies both what to do and, more importantly, what not to do with the characters he has inherited.  Hopefully he has learned that an avoidable death is not heroic but melodramatic, no matter how much rising music plays in the background, and that characters can be written out and drama occur without killing the entire cast.  But the lesson I hope Moffat has learned from his predecessor most of all is how to talk respectfully to fans, because belittling them or forbidding them to disagree with you is clearly not the way.


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.”


Save the Coffee Boy, Save the World!

July 25, 2009

Ianto bigThe old saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, but by now BBC Wales is probably thinking that a more appropriate comparison would be “Hell hath no fury like an angry fan”.  Over the past few weeks their mailboxes have been collecting letters, postcards, and most significantly, coffee packets, from fans around the world, and I expect that last night will increase those numbers.

So why exactly are the BBC enjoying free instant coffee?  For that they have creator and writer Russell T. Davies to blame or thank.  His five episode season of the sci-fi drama Torchwood wraps up tonight on North American television stations, but for many fans the season, and the show, effectively ended when the much-loved character Ianto Jones breathed his last breath of poison and died in his lover’s arms.

The death of a character is always a difficult blow for fans of a television show, but it has been a particularly difficult couple of years for Torchwood fans.  Perhaps drawing from its American science-fiction inspirations, including the Joss Whedon helmed Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Davies has been emulating the Whedon principle of “everyone could die” of late.  At the end of last year’s second season, audiences watched as Toshiko Sato and Owen Harper died to save the world.  With a cast as small as Torchwood‘s loosing two characters was nearly half the cast in one blow.  So when the series returned for a much awaited shortened season, fans were expecting to see the team grow and take on new members while still grieving the losses of their teammates.

The grief is certainly present, especially in one scene where Gwen Cooper says good morning to a photograph of her deceased co-workers, and there is even one potential new team member in Office aide Lois Habiba.  What audiences weren’t expecting was yet another death, this time fan favourite Ianto Jones.

Ianto Jones has perhaps come the furthest over the course of the series, beginning as an attractive, but not hugely significant, assistant to the Torchwood team.  During the second season, his deadpan sense of humour was showcased, he took on a more active role within the team, and he began a relationship with team leader Captain Jack Harkness.  The relationship was very much against the odds, as one of Jack Harkness’ defining qualities is his ability to flirt with both genders in any situation.  The third season brought up the problem of Jack’s immortality and the fact that he is doomed to watch everyone he loves die before him, as well as Ianto’s insecurities about his first homosexual relationship.  Still the relationship was a hit with fans, who began to ‘ship the pairing as “Janto”.

The abrupt end to Ianto’s life, near the end of the fourth episode, immediately angered fans and sparked a response.  Just moments after the death occurred fans began a movement to save Ianto Jones, aided by social networking sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Livejournal.  As I mentioned in my article on Torchwood: Children of Earth I was actually spoiled by way of twitter.  I was aware that Torchwood was airing in the UK and when “Ianto” popped up as a trending topic I just knew.

Save the Coffee Boy LJ

Save the Coffee Boy LJ

Although Ianto’s death is a fresh wound for unspoiled North American viewers, UK fans saw the episodes just over two weeks ago.  In that short span of time a campaign has mobilized, with fans setting up the website www.saveiantojones.com, which had already received 38 783 hits as of late Friday night.  The website includes suggestions on how to politely express discontent with the plot twist through social networking sites, sending letters, and making donations.

At the forefront of this campaign is “The Great Coffee Protest”.   The idea follows in the footsteps of Save Our Show campaigns waged successfully by fans of shows like Roswell, Jericho, and Chuck.  Roswell fans sent mini tabasco bottles (the favourite condiment of the show’s alien characters) to the WB en masse in order to get the show renewed for a second season, while Jericho fans sent nuts to CBS “in reference to the shows final episode, in which the main character referenced the Battle of the Bulge when he answered “NUTS” to a request to surrender.”  The network reportedly received over 8 million nuts, leading to the CBS president Nina Tassler ordering seven more episodes of the show.  Although the show was once again cancelled at the end of these seven episodes, a continuation of the show’s storylines in a comic form has already been announced for later this year.  Fans of NBC’s spy dramedy Chuck may well haved saved the show with a “Save Chuck” campaign that utilized social networking sites like Twitter to spread the word.  Fans also purchased footlong submarine sandwiches from the series’ sponsor Subway on the air date of the second season finale in the “Finale and Footlong” campaign, and donated money to the American Heart Association in NBC’s name through their “Have a Heart, Renew Chuck” campaign.

Art for the Save Ianto Jones campaign created by LJ user scarper493

Art for the Save Ianto Jones campaign created by LJ user scarper493

Fans of Ianto Jones are seeking similarly positive results by encouraging other fans to send packets of coffee to BBC Wales as a protest against the character’s death. SaveIantoJones also encourages fans to send a complaint via the BBC Website, has a list of petitions to sign protesting the death, and has suggested that fans should send postcards from their hometowns with “Wish you were here coffee boy.” on them.  This speaks to the impact that this character has had and also to his international appeal.  The Livejournal community for the campaign has set up a thread where posters record what letters or coffee packets they have sent and their location.  Replies have indicated that fan responses are coming from not only the UK, but also Canada, Germany, Italy, Romania, Australia, America, Poland, Ireland, Finland, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium, and Sweden.

Even if their campaign does not produce the desired results, Save Ianto Jones is making a difference.  One fan has begun a justgiving page where fans can donate to the wonderful UK charity Children in Need in honour of Ianto Jones.  Fans from any country can donate and paypal accounts are accepted.  Fan efforts made the BBC news on Friday, and fans have currently donated over 2700 pounds in Ianto’s name.

Organizers of the campaign have encouraged fans to be respectful and polite in their complaints and to avoid dragging actors John Barrowman (who played Ianto’s lover Captain Jack Harkness), and Gareth David-Lloyd himself, into the middle of it.  With the Doctor Who and Torchwood panels at Comic-Con set to occur this weekend, with Russell T. Davies himself on the panel, those behind the campaign are emphasizing respect and asking that anyone attending the panels wear an armband or T-shirt with the website address as a show of support.

Unfortunately creator Russell T. Davies has been nothing but patronizing towards fans (more on that in a future post), calling the campaign “nothing really to be honest” and saying “it’s a few people posting online and getting fans upset.”  He’s also ruled out chances of Ianto coming back, telling EW columnist Michael Ausiello that “it would devalue the entire plot if we brought him back.”  Still, fans are hoping that money and ratings talk, at least to the network who have power over Davies and Torchwood.

Actor Gareth David-Lloyd

Actor Gareth David-Lloyd

As for the man behind Ianto, actor Gareth David-Lloyd had this to say: “First of all I’d say thank you for watching and supporting the show. It’s partly due to you that Ianto’s been able to grow into the character that he became in the end. Also, trust the writers. I know there have been some negative reactions to the writers and producers but they created Ianto in the first place. You should keep watching, you never know!”


Torchwood Returns to TV

July 20, 2009

children+of+earthIf you’re a North American fan of Torchwood, then you’re already well aware that Captain Jack Harkness and his team will return to television tonight after more than a year’s absence.  The third season, a five-part miniseries that will run on consecutive weeknights, was originally broadcast during the week of July 6th-10th in the UK, but this is the first chance American and Canadian viewers have to see it on air.

Set in Cardiff, the series follows Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), a character introduced in the Doctor Who episode “The Empty Child”, as he investigates extraterrestrial and supernatural threats with a team known as Torchwood.  Harkness is a 51st century “omnisexual” con-man who cannot die or age, and Cardiff just happens to be the location of the Whoverse equivalent of the Hellmouth, a rift.  This rift in time and space has resulted in Cardiff becoming a hotspot for paranormal activity, and the Torchwood Institute, an agency “outside the government, beyond the police,” protects mankind from alien threats.

Creator Russell T. Davies has  said that Torchwood was inspired by American Sci-Fi dramas like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.  This link was especially apparent when James Marsters (who played Spike on Buffy and Angel) guest-starred last season as the roguish Captain John Hurt.

Initially a spin-off of Doctor Who with more mature content than plot, Torchwood has evolved into a dark but involving sci-fi series in its own right.  The second season finale left the team devastated and down two members, as Toshiko Sato (Naoko Mori) and Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) died protecting Cardiff from destruction.  Torchwood: Children of Earth focuses on the remaining team members Harkness, former Police Officer Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles), and Ianto Jones (Gareth David-Lloyd), who started as the “teaboy”, grew into a witty, full-fledged team member and eventually began a relationship with Captain Jack.  Gwen’s husband Rhys (Kai Owen) also plays a major role.

Tonight, Torchwood finds itself dealing with an alien threat once more as all the children on earth freeze at the exact same moment in time.  Unfortunately, they must not only protect the rest of the human race but also themselves, as the government puts a hit on the Torchwood team members.

A fourth series of the drama has not yet been commissioned, but creator Russell T. Davies previously stated that a fourth season was ready to go, its airing dependent on the ratings of the third season.  Given the good numbers for the UK third season (the final episode pulled in 5.8 million viewers and won its timeslot), and largely positive reviews, I imagine that a fourth season is likely.

I have been spoiled for the series, oddly enough through a twitter trending topic., and as a Canadian fan I’ll warn other Canadians to avoid twitter for the nine to ten PM hour these five nights.  BBC America is airing the series earlier than the Canadian channel Space and you might accidently be spoiled.

Without spoiling anything though, the key word here is dark, as the series severely tests the Captain Jack voiceover that precedes each episode, telling viewers that “Torchwood is ready”.  As one reviewer remarked, “the recognizable intro is noticeably missing from the new miniseries, Torchwood: Children of Earth, letting viewers know right from the start that everything is about to change.”  Let’s just hope it’s still recognizable at the end of the series.

Torchwood: Children of Earth airs July 20th-24th at 8:00 PM on BBC America and at 10:00 PM on Space.

It will be released on DVD on July 28th.


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

July 16, 2009

As I write the last of four articles on the panels related to television at this year’s Comic-Con, I can’t help but consider just how long it has taken me.  Scrolling through the list of Comic-Con programming nearly a week ago, I decided that, given the increased number of shows represented in San Diego this year, I would dedicate a few articles to summing up the events targeted to people more interested in television than comic books.  Yet summing up the event has resulted in three posts, this will be the fourth, all of which are over 1000 words.  This is a testament to the sheer size of San Diego Comic-Con 2009, and to the amount of television programming featured this year.

Writing these articles has certainly made me consider what I would like to see if I attended Comic-Con.  Even though I haven’t seen the third season yet (it will be released on DVD in mid-August) I would like to attend the Dexter panel.  Additionally, I wouldn’t want to miss the Big Bang Theory panel.  I’m hoping it will get some of the recognition it deserves during tomorrow’s Emmy nominations, although I wouldn’t put money on it.  I would even join the crowds to see TV Guide’s Sci-Fi Hot List and the Entertainment Weekly panel “Female Power Icons in Pop Culture”.  But the panel I would most like to see is Sunday’s panel on Doctor Who.

who

The big draw here is the combination of writer/executive producer Russell T. Davies and departing Doctor David Tennant.  Davies, the man behind such projects as Queer as Folk and The Second Coming, as well as new Who spin-offs The Sarah Jane Chronicles and Torchwood, has announced that he will be leaving when David Tennant regenerates, in the last of five specials set to air before season five.  Davies will be replaced by Steven Moffat, the writer responsible for some of the new series’ best episodes, which include Blink and The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances.

As for David Tennant, his boyhood fantasy fulfilling tenure as the Doctor will come to an end in 2010, when he will regenerate into his eleventh incarnation, played by relative newcomer Matt Smith.  Although Christopher Eccleston was the first Doctor for a new generation of fans, David Tennant has earned a place in the hearts of most as “their” doctor.  In 2006 Tennant even beat out favourite Tom Baker to be voted “Best Doctor” by readers of Doctor Who Magazine.

The Comic-Con panel, featuring Davies and Tennant, will also include director Euros Lyn and executive producer Julie Gardner.  BBC America reports that “David will travel to Comic-Con, fresh from the Doctor Who set, having shot his final scenes as the tenth Time Lord.  He and fellow panelists will discuss the latest incarnation of television’s longest running science fiction series and take questions from the floor.  There will also be exclusive sneak peeks from the upcoming specials”. (10:00-11:00, Ballroom 20).

If you’re not a big fan of Doctor Who, there are other panel choices, including a Q&A session on animated series The Spectacular Spider-Man. Fitting in nicely with the kid friendly theme to much of Sunday’s programming, the show follows Peter Parker as a 16-year-old struggling to conceal his secret identity and survive high school.  Cast and crew attending include supervising producers and character designers, as well as voice actors Josh Keaton, Kelly Hu, and Robert Englund (10:00-11:00, Room 6A).  Also kid friendly is the panel on Disney Channel’s #1 animated series Phineas & Ferb.  Creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff Marsh, plus Vincent Martella, who voices Phineas, will talk about what happens behind the scenes of the show (10:00-11:00, Room 6DE).

Although I used to watch Smallville, and I mean the first three or four seasons, I’ve abandoned it for better content.  It was a great concept, but the writers have long since broken their original “no flights, no tights” rule and even without watching the show I’m aware of how last season’s finale disappointed many a fan with the death of Jimmy Olsen, and subsequent reveal that he was not the Jimmy Olsen of Superman mythology, his younger brother was.   But with the show going into its ninth season, it’s clear it still has fans.  If you’re one of those still watching, this year’s panel includes cast members Alison Mack (Chloe), Erica Durance (Lois), Cassidy Freeman (Tess Mercer), Justin Hartley (Oliver Queen), and new series star Callum Blue (Zod), as well as the current showrunners.  The session will be moderated by Jeph Loeb, formerly of Heroes (10:30-11:30, Room 6BCF).

Back on the animated side of things are the panels Cartoon Voices II, featuring a gathering of the top cartoon voice actors (11:15-12:30, Room 6A), and “Nickelodeon Presents”, which will screen new episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, Fairly OddParents, and The Penguins of Madagascar (11:15-12:15).  Additionally, American Dad showrunners Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman will join stars Seth MacFarlane, Wendy Schall, and Dee Bradley Baker for an inside look at how the show is made (11:15-12:15, Ballroom 20).  If you want to be one of those stars, be sure to attend the Business of Cartoon Voices panel, which gives you “a serious “how to” look at the business telling you what it takes to get in and how to avoid getting ripped-off.” (1:00-2:00, Room 2).

Ready for more science-fiction?  Start with the Supernatural panel featuring creator/executive producer Eric Kripke and stars Misha Collins and Jim Beaver.  With the show now entering its fifth, and possibly last, season, fans of the CW drama will be excited about the exclusive clips from upcoming episodes and the airing of special features that will appear on the soon to be released fourth season DVD set… even without the presence of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as the demon-hunting Winchester brothers (11:45-12:45, Room 6BCF).

Continue the supernatural theme by attending the Ghost Whisperer panel, where the cast and crew will present a first look at clips from the upcoming season.  Series stars Jennifer Love Hewitt and David Conrad will be present. (1:00-2:00, Room 6BCF).  Then attend BBC America’s back-to-back panels on Being Human and Torchwood. Being Human, about the lives of three twentysomethings, a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost, will present a panel which features creator Toby Whithouse and stars Russell Tovey, Lenora Crichlow, and Aidan Turner.  The more interesting of the two, in my opinion, is the Torchwood panel though.  As I stated in my last article I may not have seen Torchwood: Children of Earth yet, but I have been spoiled enough to wonder how fans will react to the five episode series.  With the panel including the same people present at the morning’s Doctor Who gathering, but with the substitution of star John Barrowman for David Tennant, it’s certainly one to watch.  My only regret is that it doesn’t include more cast members.  Barrowman seems to enjoy innuendo more when it’s with his fellow actors.  Just check out the abundant Youtube footage of last year’s San Diego Comic-Con with Barrowman, Naoko Mori, and Gareth David-Lloyd (2:15-3:45, Ballroom 20).

If you’re a Whedon fan, spend the afternoon with some Browncoats, fans of Joss Whedon’s short-lived series Firefly who actively participate in the show’s fandom, for the Browncoats Fan Group Meeting.  According to Comic-Con, “Fans of Firefly and Serenity are welcome to join the California Browncoats. Get the scoop on upcoming ‘verse-related and ‘verse-friendly events and products that you’ll really love, learn about Waterkeeper Alliance, the charity the group is supporting this year. Drop by any time to join the fun and find out what the Browncoats are up to, but those arriving by 12:20 can enter to play Serenity Spin—put your ‘verse-related trivia to the test to win shiny (12:00-2:00, Room 24A).

Finally, finish Comic-Con with a screening of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode “Once More With Feeling”.  Fans are encouraged to participate by “singing and shouting and dancing in the aisles, with or without your dry cleaning!”  As a Buffy fan, I can’t imagine a better way to top off Comic-Con International.  I only wish I could be there to sing along (4:00-5:00, Ballroom 20).

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.