Flippin' through Comic-Con 2008

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Saturday 7:00 a.m.

Lost in the line

Not wanting a repeat of last year, we decide to get a head start on the Saturday sessions by waking up at the butt-crack of dawn in order to get in line to wait for the Heroes and Lost panels, which have been moved to the cavernous Hall H this year. Apparently everyone else had the same idea.

We arrive at the convention center at 7:00 a.m., and the line waiting to get into Hall H is already about 1,000 people deep. On a Saturday morning. We shudder to think at what time the first people in line arrived, but it's probably a safe bet that the hotel maid isn't going to have to make their bed this morning.

Now we play the waiting game with a bunch of attendees armed with laptops, DS Lites, and graphic novels. People will be let into the hall at 9 a.m., and the Heroes panel will begin at 10:30 and Lost will end at 1:00.

The decision to put both of these panels into Hall H shows just how far television has come here at Comic-Con. Last year, both shows were in Ballroom 20, which is about half the size of Hall H. This year, they're moved to a room that can hold almost 6,000 people, and they won't have any problem filling the room to capacity.

As I type this, a kid walks by and "rick rolls" the crowd with a portable iPod stereo system. Lord help us. Don't clap you morons, you're only encouraging him!!

Saturday 10:00 a.m.

We talked to several people in line, and, despite the abundance of Lost related shirts in the crowd, most were here for Heroes. Hall H is filling up quickly, bathroom lines are long, and empty seats are a rare commodity.

Trying to figure out the logistics of our next appointment, we realize strategizing is futile. Comic-Con is not for those who are weak, and it definitely isn't for those who plan to keep a schedule. With top-tier panels occurring simultaneously all day, there's absolutely no way to hit everything we want to see without advanced cloning technology.

Comic-Con has also always been a "fan event," meaning the press doesn't really get any special treatment. There are no reserved seats for journalists, no PR people to help media cut in line, and no cushy press rooms to unload gear and post stories. It's a free for all.

Costumes are out in full force today, and it's no surprise that the most popular choice this year is The Joker, the Heath Ledger version of course.

Saturday 10:30 - 11:15

Heroes panel/rock concert

NBC's Heroes may have had its problems--a shaky season one finale, a tepid second season, and a big break because of the strike--but there's no doubt that its fan base is devoted, almost to a degree of insanity. The Heroes panel feels like more than just a simple Q&A; session--it's an event. The cast is met with ringing applause, video clips are met with gasps, and screaming seems to be par for the course.

Here are the highlights:
--The panel begins with an ad for Sprint, basically, disguised as an interactive Heroes promo.
--The final Webisode in the Going Postal series is shown, and it's just as good/bad as the previous two. But this one has Angela Petrelli in it. And Nissan product placement.
--One of the show's producers, Jeff Loeb, is clearly stalling for time as the panel gets off to a late start. He does the typical "this section over here is supposed to be the biggest Heroes fans! Let's hear it!" He also hands out a few copies of the show's soundtrack. Apparently, traffic from Los Angeles is holding up the talent or they're stuck in an elevator or something.
--The cast comes out, no introductions, they just fan out. Greg Grunberg is taping the fan reaction with a handicam, Hayden is wearing a red dress, Milo is looking stylin', and Quinto is wearing a cool hat. HayLo fans: Milo and Hayden are not, I repeat are not, sitting next to each other.
--Tim Kring comes out with a briefcase strapped to his wrist, CIA style, and says he has a gift for everyone. It's a DVD of episode one for Heroes' third season, dubbed Volume III: Villains. It looks fresh out of the DVD burner. Is he going to show it? He says he's going to show it, and tells everyone to talk about it. Oh yeah, he's showing it.

The cast returns, and HayLo are sitting next to each other now!

A seeing-impaired fan says she has never been able to really see Milo Ventimiglia, so he gives her a hug. Aww...

A fan asks each of the cast members and panelists to describe the next season of heroes in very few words, and they respond: Jack Coleman (HRG): "Fantastico", Hayden (Claire): "Amazing", Milo (Peter): "Melt your head" ,Masi (Hiro): Japaneses gibberish, Greg (Matt): "Sexy", Adrian (Nathan): "You get to see Greg [Grumberg] in a thong", Dania (Maya): "Twisted... for sure", Zachary (Sylar): "Brew-haha", Ali (Niki): "Fantastical", Sendhil (Mohinder): "Deeply dark", James (Ando): "Roller coaster", Cristine (Angela): "Far-out and groovy...." Tim Sales (executive producer): "I'm just grateful", Tim Kring (creator, executive producer): "Adrenaline".

Saturday 12:00 - 1:00

Lost producers get gifty

Lost executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have the best/worst jobs in the world. On one hand, they're behind arguably one of the best television shows in the last several decades, a program that keeps viewers hooked and passionate beyond the small screen. On the other hand, that same rabid fan base is always ready to skewer them when they mess up.

The Lost panel today wasn't anything out of the ordinary for the pair: it largely consisted of a long Q&A; session with fans, featured an exclusive movie clip that gave away a pretty big reveal with regards to the characters in the show, and had a special guest.

Discussions with Cuse and Lindelof are always entertaining, and today was no exception. Here are the panel highlights:

--Everything begins with some sneak peeks at some of the Season Four DVD special features, including a faux documentary on the Oceanic Six, a clip of a segment that puts all the flash-forwards in chronological order, and a segment which features Lindelof and Cuse--the former outfitted with a 2010 Yankees World Series champions shirt and an eye patch, the latter with a moustache and a "Four More Years" Obama shirt. The special features look perfect for hardcore Lost fans.

--Of note on stage is a large box adorned with the Dharma logo. Cuse reveals that it is full of gifts for those that ask questions, and they will try and deliver the best gift with relevance to the question.

--Finally, the "viral" portion of the panel begins, with Lindelof saying that this year's panel has a sponsor--The Dharma Initiative. Sure enough, the two producers are sipping out of Dharma Big Gulp cups, and a man, named Hanz Van Egan (spelling?), enters the stage to talk about recruiting for the Dharma Initiative (there was a Dharma booth on the floor of Comic-Con this year that was recruiting potential members). The man says that the audience made poor candidates for Dharma, and then showed a video of Comic-Con attendees attempting to join Dharma. It was a funny video, and no doubt embarrassing to many who were featured in it. Eventually Hanz announces a list of people who made the cut, and brings them to stage and says they will return.

The Q&A; portion proceeds:

--Jin will still be on the show in "some form." Both Jin and Locke have a lot of story left to tell, and death is a "relative term."

--Cuse's favorite episode is season four's "The Constant," featuring a time-hopping Desmond (probably one of my favorites too), and season one is favorite season. Lindelof opts for the season one finale as his favorite, and loved season four.

--After giving out such practical and normal gifts such as a Lost calendar, an autographed DVD, and a toy panda bear (Jin-related), a fan scolds the pair for a question about the episode in which Jin and Sun are featured on two separate timelines ("Ji Yeon"). In response, Cuse and Lindelof give him a Heroes DVD... probably the funniest thing I've seen at Comic-Con.

--It is revealed that Diane Russo's backstory will be revealed, but not as a normal flashback. "Russo will be in season five," said Lindelof. He gives the first hints on big surprises coming in the next season: They're "going to mix it up," they're "steering away from [the term] 'flashback.'"

--Vincent (the pooch) will be in season five and "it's safe to say that Vincent will make to the end of the show," says Lindelof.

--Cuse can't reveal anything about the Jack and Kate relationship, but personally would like to see them end up together.

--The pair is contemplating giving out a Jack action figure to a fan. Lindelof doesn't think it looks like Matthew Fox at all. A clear set-up. Out walks Matthew Fox, and the place goes nuts. Last year, the panel surprised up with Harold Perrineau, this year they give us Matthew Fox. I love Lost panels.

--Some of the other items given out to fans who ask questions... many of which are downright rad: Faraday's tie (actually worn by Jeremy Davies), a picture of Nicky and Paolo, a six-pack of Dharma beer, Dharma ranch dressing (given to a Hurley look-alike),and an " I asked a Richard Alpert question and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" t-shirt.

--Another clue into the surprise this season: "This season allows us to tell stories in a new exciting way... when season five starts you won't know where and when you are... it will be both on and off island... it will be organized a little differently. "

--The scribbles in Faraday's notebook figures prominently in the fifth season. Get ready for screencaps from the season four DVD!

--Finally the big finale--a Dharma training video is shown, shot by one of the new Dharma recruits. In it, we find that Marvin Candle (the man from the Dharma orientation videos) is really named Pierre Cheng. The video is also shot 30 years in the past, and Cheng says that he and all his colleagues will be dead by the time someone watches this. Cheng then states several facts about the current time, stating that George W. Bush will be president and that people will exchange information over something called "the Internet." He also says a violent purge killed them all and that time isn't of the essence, but rather time is the essence. But the greatest reveal comes in the end, when we hear what appears to be Daniel Faraday's voice off camera. Is Faraday a time-jumper like Desmond? It appears so.

Friday 10:30 - 11:00

Spacin' out!

One of the best comedies never seen in America--the UK's Spaced--was just released on DVD Stateside, and to celebrate the launch, Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes, and Edgar Wright were on hand to chat about the show. If their names sound familiar, it's because they've made a splash over here in the US with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. A lot of the same things seen in those flicks--pop culture references, frenetic editing, and underdogs overcoming odds--can be found in Spaced, and for those looking for some original situation comedy, Spaced is definitely worth checking out.

The series aired in the UK in 1999, but it's taken more than eight years to come across the pond. Actor Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty in the upcoming Star Trek film--nerd cred!) told TV.com that the main reason the wait was so long was because of licensing rights mostly with the music, particularly John Williams score for Star Wars. However, he's glad--as are we--that it finally made it to America.

The DVD features bonus commentary from Spaced fans Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, and Diablo Cody among others, and is available now. Do yourself a favor and check it out... it's a must for fans of pop culture.

We'll have a video interview with Pegg, Hynes, and Wright up later, where they discuss the release, what made the show such a success, and Wright's amazing emo Spider-Man Halloweed costume, which prompted Spider-Man director Sam Raimi to ring Wright up personally and compliment him. And when we asked about the Americanized version of Spaced, which almost got made and was publicly decried by the original creators, Pegg took the high road and simply said, "no comment."

Friday 11:15 - 12:15

Contemplating The Big Bang Theory

The best part of chatting with the cast of The Big Bang Theory is seeing them in their normal dress. Johnny Galecki, who plays Leonard, is "suaved" out, wearing a sportcoat, no glasses, and some styled curly locks on his head. Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon, is slightly closer to his on-screen persona, sporting a simple sweater. Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar don't look like their characters at all, and it's obvious that some kudos need to go out to the wardrobe and make-up people on the show.

We asked the cast about the attraction to the show, and they all said the same thing (perhaps they were groomed to say it, perhaps it was some sort of collective mind). "Everyone wants to see the underdog win," Helberg told TV.com. "People can relate to the characters, they're outsiders, but they're very human," explained Parsons.

Nayyar also said Big Bang Theory's reach goes beyond the US. He spent much of his off-season travelling, and was amazed at how many people approached him on the street, declaring their love for the show. "They read it with subtitles," he said, clearly excited about the fact that Star Trek jokes are being translated into all sorts of languages.

The Big Bang Theory returns to CBS this fall.

Friday 1:45 - 2:45

Runnin' the show with the creators of Lost, Terminator, Gossip Girl, Pushing Daisies, and Chuck

Actors may get all the time in front of the camera, but in terms of really exploring television, the real nitty gritty comes from the men behind the scenes: the showrunners. Entertainment Weekly hosted a panel featuring five of television's brightest TV minds, and even though they're really just talking about "the business," it was every bit as entertaining as the rest of the Comic Con panels.

Participating in the discussion were Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse from Lost, Bryan Fuller from Pushing Daisies, Josh Schwartz from Gossip Girl and Chuck, and Josh Friedman from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The panel darted back and forth between topics, never spending too much time on one subject. Here are the highlights:

--Season two of Pushing Daisies will pick up ten months after the last season, with all characters keeping some sort of secret, many of which will be exposed throughout theseason.

--Chuck will return with the lead character dangling off a roof, telling the story of the first season.

--Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles will start about "two seconds" after the cliffhanger of season one, right in the middle of the explosion that rocked the end of the first season.

--Most of the stories not told on the last season of Lost focused on the Freighter folk, but those storylines will resurface this season. "They'll be different, but better," said Lindelof.

--Fuller on his inspiration for the whimsical Pushing Daisies: "I couldn’t do a show like CSI or Criminal Minds because you have to be in such a negative headspace. I crammed in as many things in [Pushing Daisies] that make me happy, like doggies, pie. Why Pie? Cake is too dry, pie is always moist."

--Chuck will be doing webisodes involving characters at the Buy More store where Chuck works.

--When Lindelof cursed, Fuller pointed out a warning saying that people may be under the age of 18 and panelists shouldn't use foul language. "Well then they're f***ed," Lindelof said.

--The Terminator TV show and upcoming film do not commune, said Friedman, because fans understand that there are different expressions in the mythology. "If I wanted to get Terminator on it, we would say that the two just took different paths [along the Terminator timeline]."

--When dealing with a show that is heavily entrenched in both drama and science fiction, Cuse said "the cake is the character show, and the frosting is the mythology," before altering the metaphor to pie for Fuller's sake.

--After Lindelof says that Dark Night, Indiana Jones 4, and Iron Man are going to be the top grossing films of the year and that "genre" entertainment is clearly becoming the way to go, Schwartz quipped, "Serena [from Gossip Girl] is now a cyborg."

--When asked is there was any character they'd like to see back, Cuse says Mr. Eko, which draws a big round of applause from the audience. Apparently actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje did not like island life, and the producers were forced to end his character arc sooner than they wanted to so he could return to London.

--Fuller is a fan of Battlestar Galactica, and thinks it should have been nominated for a major Emmy. But his favorite show is Project Runway.

--Cuse and Lindelof are working on a new ARG for Lost, surprise!

--Lindelof clearly isn't a fan of the term "Darlton" to refer to Lindelof and Cuse.

--Lindelof promises that the number of questions raised in Lost will diminish, and they know what questions they have left to answer. They didn't know how long the show would be on, but with a clear ending, creating the show is less organic and more planned and now they can address some of the fans' main concerns.

Friday 4:00 - 5:00

Makin' the most with Ghost hosts

Television fans who like their entertainment both scary and real are best served checking out Sci-Fi Channel's Ghost Hunters and the globe-trotting Ghost Hunters: International. The documentary shows follows a team of experts as they investigate paranormal activity with all sorts of gadgets, and the results can be downright bone-chilling.

TV.com spoke with Ghost Hunter: International's lead investigator Robb Demarest and case manager Donna La Croix immediately after their panel, and the tales they told us made the hair on the back of our necks stand at attention. There's no rhyme or reason to which countries feature more unusual activity--Italy is just as haunted as France, they say--but there does seem to be something in common with all their cases: emotion. Ghosts hang around because of a strong emotional attachment to something, said Demarest, explaining his theory on why the things that go bump in the night go bump in the night.

La Croix is returning to the show after a short leave, and she couldn't be happier. Ghost hunting is in her blood, she says, and she's been interested in the field ever since she was young. She also says that while Demarest never gets scared while working, she certainly has her frightening moments.

Ghost Hunters: International is currently airing on Sci-Fi Channel.

Friday 5:00 - 6:30

Ain't no party like an ABC Family party

Finally, some work to do with a little liquid incentive. ABC Family, a splinter of the ABC/Disney family that focuses on entertainment that's fit for all audiences, hosted a cocktail party across the street from the convention center at the Omni Hotel Friday evening. The casual affair was invite only, with a few media outlets mixing it up with stars from Kyle XY and the upcoming mini-series Samurai Girl.

It didn't take long to recognize familiar faces, as we actually rode up in an elevator with Matt Dallas and Jaimie Alexander of Kyle X/Y. OMG, I know! At the event we spoke with Jamie Chung and Stacy Kiebler (who is very tall) of Samurai Girl, as well as both Dallas and Alexander from Kyle XY (video interviews to come later).

This may be a bit out of place, but I've become a huge fan of ABC Family ever since being forced to watch Greek (which I now am a big fan of). The network has a reputation for sugar-coated entertainment, but that isn't the case at all. Greek happens to be one of the more raunchy shows I've ever seen, in fact. ABC Family also has a large stable of young talent, all of whom are incredibly friendly and surprisingly down to Earth.

Kyle XY is currently shooting season three, and Samurai Girl airs September 5.

Thursday 10:00 a.m.

Kings--NBC's new crown?
Put Ian McShane in any show and it immediately becomes watchable. The Deadwood alum trades three-syllable expletives and dusty past for three-piece suits and an alternate future in Kings, a new drama on NBC coming in 2009. Moderated by Heroes' Greg Grunberg, the Kings panel started off with a sneak peek of the show, and... wow.

Going into this, no one really knew what the show was about, other than it was inspired by the biblical story of David and Goliath, but let's just try and paint the picture--in an alternate future, McShane's character, King Silas, lords over a Gotham-esque city as beloved king to the people. Eragon's Christopher Egan--who looks remarkably like a young Matt Damon--right down to the s***-eating grin--plays David, a small-town boy with a destiny to make it in high society and eventually court the king's daughter.

In the peek, we see Silas address his people while dedicating the new capital of Shiloh, which is well CG'd into a New York cityscape. This society, in an unnamed time, is much like our own but slightly cleaner with a slight futuristic bent--it really pops on the screen and sucks viewers in. Soon, we're flash-forwarding to two years in the future where Silas' Kingdom is "still at war" with the Gath, an unidentified enemy.

David is in the trenches staring down a row of Goliath tanks under strict orders not to do anything crazy, like rescue the hostages that have been taken, so of course he goes lone wolf and rescues the hostages. In a tense scene, David sneaks into enemy territory, grabs the hostages, gets them to safety by putting his own life at risk, and takes out a tank with an RPG--it's like live-action Metal Gear Solid, and it's absolutely fantastic. And what do you know? One of the hostages he rescued is the king's son.

But that's just the beginning; the story promises more political intrigue, some forbidden romance, plenty of back-stabbing and crawling over others to get closer to one's own goals, and in Grunberg's own words, "plenty of twists."

Kings comes to NBC in February.

Thursday 11:15 a.m.
First celebrity sighting: walking among the crowd our eagle eyes spotted a good one--Mr. Tom Kenny! You know, from Mr . Show and the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants! Hey, I didn't say it was a good one for you, but it's awesome for me! And guess what... he went into the bathroom! Celebs, they're just like us!

Thursday 12:45 p.m.
Knight Rider press room

After the Knight Rider panel, the producers and cast members filed into a small room where a throng of media outlets, including TV.com, waited to chat them up. The show is, of course, a continuation of the classic Knight Rider starring David Hasselfhoff, but updated to include new gadgets and new storylines. The action-drama initially made the air as a two-hour television movie, and its success prompted NBC to pick it up to a full series (but that was the plan along, right?).

Actor Bruce Davidson, who plays Charles Graiman--father of KITT, told TV.com that the new series progresses not only from the original series, but from last fall's movie as well. The movie was meant to really get the show's foot in the door, so to speak, and that technology is a main focus moving forward. Lead Justin Bruening, who plays the new Michael Knight, agreed, saying that viewers can forget what they learned in the movie as the series takes Knight Rider in a new direction, and went on to say how he would love to have plasma torpedoes on his ride. Actress Deanna Russo, who is even more gorgeous in person than she is on camera, is just happy that she gets to "kick a lot more butt" in the series, and frankly, we are too.

Knight Rider is scheduled to premiere on September 24.

Thursday 4:30-5:50 p.m.
What up, Blood?

Seriously, what is it about vampires? Room 6CDEF is packed to the gills--standing room only--as the panel for HBO's True Blood begins. Showrunner Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, American Beauty), lead Anna Paquin (The Piano, for which she won an Oscar), and author Charlaine Harris, whose books the series are based on, highlight the panelists.

It doesn't take much to get the crowd fired up; a new trailer elicits whoops and hollers from the same people who mourned Moonlight's demise. Yes, the vamp lovers are a peculiar bunch, but True Blood looks to appeal to more than just the "fangbanger" in all of us. A biting (zing!) satire on today's societal norms, True Blood takes place in the not-too distant future where vampires have "come out of their coffins" to the world thanks to the development of synthetic blood by a Japanese scientist. The thinking is that with enough blood to keep them satiated, vampires will no longer pose a threat to mankind (which, from the trailer, looks to be a very wrong assumption).

Paquin stars as Sookie, a waitress in the South that just so happens to have telepathic powers. Because of her "affliction," she tends to stay away from the human dating scene and instantly becomes attracted to a new vampire who comes to town, whose mind she can't read.

Harris admits others have approached her to adapt the novels, but no one really pulled it off to her satisfaction.l "If it hadn't been one of my books [the script was adapted from], I would have been joyed. But because it was one of my books, I was appalled," she said.

Ball promises not to include typical vampire clichés in entertainment--blue light, contact lenses, and opera music--and says that fangs retract like rattlesnake fangs. He wants the vampires to see matter-of-fact and natural. Take away the "super" from "supernatural" and you get a much more believable story. He also mentioned several times that he's sticking as close to the story as possible, something fans of the books will appreciate.

As for the True Blood viral marketing campaign involving a drink that is supposed to be vampire blood, there are no plans to make an actual product out of it. But if it were to be made, Ball says it would consist of "V-8, Valium, Vicodin, and Viagra." Make mine a double.

True Blood debuts on HBO on September 7.

Thursday leftovers

Some quick hits from the CC:

Kevin Spacey sighting on the outdoor patio. He was meeting with some executive types, and looked like he was either working on or closing a deal.

Saw a woman trip and fall over some velvet rope, contents of her purse spilled out on the floor. Lesson: Never mess with the velvet rope.

The cast of Human Giant was in attendance at the TV Funhouse panel. More on that panel... right now.

The TV Funhouse panel was one part train wreck, one part spectacle of hilarity, and often both at the same time. Much of the panel was spent with moderator Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) trying to get the show's host, Doug, up and running on iChat to join in on the panel. But the best part of the convention so far was when Robert Smigel (creator of TV Funhouse and famed for his Saturday Night Live cartoons) brought out Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to belittle Comic Con attendees. We're still in stitches.

Wednesday--pre-show
At tonight's preview event, where 4-day pass members can browse the show floor before the rest of the attendees, Fox is holding two screenings of its most anticipated new show of the season--Fringe! The sci-fi drama, from Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams, stars Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv, and John Noble as an unlikely team that investigates the paranormal and unexplainable.

TV.com will be on hand to get fan reactions to what could be the fall season's biggest hit... or biggest bust.

Be sure to check back for updates!

Wednesday--8 p.m.
Comic-Con is beginning to look familiar as we run into an old nemesis--excruciatingly long lines. Picking up press passes takes more than two hours as everyone with a four-day pass tries to take advantage of Wednesday's preview night, where the show floor opens up only for those who plan to here through Sunday...and there are a lot of them. There are even more people waiting for general passes, but oddly enough, their line moves faster than the much shorter press line.

Passes finally in hand, we're off to check out Fringe...

Wednesday--9 p.m.
A lot of people give their impressions of Fringe to TV.com on camera, and they're overwhelmingly positive, except for one group of youngsters who said it flat-out sucked. Our impression? The show has some serious potential, but does suffer from a bit of "pilot-itis," the condition of trying to cram too much into one episode.

We ask people to rank it among J.J. Abrams' past work (Lost, Cloverfield, Felicity, Armageddon) on the exclusive TV.com "J.J. Meter." Our exploits attract the attention of some Fox reps, who take pictures with camera phones and promise to send them along to Abrams himself, who will apparently love what we're doing. The rep even says we may get a chance to talk to the man in person this weekend. As ginormous Lost fans, our heads explode on the spot. Keep your fingers crossed!

Look for our Fringe fan reaction video sometime next week! After a long day of travel of getting our heads on straight, it's that time: beer-thirty. Tomorrow we'll be dropping in on panels for the new Ian McShane (Deadwood) show Kings, NBC's Knight Rider, HBO's vamp-tastic True Blood, and more.

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