In recent years, the San Diego Comic Con has seemed to be less about the comics, and more about anything that could make money. Toys, movies, and television programs all seem to dominate the largest nerd gathering of the year.
That being said, there’s a lot to be excited about, especially for fans of genre television. The networks have figured out that pandering to us geeks is a wise and potentially lucrative decision, and the SDCC schedule is chock full of events highlighting the small screen. Here are the must see television events of this year’s Comic Con.
Star Trek: They’re Not Really Dead as Long as We Remember Them – Thursday 4:00pm – Room 23ABC
These past twelve months have been a season of loss for Star Trek fans, with not only the incomparable Leonard Nimoy leaving us, but Harve Bennett, Grace Lee Whitney and others all going where too many have gone before.
This year’s Star Trek panel is an hour long eulogy to those who are gone, as well as a look back at “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second Star Trek pilot. Multiple Trek experts, producers, and fan favorite Chase Masterson will be hosting what is sure to be a photon torpedo straight to the feels.
Babble on With the Cast of Babylon 5 – Saturday 2:00pm – Horton Grand Theater
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over twenty years since one of the 20th century’s best science fiction programs, Babylon 5, debuted. While the cast has suffered some tragic losses over the years, the eclectic group still seems to be a close knit family. Thankfully for fans of the show, that family will be gathering on stage for an hour to talk about the past, present, and the potential future for the last, best, hope for peace.
The Last Day of Summer: TV Guide Magazine’s Farewell to Phineas and Ferb – Sunday 10:00am – Room 6BCF
Out of all of the shows my children enjoy, Phineas and Ferb is likely the one I dig the most. With all of the crap clogging the airwaves directed at children, I never have a problem visiting the Tri-state area for an adventure with the pair of genius step-brothers. That being said, I will be mourning the loss of this show heavily, apparently along with TV Guide’s Michael Schneider, who is hosting a final get-together with Dan Povenmire, “Swampy” Marsh, and members of the cast, to look back at the longest summer vacation on record. Will there be feels? Yes…yes there will.
It’s become commonplace to screen a pilot at Comic Con, and this year is no different. Starting the night before the convention, television fans will have plenty of pilots to choose from. Here’s the list:
6:00pm – Special Sneak Peek Pilot Screenings (Supergirl, Blindspot, Containment, and Lucifer) – Ballroom 20
11:15am – The Player – Room 6A
4:30pm – Thunderbirds Are Go! -Room 24ABC
11:30am – Lucifer – Room 6BCF
1:45pm – Minority Report – Ballroom 20
11:15am – Blindspot – Room 6A
4:00pm – The Expanse – Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront
6:15pm – Containment – Room 6BCF
New and Notable Returning Series Panels
The Muppet Show – Saturday 3:00pm – Room 6A
I hate reality TV with a passion, but I can’t be more excited by Jim Henson’s most iconic characters returning to the small screen, albeit in a pseudo-reality show premise. One of the great things about the original series was the large amount of hidden adult humor, something that looks to be duplicated in this new iteration if the previews can be trusted.
The panel sounds to be one of the potentially more memorable events of this year’s Comic Con. They’ll be screening the video presentation that inspired the new series, and will apparently have Muppet performers on stage as well. Perhaps this will be your chance to see Muppets live and in person?
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D./Agent Carter – Friday 3:00pm – Ballroom 20
The MC(TV)U is coming together for a joint panel celebrating our favorite television secret agents. While the description for the panel is pretty bare, the rumor mill is screaming about what’s on the agenda for these two series in the coming year.
Judging by the way the casts act when they’re together, this could be a hell of a good panel, regardless of any new content they show. One thing that the panel description is mum on is the barrage of Netflix/Marvel series either debuting or continuing in the near future. Even if the panel is limited to the two current ABC series, it will certainly be worth the undoubtedly long lines.
Damien – Thursday 6:45pm – Room 6A
Damien Thorn was a creepy little bastard in 1976’s The Omen. As the series progressed, he went from creepy, to not so creepy, to Sam Neill. While the film series went out with a whimper (he has a creepy daughter?) and a remake, A&E’s new aptly named series Damien could very well reinvigorate the franchise.
Bradley James stars as the titular character, who now as an adult has to struggle with the pesky fact that he’s the Antichrist. While it was originally developed for the milk carton network (Lifetime), it was smartly moved to A&E. This isn’t the cable channel’s first attempt at revisiting classic horror characters; their foray into the mind of Norman Bates has been signed for a fourth and fifth season. With a pedigree like that, it sounds like Damien won’t be left behind after a few episodes.
Hand Of God – Thursday 10:00am – Room 6A
There is a distinct lack of Ron Perlman on TV these days now that Sons of Anarchy has ridden off into the sunset. Amazon seeks to rectify that with Hand of God. If it sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon screened the pilot online in 2014 to help make an informed decision. It’s since been greenlit, and is making its debut at Comic Con.
Perlman stars as Judge Pernell Harris, a less than lawful good magistrate who, after a family tragedy, begins to believe that God has chosen him to be a bench-bound vigilante. Since the pilot has already screened, the hour-long panel is likely more to show off the direction the series will be taking. While I love Perlman, based on the premise I can’t imagine this show having a ton of staying power. But it could be a hell of a lot of fun while it lasts.
The Man in the High Castle – Friday 2:15pm – Room 6A
History buffs, prepare yourselves to get Dicked over. Amazon brings us an adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel The Man in the High Castle, which depicts a 1962 America that lost World War II. The pilot screened earlier this year to amazing numbers on Amazon’s streaming service, guaranteeing it to be quickly picked up for a series.
Cast members including Cary “Shang Tsung” Tagawa will be on hand to make, or remake SDCC history.
The Walking Dead/Fear the Walking Dead – Friday 12:00pm and 1:00pm – Hall H
It’s going to take two back-to-back panels to get through the amount of zombie action currently hosted on AMC. First, almost the entirety of what’s left of the cast of The Walking Dead will be on stage with showrunners to discuss the conclusion of season five, as well as what’s coming up in season six. Naturally, the panel will be hosted by Chris Hardwick, who seems to have become the conjoined twin to all things nerdy at AMC, and aside from what will be a lengthy and memorable Q&A, there will also be a preview of the upcoming adventures of Rick Grimes and the people of Alexandria.
Immediately after, a new cast will take the stage to introduce the first Walking Dead spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead. Taking place on the other side of the country, the show’s trailers indicate that we’ll get to see the outbreak from the beginning, with a cast that won’t be stumbling about yelling “Carl” [Coral?] half the time. While a full pilot won’t be available, a preview will be hopefully good enough for the herd of hungry walkers in Hall H Friday.
Into the Badlands – Saturday 10:30am – Room 5AB
There is a distinct lack of kung fu in television today; a crime that AMC wishes to rectify with their new series Into the Badlands. Not much is known about the series, aside from the creator’s intent to bring real martial arts action to the small screen and a sixteen-second teaser trailer. Hopefully con-goers will have a better idea of what to expect when the series debuts later on this year, despite not having an episode on display.
Doctor Who – Thursday 2:15pm – Hall H
There will be attack eyebrows in Hall H on Thursday, as Peter Capaldi makes his Comic-Con debut, along with Jenna Coleman, Michelle Gomez, and Moffat himself. With Capaldi admitting that he’s a Doctor Who superfan, I imagine he will fully embrace the fandom and make this a panel to remember. There’s no word on whether a preview of next season will be screened, but I’m sure this cast on stage, there won’t be a boring minute.
Orphan Black – Friday 5:45pm – Room 6BCF
As much as it pains me, I don’t know the foggiest about Orphan Black, except that it involves clones and has an incredible following. For members of the Clone Club, you’ll be happy to know much of the cast will be making their way to Comic Con before starting work on season four, including Tatiana Maslany, Ari Millen, and many others.
Thunderbirds are Go – Thursday 4:30pm – Room 24ABC
When I first heard the Thunderbirds were getting resurrected, I cringed thanks to the subpar Jonathan Frakes live-action movie from 2004. As horrible as it was creatively and financially, I thought that would be the last time the Thunderbirds would go. Then I saw the first footage of Thunderbirds Are Go!
While Comic Con will feature the US debut of the new series, it’s not hard to find episodes online as it’s already airing overseas. I highly recommend you take a look, particularly if you like classic television. While there are no puppets in the new series, ITV and WETA went all out trying to make the series look like the Supermarionation of the past, and this is the Thunderbirds that both my father and my kids can appreciate. While the series has yet to find a distributor in the US, it currently airs in the UK on CBBC.
CBS – Thursday 12:00pm – Ballroom 20
Rather than dedicate time to each individual show, CBS opted to host a mega-panel, featuring all of their remotely Comic Con-friendly programs such as Scorpion and Under the Dome. Their two new entries are the James Patterson adaptation Zoo, where the world’s animals have had enough of us humans’ shit and declare war, and Limitless, based on the 2011 film starring Bradley Cooper. Rocket Raccoon himself will be on the other side of the camera for this one; he’s taken the executive producer reins for the small screen adaptation of Alan Glynn’s novel The Dark Fields. The story takes a turn similar to Knight Rider 2000, in that our mind-augmented main character gets recruited by the FBI to use his super brain to solve crimes. It’s hard to say if the series will last, but you won’t need to use your third eye to see the Limitless pilot at Comic Con.
For some reason, the CW opted to ignore its two comic-based hits, The Flash and Arrow in favor of pimping out their version of one of my most hated shows of the year.
Containment – Saturday 6:15pm – Room 6BCF
Did you read my article about Netflix’s festering pile of crap Between? So did the CW, apparently, because they are taking a stab at the same genre without the whole teenage angst thing (whatever illness infecting the town doesn’t age-discriminate). If anyone can do it better, it’s former X-Files director David Nutter, who also brought us such genre classics as Space: Above and Beyond.
You’ll get to see the pilot for this remake of a Belgian series Saturday evening, but will it make you sick?
Fox is as notorious for killing good things as George R.R. Martin, but that’s not stopping them from bringing their nerd A-game to SDCC.
Lucifer – Friday 11:30am – Room 6BCF
Speak of the Devil and he shall appear. Neil Gaiman is quickly on his way to becoming a TV powerhouse, what with American Gods and now Lucifer. The latter is the second DC Comics (originally Vertigo) series in recent days to be brought to life by Fox on the small screen, following Gotham. The premise – the lord of all evil gets bored slow roasting the nuts of the wicked and decides to come upstairs to our world and help out the LAPD, presumably sending more evil souls back home. While the current schedule doesn’t mention who will be attending the shows SDCC Q&A, it does promise a screening of the pilot, which sounds at least as dark and brooding as its other FOX comic show counterpart.
Minority Report – Friday 1:45pm – Ballroom 20
At the end of the film adaptation of Minority Report, it looked like all that was left was for our heroes to go out for ice cream. Fifteen years later, though, it seems Precog Dash has wanderlust, and returns to Washington D.C. to help fight crime using his now-retired gifts.
The universe created in the original film was a compelling one, and seemed closer to modern day today than most science fiction. The concept of Law & Order: Psychic Cops seems pretty interesting, and with an established universe, should be relatively easy to draw people in. That being said, it’s a Fox show. It’s a well-known fact that the studio runs faster – and more exaggeratedly – from science fiction than Tom Cruise in any movie he’s ever been in. Also, network TV has started to shy away from “cops with powers” shows. Ron Moore’s amazingly fresh 17th Precinct never got close to hitting the small screen, while Fox’s mediocre Almost Human was met with retirement only one season in.
A show with the price tag and the genre that is Minority Report likely has crosshairs aimed between its eyes, but you can at least see the pilot with a few thousand of your closest friends on Friday.
Noticeably absent is any panel focused on Gotham. While the show has been renewed for a second season, does its absence (like Bruce Wayne’s parents) spell a potential loss of interest in the series?
Game of Thrones – Friday 2:30pm – Hall H
Friday at 2:30, Hall H will have more people in it than the Night’s Watch. That’s because almost the entire regular cast of the series (what’s left of them) will be on-hand for an hour long Q&A session. It’s doubtful that we’ll see any new footage, as season six hasn’t begun filming; however, seeing this group on stage without trying to kill each other could be quite entertaining.
Notable panel members include Alfie Allen (Reek! Reek! It rhymes with geek!), Gwendoline Christie, and the ever swoon-worthy Natalie Dormer. While the mood will likely be fun and light, I’m sure tough questions will be asked to Sophie Turner after the season Sansa had, and having that many Starks in a room will almost undoubtedly end up with at least one death, but it will be glorious.
Scream – Friday 4:30pm – Room 5AB
The concept of a series based on the slasher movies of my high school and college days makes me want to scream, but that hasn’t stopped MTV from paying the SDCC a visit. I’m still not used to MTV making fictional programming (I still remember when they played music videos), but apparently kids these days are loving that whole Teen Wolf phenomenon.
Can the Scream story actually be expanded to an entire series? Already there have been changes, including the iconic Ghostface mask, but creator Wes Craven has signed off on them, and is sharing a producer credit on the series, lending to its authenticity. By the time Comic Con begins, the series will have already debuted, but the panel promises exclusive clips and a cast Q & A. The question is, will you like this scary TV series?
The Shannara Chronicles – Friday 12:30pm – Room 6DE
I’m not going to mince words – this show terrifies me. It’s a daunting task to try and adapt Terry Brooks’ signature series, but it takes a certain sort of madness to hand over the reins of one of the greatest fantasy series of our time to the same network that brought us Jersey Shore.
On the flip side, it’s being developed by the teams that brought us the Iron Man films and Smallville, so it’s possible my fears are misplaced. Based on the second book in the series, The Elfstones of Shannara, it features a MTV-pretty cast and Gimli. While the description for the panel is less than wordy, it seems as if they’ll be showing some sort of preview, as well as a question and answer period with “cast members and the creative minds”. The big question is, will it be a success, or will it have MTV’s axe?
The Player – Thursday 11:15am – Room 6A
What happens when you combine The Game, Person of Interest, Knight Rider and Las Vegas? NBC’s new fall series The Player seeks to answer that question, when a former military special operative gets recruited by Wesley Snipes to fight crime while being bet on by some of Sin City’s elite. From the trailers, it looks like Knight Rider in a casino, minus the talking car. Snipes plays our Ernie Hudson look-alike versions of Devon Miles, while an attractive young Brit is our “Dealer”/Bonnie equivalent, with Philip Winchester of Strike Back playing Alex, our Michael Knight stand in. Hell, the previews even include a flashy car.
While the premise sounds a little far fetched, it benefits from having the executive producers of The Blacklist on the team. With The Blacklist being one of the best shows on network television these days, the odds for The Player just went up. Get a first look at the pilot as well as a Q&A session Thursday.
Heroes Reborn – Sunday 1:45pm – Hall H
It’s been a few years since super-powered humans were instructed to save the cheerleader. As impressive as the first season was, the show quickly went downhill. Thankfully, the plug was pulled before it got abysmally bad.
Even at its worst, the show had promise, and it looks like NBC is putting some stock in that promise in the form of a thirteen episode miniseries premiering in September. Unlike so many of the programs seeking promotion at the event, a show like Heroes is perfect to be debuted at Comic Con, though only a new extended trailer will be premiered. Showrunner Tim Kring and some of the new cast members will be on hand to answer questions about the new series as well, and give con-goers details on the web series and upcoming video games as well.
Danger Mouse – Sunday 12:00pm – Room 29AB
The best part of getting cable in 1986 was Nickelodeon. Between Double Dare, You Can’t Do That On Television and British imports like Chocky, that channel was almost permanently locked in on our basement TV. Included in that list of British imports was Danger Mouse, the rodent version of Danger Man and James Bond. The original spanned a total of ten series (seasons) and led to a spin-off (Count Duckula) before leaving the air in 1992. Thankfully, it’s a series fondly remembered enough to spawn a reboot.
Now Netflix has a bit of a mixed history when it comes to resurrecting animated series, but it looks like the majority of the work for this resurrection is in the hands of the BBC and Boulder Media. Like the renewed Inspector Gadget, the voice cast has been completely changed, but instead of completely jumping the shark and switching to CGI, the animators are sticking to a style similar to the original series. Con attendees will be able to find out for themselves Sunday if the revival is the strongest, the quickest, and the best.
Falling Skies Friday 11:15am – Ballroom 20
It might be the most daft science fiction show on television, but its following has allowed Falling Skies to survive for a whopping five seasons. As the series closes in its finale, members of its cast including Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood will reminisce on the years spent fighting the Skitters, and present a sneak peak of the shape of things to come in the final episodes.
The Last Ship – Thursday 1:45pm – Room 6A
TNT’s post-apocalyptic series is returning for a second season, and another visit to SDCC. At the end of last season, a cure had been found, Baltimore had been reached, and a swarm of Maryland State Troopers had effectively commandeered the Nathan James.
Ironically, the panel will likely get commandeered as well by throngs of Adam Baldwin haters. Baldwin’s involvement with the GamerGate controversy has led to petitions and protests demanding he be dis-invited from many cons, and while boycotts haven’t been threatened this time, the issue will likely be the elephant in room 6A on Thursday.
Childhood’s End -Saturday 11:00am – Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront
Long before the Visitors or the Taelons, there were the Overlords, seemingly benevolent rulers from space created by legendary author Arthur C. Clarke. Syfy’s miniseries adaptations have been good in the past (Dune and its sequel stands out in my mind), so there is potentially some good, hard science fiction coming our way instead of wrestling. With a cast including Charles “Tywin Lannister” Dance, the network is trying to make this a classic rather than a Sharknado.
Dark Matter – Thursday 7:15pm – Room 6BCF
Imagine if you will, the opening scene of Alien, with the crew awaking from hypersleep. Then turn the premise on its head and have our characters not have a single memory of who they are or what they are doing. Syfy’s new series Dark Matter sounds like a thirteen episode Outer Limits story, and perhaps another attempt at a return to real science fiction on a channel that has focused more on reality than imagining greater.
The show’s been airing for a few weeks, but at SDCC, attendees will have the opportunity to grill the creators and cast about the mysteries of the first season, and perhaps the future.
The Expanse – Saturday 4:00pm – Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront
Former Punisher star Thomas Jane takes the lead in what sounds like Twin Peaks or a Brad Meltzer novel…in SPACE!!! Thankfully it has a good pedigree; the novel it’s based on was a 2011 Hugo award winner. While the series isn’t scheduled to air until December of this year, a screening and Q&A could give you a good glimpse into the disappearance of Juliette Mao.
Con Man – Thursday 3:45pm – Hall H
Want to get thousands of screaming girls (and guys) to come to your Comic Con panel? Just bring Nathan Fillion to the party; my wife is wondering if there’s still time to get tickets. Captain Tightpants joins his Firefly co-star Alan Tudyk in their new collaboration – Con Men, about a pair of actors working the convention circuit.
The Vimeo web series was crowd-funded in a matter of hours, and Hall H will be filled in a matter of seconds on Thursday as Tudyk, Fillion, and the rest of the cast spend an hour and half waxing poetic on the creation of the series.
On a side note, most Comic Con TV panels are around an hour long. The panel for Con Men is an hour and a half, for a show that has a running time of ten minutes. This panel is going to be a madhouse, and I would sell a kidney to be there, or rather, my wife would sell my kidney to be there.
A fan of video games and science fiction from the moment he discovered his father's Atari 2600 and Star Wars, Jason Helton has been contributing to The Robot's Voice since 2011. Prior, he wrote for the UK's Den of Geek and was the producer and host of Iron Otaku Radio on XM's UPOP 29 channel. A die-hard fan of Battlestar Galactica (both old and new), Doctor Who, and pinball, you can follow him on Twitter @Razgriz1138.