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Big Comic-Con TV Splashes
July 27, 2011  | By Ed Martin

Year after year the annual San Diego Comic-Con feels more like a colorful convention for the television business rather than a mass gathering of comic-book and fantasy enthusiasts. Without question the Con builds bigger buzz for new and current television shows than just about anything else, simply by tantalizing an enormous segment of their existing and/or potential audience through star-filled panels and massive marketing initiatives.

It was a big Con for AMC, which offered an unforgettable panel for The Walking Dead...

A preview trailer that was shown at the start of the session was so powerful that the question and answer period at the end was shortened a bit so that it could be run again. (The harrowing sequences it showcased from Season 2 made Season 1 look like a day at Disney World.) Moderator Chris Hardwick skillfully energized the cast and audience alike. (Their banter redefined the word fresh, which is now the new frak.)


Not surprisingly the panel for NBC's Chuck was a huge draw, in that the upcoming fifth season of this Con favorite is also its last. The cast made clear that throughout their show's bumpy run it was frequently pulled back from the brink of cancellation by the support it received from Con attendees. The session became quite emotional at the end, with series star Zachary Levi near tears.

The session for BBC America's Doctor Who was another major event. (I was unable to attend but have heard glowing reports from reporters who were there.) It marked the first Con appearance by Matt Smith, the actor who plays the current Doctor and is the new Con God. When I talked with Smith at the Entertainment Weekly party he made clear that he was blown away by the total Con experience.


Syfy also had a good Con. The annual panels for the network's scripted hits Eureka and Warehouse 13 were moved this year to one of the convention center's largest ballrooms and drew bigger crowds than ever -- as big as those that assembled in years past for Battlestar Galactica. The media never makes much of a fuss over Eureka but at each of the last five Cons I have attended I have been impressed by the wild enthusiasm of its audience. A session for Syfy's latest hit, Being Human, also struck me as one of the network's most successful panels since those for BSG.

FX stepped up big time at this year's Con with panels for a number of its series including two that have nothing to do with otherworldliness or fantasy (Sons of Anarchy and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and one that does, in its own strange way (Wilfred). Also, FX co-sponsored the annual party thrown by Maxim magazine, which is always a Con highlight.

The panel for Fox's long-delayed series Terra Nova featured a screening of its first episode that filled most of the hour. It seemed to me that the premiere was politely received by the audience but did not make a huge impact. I was seated about midway back from the stage, surrounded by "real people" rather than studio guests in the reserved section up front, and I didn't hear or see anybody getting very excited about what they were watching. I'll have much more to say about Terra Nova, the most ambitious of the 2011-12 broadcast season's new fall series, after its session next week at the Summer Television Critics Association tour.

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