A First-Timer’s Account of San Diego Comic Con 2013 – Day 3

For years, I have wanted to go to the infamous San Diego Comic Con. The ultimate nexus of all things pop culture. This year, thanks to my cousin agreeing to go with me, I made my way. This is the account of my 4-day experience at the center of all things nerd.

DAY 3

While Friday was all about Nikita for me, Saturday was all about How I Met Your Mother. I wanted badly to be in Hall H Saturday for all the movie panels, plus EW’s Women Who Kick Ass panel (which featured, among 4 others…Maggie Q! Duh, I would do almost anything for Maggie!), but decided against camping out starting at 3:00 in the afternoon Friday (I’m fairly certain I remember reading a tweet that people were already camped out at that time). I also decided against lining up for my chance at autographs again (on deck for today would have been Arrow, HIMYM). So like I said, Saturday = How I Met Your Mother. Now HIMYM might not seem like a typical show to be featured at SDCC, but we all knew well that regardless of that, the panel was going to be well attended. So making our way to the Indigo Ballroom, situated at the Hilton next to the convention center, my cousin and I waited in line at 7:30 A.M., and yes, there was already quite the line in front of us when we arrived.

By the time we got into the Indigo, we had to wait out two other panels before getting to our main event. The first was Machinima, a website/YouTube video network focused on the gaming community. This panel in particular, was focusing on fan films. Similar to my feelings about the World of Heroes panel, it was really cool to see and find out about all this original/creative content. There was only one name in the panel that I recognized and that would be Kevin Tancharoen, who was there for his Mortal Kombat: Legacy webseries. I, however, know him best as a former dancer/choreographer for Britney Spears, during the “In The Zone” era.

Machinima panel

Machinima panel

The second panel was for Geek and Sundry, Felicia Day’s video network. I had no idea what this was coming into SDCC, and when I have time, will now have to check out the shows she has on her YouTube network. It all just seemed really fun and cool. Felicia Day was obviously on the panel, as well as frequent Geek and Sundry contributor Wil Wheaton (all I hear in my head is Sheldon from Big Bang Theory yelling “WHHEEEAAAAATTTOONNNNN!!!”)

Geek and Sundry panel, with Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton

Geek and Sundry panel, with Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton

And then came How I Met Your Mother! Right before the panel began, there were some awesome fans who began to chant “Shrimp fried rice! Shrimp fried rice!”, which was obviously then followed by “CAN-A-DA! CAN-A-DA!” I had to represent and chant along to “CAN-A-DA!” before it quickly died off. The panel then started with a special video, that seemed like it was just the start of the first episode of the next season. Before I knew it, I started hearing censored expletives coming from Ted’s grown kids (aka Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie), cursing out their dad for spending eight years telling his story. It was SO FREAKIN’ HILARIOUS!! CBS has already made the video available online, so go watch it if you haven’t already. After the video finished, the cast and producers came out to massive applause, like the rockstars they were. Honestly, for a show that apparently had no right/reason to be at SDCC (said certain people on the internet after the announcement was made), you never would’ve guessed it by the reception they received. For me, it was just so much fun being in that room with the cast and all these fans. We got treated to more insight into the longest weekend ever (in case you haven’t heard, the final season will take place over the course of Barney & Robin’s wedding weekend). We still have the last slap to look forward to. Return of former guest stars? It is a wedding, so hopefully we will get to see Lucy Hale return as Robin’s sister (I almost forgot about her!) and John Lithgow as Barney’s father, but we at least know for certain that Wayne Brady is back as Barney’s brother James. Random tangents involving seeing how the interpreters sign everything they’re saying. Also, there were no less than three musical interludes: a “Let’s Go To The Mall” sing-a-long (Cobie was having trouble at the beginning, but Neil was more than happy to fill in the missing lyrics for her lol); Jason, by request, sang a bit of his Dracula musical; and everybody sang the “Bang Bang” song.

The cast of HIMYM coming in to a fury of applause and screams like the rockstars they are. (L-R): EP Carter Bays, EP Craig Thomas, Director Pamela Fryman, Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan

The cast of HIMYM coming in to a fury of applause and screams like the rockstars they are. (L-R): EP Carter Bays, EP Craig Thomas, Director Pamela Fryman, Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Neil Patrick Harris, Alyson Hannigan

Unfortunately, the fun of the HIMYM panel had to end, much to everyone’s dismay. After that, my cousin and I didn’t really have any other panel that we immediately had to go to. So we headed on over to the exhibit hall, take everything in, and hopefully get to see some celebrities. I’ll tell you this, it gets crazy in there when there are autograph signings. You may try your best to get a shot of the celebs doing the signing, but the con has a strict “shoot and scoot” policy – take one picture and go. I understand the policy, but at the same time, you can’t guarantee that you’ll even get one good shot, especially with the tall guards blocking your way.

Ming Na during the SHIELD signing at the Marvel booth

Ming Na during the SHIELD signing at the Marvel booth

The cast of Once Upon A Time signing at the ABC booth (aka the Jolly Roger)

The cast of Once Upon A Time signing at the ABC booth (aka the Jolly Roger)

Managed to get a good shot of Kristin Bauer and Ryan Kwanten getting ready for their autograph signing at the WB Booth. Behind them on the other side, is Tom Cruise (and Emily Blunt) signing for their movie "Edge of Tomorrow"

Managed to get a good shot of Kristin Bauer and Ryan Kwanten getting ready for their autograph signing at the WB Booth. Behind them on the other side, is Tom Cruise (and Emily Blunt) signing for their movie “Edge of Tomorrow”

After a couple runs up and down the exhibit hall, trying to pick up swag and get pictures of celebs, I suggested we make our way to Ballroom 20. The Vampire Diaries panel was happening at the time, but I was much more interested in getting in for the Arrow panel. Well, turns out that there were still empty seats for the TVD panel (it had followed the always popular True Blood panel, which always gives out good swag apparently), so we were able to walk straight in.

The Vampire Diaries panel L-R: Kat Graham, Ian Somerhalder, EP Julie Plec, Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, EP Caroline Dries, Candice Accola

The Vampire Diaries panel
L-R: Kat Graham, Ian Somerhalder, EP Julie Plec, Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, EP Caroline Dries, Candice Accola

After about 5 minutes, the TVD panel was done and we shuffled our way up closer for the Arrow panel. Arrow quickly became one of my favourite new shows of last season, and after the fantastic season finale, I have been quite eager to see what they have in store for next season. The panel began with a preview clip for the season two premiere, and it was fantastic and thrilling to say the least. This panel was on Saturday, and they had only begun filming the new season on the Monday, so they apparently got A LOT of filming done and managed to package it together as a special clip for SDCC. Talk about movie magic and commitment to the fans. Days before, fans found out that we were getting introduced to Black Canary on the show, but it isn’t Laurel, so there was an interesting discussion during the panel of how the show likes to take what fans of the comic book know and flip it a bit. The first Green Arrow we meet, isn’t Oliver but is Yao Fei. When we first met Tommy Merlyn, we were led to believe that he becomes the Dark Archer of the comic books, but turns out it’s his father, Malcolm. So similar to those, this is just the beginning of the Black Canary storyline. Partway through, we got treated to a special appearance by John Barrowman, who joined the cast for the rest of the panel. All in all, some great insight into next season and what we can look forward to.

Arrow panel L-R: EP Marc Guggenheim, EP Andrew Kreisberg, Colton Haynes, Katie Cassidy, Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, EP Greg Berlanti

Arrow panel
L-R: EP Marc Guggenheim, EP Andrew Kreisberg, Colton Haynes, Katie Cassidy, Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, EP Greg Berlanti

 

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The CW: A Network With Identity Issues

In late November, The CW had announced that it was cancelling Emily Owens M.D., after giving full season orders to fellow freshman series Arrow and Beauty and the Beast. The announcement itself didn’t come as much as a surprise, given that Emily Owens wasn’t doing particularly well in the ratings and wasn’t particularly well-received by critics. I myself didn’t make much of the pilot, and for some odd reason, found myself continuing to watch it. The writing wasn’t anything spectacular but sometimes you need some lighter fare amidst heavy drama and not wanting to delve deep into laugh-out-loud comedy (not to mention the onslaught of comedy that was on at the same time?) What honestly struck me about the announcement was reading the comments on the entertainment news websites (EW, TVLine). There were the usual comments, ranging from “Saw it coming, can’t believe it took them this long” to “That sucks! I liked the show!” But then there were a few comments that were along the lines of “What is this show? Never heard of it. Oh right, that’s because it’s on The CW”, which particularly struck me as interesting. Now, I’ve expressed my frustrations with The CW several times over the years, namely when it comes to Nikita, but it’s comments like that that make you realize there’s a bigger issue at hand.

The CW, as a network, is a peculiar case. It is a smaller network, but is included amongst the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX), as opposed to the cable networks (USA, FX, TNT, ABC Family). It is seen as a niche market network, similar to ABC Family, mostly appealing to the 18-34 demo (one could even argue that the demo is more around 18-24). It’s position in the network TV landscape causes it to not be taken seriously by many because it is almost always last in the ratings. On the rare occasion that a CW show actually beats one of the other networks’ shows in the demo, the other show is seen as being in trouble. So how exactly did the network find themselves in this predicament?

When the network launched in the fall of 2006, it was the product of the networks, UPN and The WB, merging, based on a deal between CBS Corporation (which owned UPN) and Warner Brothers Entertainment (which owned The WB). Both of those former networks tended to appeal to the younger female audience, as evidenced by shows like Dawson’s Creek, Gilmore Girls, Felicity, Veronica Mars, and One Tree Hill. But shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff Angel, Smallville, and Roswell attempted to lure in other viewers beyond teenage girls. When the 2 networks merged, The CW became a mish-mash of TV shows from both networks, while keeping its core demographic intact. It was the following TV season, in the fall of 2007, that The CW really started to make a name (however small) for itself, with the premiere of Gossip Girl. The show became a hit for the network, a guilty pleasure for some, and a huge target for the Parents’ Television Council for its depiction of teens and their underage drinking and sex.

To this avid TV viewer, with Gossip Girl being such a huge hit, the network seemingly over-relied on the show as a selling point. From that point on, the network became known as a place for TV shows about hot young people with their hot young people problems, as evidenced by shows that both succeeded (the 90210 reboot) and failed (the Melrose Place reboot, The Beautiful Life). When The Vampire Diaries got picked up, it still fit into that category but got the added bonus of being a known entity and cashing in on the teenage vampire craze caused by Twilight – further establishing the network’s demographic, but not really bringing in other viewers. Any other shows that wasn’t already part of the roster, which attempted to be more than just about attractive people hooking up, like Privileged and Life Unexpected, for the most part didn’t see past a first season. So for shows like Hart of Dixie and especially Nikita to be on the air right now, and not being the stereotypical CW show, in their respective 2nd and 3rd seasons is certainly a feat.

Let us not forget the glaring area of The CW’s schedule that is reality TV. The CW has one slightly stable reality show in America’s Next Top Model, brought on from the former UPN days, but has yet to find another reality TV series winner. For what it’s worth, even for a reality show, ANTM still manages to fit the CW mold.

So we come back to what issues The CW faces in becoming a viable network that can be taken seriously by all. Programming is certainly the biggest issue. Where the network is now, is not all that different from when UPN and The WB existed; on the one hand, they have very teenage fare and on the other hand, they have genre fare. The shows that play very well with the teenage crowd (GG, 90210, TVD, the upcoming Carrie Diaries) is what is making the network money. The more genre or non-teen oriented shows (Supernatural, Nikita) is what generally gets better reviews from critics/journalists, but struggle in the ratings. Lucky for the network, they have a bonafide hit in Arrow, which appeals to teens (the marketing dept. certainly knew what they were doing advertising a shirtless Stephen Amell), fanboys/girls, and critics alike. However, not every show gets the luxury of being a known entity and it is seemingly more difficult to find a show that meets every need.

Another big issue The CW has is its scheduling. As a whole, what’s working for them this season is that they held off premiering their shows until October, allowing for there to be less breaks between episodes during the run of the season. However, how the network schedules their shows and what shows get paired up has been a problem. If you look at the past few years, you’ll notice that the only show that has stayed in its time slot is TVD; everything else has changed time slots, same day or otherwise. There’s something to be said about having anchored shows, by which you build your schedule around. That also leads to another problem in that The CW only has 10 hours of original programming a week (2 hours, Monday to Friday), which does make it increasingly difficult. All of this does relate back to the kind of shows that they have which determines how the schedule looks like. Hardcore TV fans will follow their favourite shows anywhere, but the issue is with the casual TV viewer, who could watch one show and might stick around to watch the next show if it is complimentary to the first show. Hart of Dixie, as of right now, is paired with Emily Owens, which works well together. Given the cancellation of Emily Owens, that slot will go to new show Cult in the new year, leading to a big WTF? pairing. Don’t even get me going again on the choice to pair ANTM with Nikita

With the end of Gossip Girl and maybe (hopefully? wishful thinking…) 90210, it’s about time the network truly attempts to revamp their programming or at the very least, their marketing. There is certainly no shame in being the network that has shows the other networks don’t. At the same time though, no one wants to be seen as a joke. The CW really has to get down and really consider what they want to be known as, as a network. On top of that though, the marketing and PR departments have to really make a push and work on getting more exposure for all the shows, not just the ones that are big hits or what they hope will be a big hit (yes, I’m talking about the onslaught of promotion for The Carrie Diaries during the series finale of Gossip Girl). Obviously every network has their own set of issues, but The CW doesn’t have the same clout as the Big4 broadcast networks, and it’s time that they make a serious name for itself.