Wednesday, 29 July 2009: SFTV and Comic-Con

Star Wars: Clone Wars

As my last blog post noted, comic books have inspired several successful movies in the past several years, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood had a major presence at the 40th annual San Diego Comic-Con last week. “Beautiful downtown Burbank,” or the television industry, was also well-represented, with actors rubbing shoulders with costumed fans.

I’ve been a fan of slacker comedies such as Reaper, partly because popular directors such as Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow represent my generation (if not necessarily its work ethic or supposed lack thereof). Espionage spoof Chuck and sleuth homage Psych have been consistently entertaining, but I think The Middleman has the best mix of fanboy allusions, witty writing, and empathetic acting. I would have liked to have been at the live reading of the “lost script,” which will eventually come out in comic book form, completing Middleman‘s life cycle.

As with their graphical origins, TV metahuman melodramas have continued, despite mixed reviews. I think Heroes has room for improvement, but many disillusioned viewers may forget that most genre programs have their ups and downs in terms of story and quality. We’ll also see whether Smallville‘s slow approach to the Superman mythos, including a Justice Society episode, will help it overcome its dependence on tired tropes. The latest version of Human Target has a narrow premise, but I like its cast.

G4 had extensive coverage of the Star Wars panel at Comic-Con, marred somewhat by the forced hijinks of usually appealing hosts Kevin Perreira and Olivia Munn. Many of my friends stopped following George Lucas’ space opera franchise after realizing that the prequel films were aimed at a younger audience than us, but I’m looking forward to Season 2 of the computer-animated Star Wars: Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network. I may also try to get tickets to the upcoming musical concert tour if it comes to Boston.

Speaking of cartoons, Batman and the Brave and the Bold, like Spectacular SpiderMan, revels in Silver Age goofiness rather than Bronze Age funk. A musical episode, classic voice casting (including a bombastic Aquaman), and clever use of obscure characters from across the DC universe make Brave and the Bold worth watching.

Marvel Comics has been more successful in print and movies than DC, but it’s only now catching up to the latest wave in animation. Wolverine and the X-Men and Iron
have been decent, but Marvel
Superhero Squad (premiering 19 September 2009) might capture more of the old-school, child-friendly humor and action of comics’ Silver Age. The anime-style Iron Man and Wolverine might also be good.

More serious is the just-released direct-to-DVD Green Lantern: First Flight, continuing DC/Warner Brothers’ strong lineup of Justice League: New Frontier, Batman: Gotham Knight, Wonder Woman, and the upcoming Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. Andrea Romano is a voice-casting genius, and I’ll review Green Lantern‘s first cosmic foray (and other recent DVD acquisitions) separately.

Speaking of interstellar adventures, but back to live action, the Doctor Who panel didn’t reveal many new tidbits about David Tennant‘s final outings (for now) as the Gallifreyan Time Lord, but I wish his successor Matt Smith luck in taking on a role inhabited by 10 predecessors. I don’t think a remake of alien invasion series “V” is necessary, but it does sport decent production values and casting.

I’m among those who have criticized the rebranding of the SciFi Channel as “SyFy,” but I’ll keep watching what few genre shows it has left rather than wrestling, schlock horror, or so-called reality programming. Cryptozoology series Sanctuary has room to grow, but the promotion of Stargate: Universe as being more like the revisionist Battlestar Galactica or even Joss Whedon’s prematurely canceled Firefly/Serenity than the solid Stargate SG1 is a turnoff to me.

Admittedly, I have lower standards for Smallville or the syndicated fantasy Legend of the Seeker, but I’ve already spent a few years following them instead of other popular arc-driven shows such as Lost. Sword-and-sandals fans may also enjoy Spartacus, which may not match the adult content of HBO’s Rome, but it won’t be Xena: Warrior Princess, either (for better or for worse), despite Lucy Lawless’ participation.

AMC‘s upcoming miniseries remake of Patrick McGoohan‘s paranoid Prisoner has a combination of the things I like about genre television: nostalgia with a modern twist,
solid casting and production value, and (I hope) good writing. I’ve also just started watching Being Human, a drama about a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf as roommates, on BBC America.

Coming soon: Last but not least, comic books and games!