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June 29, 2009

Comic-Con boasts heavy TV lineup

TV studios plan a strong presence at Comic-Con, with at least one company scheduling a record number of show panels.

The annual fan convention seems to feature a greater number of TV series each summer, with next month's lineup including a few titles beyond the usual sci-fi and fantasy genres. Procedurals such as Fox's "Bones" and USA's "Burn Notice," Fox's musical "Glee" and Discovery's "MythBusters" are in the mix.

Warner Bros. TV is bringing 11 shows to the event, the most the studio has featured.

"Comic-Con is the one place where Warner Bros. cross-divisionally presents a face to the consumer," said Lisa Gregorian, the studio's executive vp marketing.

One returning WBTV program is CBS' "The Big Bang Theory," which the studio brought to the event for the first time last year. Most sitcoms would not be a good fit for the Comic-Con crowd, but the geek-friendly "Big Bang" drew an enthusiastic response. The studio hopes to make a panel for the show a regular event, particularly after its ratings surged last fall.

When selecting programs for Comic-Con, Gregorian said any show with a mythology automatically belongs, and even genre series not premiering until midseason should screen.

"Our philosophy is that if it's ready, and it's great, and you're not making a lot of changes to it, you should show it to the fans," said Gregorian, whose midseason program "Human Target" will be shown.

ABC Studios is hosting at least seven panels, including one for the final season of ABC's "Lost," credited as the first TV show to launch at Comic-Con.

ABC has taken an increasingly unique approach to its "Lost" panel. Instead of simply screening footage and answering questions, the event is a carefully planned production that typically includes specifically shot footage and surprise guests.

"We've been working on the 'Lost' panel for literally months," said Mike Benson, executive vp marketing at ABC Entertainment. "We want the audience to experience 'Lost' in a fully entertaining way."

This year, ABC is extending that approach to panels for its new dramas "V" and "Flash Forward."

"We don't like to just stick people on a panel and have them answer questions," Benson said. "We feel like we have to do more for the audience than just promote the show. By having that experience, it gets them talking about the panel more."

20th TV is offering about nine panels, including those for Fox's new animated comedy "The Cleveland Show" and the newly revived "Futurama."

NBC Universal has at least eight programs, but most are for Sci Fi Channel and USA, with the studio planning only a "Heroes" panel for NBC. ("Chuck," produced by WBTV, also will have a panel.) The studio's apocalyptic midseason drama "Day One" will not be shown -- an NBC Uni spokesperson said it is "too early" -- but there will be some buzz-building marketing.

In one network's case, Comic-Con itself will be used as programming. G4 will broadcast what is billed as the first televised panel in the event's history. Olivia Munn and Kevin Pereira will host the two-hour "Star Wars Spectacular," including a table read of a new "Clone Wars" script.

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