SAN DIEGO - If "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" were still airing today, it would be a Comic-Con institution. Fans would pack the biggest available ballrooms to see Joss Whedon and the Scooby Gang. Even years after its cancellation, "Buffy" fandom still holds a powerful sway over many or most fan conventions and even margin supporting players can draw a crowd for their new projects.
 
Much was made of Sarah Michelle Gellar's triumphant return to Comic-Con on Thursday (July 21) afternoon, but she'd only made one prior appearance and it wasn't even "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"-related, but rather for "The Grudge."
 
"Oh, I love it here. It's like a Super Bowl Weekend of parties," Gellar told an adoring audience gathered ostensibly for her CW drama "Ringer." 
 
While most new shows appearing down in San Diego for Comic-Con are screening their pilots, "Ringer" opted to make its bones with only a brief clip package, choosing to dedicate its panel time to exposition-heavy moderation and to allowing Gellar to be properly adored by the masses.
 
It was a strategy that mostly worked (almost certainly a smarter bet than wasting 45 minutes on the pilot). Highlights after the break...
 
"It's really hard when you have a show like 'Buffy,' which you love so much and was so perfect, you're not looking for a show to top it," Gellar told the audience.
 
She added, "I wanted to come back and do a show that the fans would love and that I would love to watch and that would be different, but still exciting." 
 
In "Ringer," Gellar plays identical twins Bridget and Siobhan.
 
"Bridget's story is story of redemption... and Shavian’s story is a story of revenge," Gellar explained.
 
Gellar was drawn to the script from Eric C. Charmelo and Nicole Snyder.
 
"It was the first time in a really long time I was surprised by something," Gellar told the Ballroom 20 attendees.
 
But merely having a surprising script, the TV return of a fan favorite and a supporting cast that includes Kristoffer Polaha, Ioan Gruffudd and Nestor Carbonell wasn't enough to give "Ringer" a smooth ride to the 2011-2012 primetime schedule. 
 
No, "Ringer" was developed and shot for CBS, but shortly before upfronts in May, the drama -- the writers describe it as "neo-noir" -- was pushed from CBS' docket to corporate sibling The CW.
 
"First of all, I'm like 'Yes, I'm getting better clothing.' That was my first thought," Gellar insisted.
 
She added, "I think you can take more risk on The CW. I think we all know who CBS' audience is." 
 
The Comic-Con panel concentrated predictably on Gellar and on a certain past role.
 
"Buffy was always a stretch in the sense that I don't usually save the world on a daily basis or even a weekly basis," Gellar said, comparing The Vampire Slayer to her more relatable double-turn on "Ringer."
 
Several inquiries had Gellar attempting to compare her two "Ringer" characters to her one "Buffy" character, or at least to find similarities.
 
"There's always a little bit of Sarah in the characters, because let's be honest, I'm playing them," she said.
 
Of the dual roles, Gellar observed, "I think the bottom line is all actresses are crazy and it helps that I'm already slightly schizophrenic." 
 
Having had to share scenes with a robot version of herself on "Buffy," even the doubling up isn't foreign.
 
"The technology is advancing in leaps and bounds. Even while we're shooting it's advancing," she observed, concluding, "By Season 3, they'll clone me. At least that's what I'm hoping for."
 
It didn't take long before folks in the audience were trying to reshape "Ringer" into a "Buffy" spinoff, asking about possible supernatural elements, a possibility shot down by co-creator Snyder.
 
"There will be no vampires, no demons, nothing supernatural. Sorry guys... And no hatch. And no Island, except for Long Island." 
 
Of course, Gellar wasn't the only member of the "Ringer" panel to have vocal fans sitting in the ballroom. Nestor Carbonell received many questions relating to "Lost," including the challenges of talking about a show with surprises you can't talk about.
 
"I've had to learn to give the non-answer/answer..." Carbonell said. "I think you can still talk about it and talk about it without addressing the specifics." 
 
In addition to the usual jokes about guyliner, hatches, agelessness and islands, Carbonell even got one question about Batmanuel, his character from "The Tick."
 
And although Gruffudd has a wide-ranging resume, two of those entries involve "The Fantastic Four," saying that his favorite part of being at Comic-Con is, "Watching other people wearing the blue spandex suit."
 
Gruffudd also joked, "I'm thrilled I'm considered young enough to be on The CW."
 
Heck, even Polaha got a question comparing his "Life Unexpected" character to his "Ringer" role. [Hint: They're nothing alike.]
 
But the big Comic-Con star Thursday was obviously Gellar, who even got asked what sort of cosplay she'd be into, were she into such things.
 
"If I dressed as Buffy, you guys would say I was a lame version of Buffy," Gellar said, before saying she was planning to dress as a Real Housewife for Halloween. That's not exactly cosplay, but it still got a good response for the fans who were glad to have Gellar back in the fold.
 
"Ringer" premieres on Tuesday, September 13 at 9 p.m. on The CW.