Comic-Con: 'The Cape,' 'Teen Wolf,' 'Falling Skies' and the great unknown
While Fienberg spent the day at Comic-Con in Ballroom 20, covering high-profile TV panels like "True Blood" and Joss Whedon, my assignment was to roam around to some of the smaller rooms and see how some other shows - all of them new, and most of them not debuting until sometime in 2011 - were received.
I already wrote about "The Walking Dead" lovefest and the promising response to "Hawaii Five-0," but both those panels featured known quantities in some way: everyone at the former panel had already read the comic book (or just really liked zombies), and at the letter, everyone knew some combination of Daniel Dae Kim on "Lost," Grace Park on "BSG" or the theme song.
The three afternoon panels I attended - for NBC's "The Cape," MTV's "Teen Wolf" remake and TNT's "Falling Skies" - were far sketchier in what fans knew going in, and only the first of those provided much new intel before the questions started. So how did the crowds react? Some thoughts on each, after the jump...
"The Cape": It's stars David Lyons (the obnoxious Australian doctor from the last couple of years of "ER," as well as "Day One," a show that over the course of the last year was downgraded from a mid-season series to a miniseries to a never-aired series) as a cop who fakes his own death and assumes the guise of his son's favorite comic book hero after he's framed for murder in a city where all the cops are corrupt.
While other new shows are going to screen pilots in their entirety over the weekend, what "The Cape" audience got was something in between a sizzle reel and a pilot. It seemed to feature every scene, but often a condensed version of it where we came in late and left early, so that viewers would get a sense of the whole plot, which involves a supervillain named Chess (James Frain), a troupe of carnival performers who moonlight as bank robbers (headlined by Keith David) and a blogger calling herself Orwell (Summer Glau).
Maybe it was because the scenes didn't have enough time to make some kind of emotional impact, or maybe it was just that "The Cape" seems to be a very generic, if sincere, superhero story, but the crowd's reaction was very, very muted. When a Con crowd is enjoying some footage, they're vocal about it - very vocal. But here, everyone was very quiet, responding audibly only for a gag involving a raccoon, and then a fight scene between little person stuntman-turned-actor Martin Kelbba (who plays one of the carnies) and soccer thug-turned-actor Vinnie Jones (who plays another supervillain with lizard-like skin).
Things pepped up just a bit when the cast came on stage, mainly because the fanboys and fangirls love Glau from "Firefly" and "Terminator," and because they apparently have some residual goodwill from the epic Keith David/Roddy Piper fistfight in "They Live!" But this definitely wasn't an hour that seemed destined to stir the fans into a frenzy waiting for some other NBC drama to fail so "The Cape" could get its timeslot.
"Teen Wolf": "Thank you for coming to see if we ruined 'Teen Wolf' by making it into a TV series," quipped the show's creator, Jeff Davis (who previously created "Criminal Minds") at the start of this panel about a new spin on the '80s Michael J. Fox comedy.
The first act of the MTV show (no premiere date set) was screened for a very, very sparse crowd (most of the room had emptied after "The Cape"), and then Davis and his young, unknown cast set about trying to separate themselves from the Fox movie - which (not that the Fox movie is particularly good) raises the question of why they would bother trying to trade on the name at all, given that the only thing this dark show has in common with the original is that both involve teenage werewolves.
"We loved Michael J. Fox, and we were very forgiving of him, even in his bad werewolf makeup," Davis said, dismissing the original as "a basketball movie" that was more like "The Karate Kid" than the kind of horror thing he wants to do. "The idea here is to take the idea and make it into something new, something sexy and something fun."
The cast - most of whom weren't even alive when the Fox movie came out - all tried to be respectful of the film while admitting they either didn't watch it at all, or watched a few minutes and stopped.
This was also a panel with no real moderator, so Davis ground things to a halt as he spent five minutes or so on each castmember (and, in fairness, director Russell Mulcahy, best known for the original "Highlander"), so by the time things were opened up for audience Q&A, whatever enthusiasm the small crowd might have had was evaporated.
"Falling Skies": This is probably the highest-profile of the three, in that it's produced by Steven Spielberg ("BSG" vet Mark Verheiden is the active showrunner), stars Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood, is about the aftermath of an alien invasion of Earth and will no doubt get a huge promotional push from TNT when it launches next June.
It also got the most enthusiastic response of the three - still modest compared to "Walking Dead" (or even "Hawaii Five-0"), but clearly positive. It helped that we only got a sizzle reel, which means they could cut together the best footage from the pilot (including several glimpses of celebrity boot camp maestro and sometime-actor Dale Dye) without having to pause for exposition or characterization.
The series picks up six months after aliens have taken over Earth for reasons unknown. Wyle plays a suddenly-widowed Boston University history professor who finds himself leading a resistance cell (and frequently talking about the American Revolution), while Bloodgood is a pediatrician who lost her husband and daughter in the invasion.
Verheiden liked the idea of picking up well after the invasion itself (which is the period most of these stories take place in), because, "Our people are trying to catch up as much as the audience will be."
There were a few good laugh lines from the panel - Bloodgood at one point said, "I've always thought of myself as a masculine person," and, when asked whom she would most want on her side against an alien invasion, suggested, "Samuel L. Jackson" - and Verheiden and Wyle sounded smart in discussing ways in which the show will be different from the dozens of similar movies and TV shows, and the crowd (a packed room after the sparseness of "Teen Wolf") seemed pleased at the conclusion.