Preview Night, open only to those with four-day passes, is the sleepiest night of Comic Con, relatively speaking. It still draws a tremendous crowd, made thicker by the those stopping to photograph, say, a Stormtrooper made out of Legos, but compared to what’s to come, it’s a ghost town. Hey, want to see a Stormtropper made out of Legos?
How about a terrifying Voldemort?
Or a pink Darth Vader head? (A portion of the proceeds go to benefit breast cancer.):
It’s also, however unofficially, TV pilot night. Last year saw the debut of Fringe, which created a fair share of excitement and then a seemingly equal share of disappointment. Or maybe that was just me, though I’ve heard the show has gotten considerably better. This year we got not one, not two, but three pilots. I was later checking in than planned, so I missed most of the Human Target pilot, set to debut on FOX in January. An adaptation of a third-string DC Comics title, what I saw of the show looked slick and well-made. And it featured Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley, both plusses in my book. But I didn’t really see enough to judge, honestly.
This was followed by the pilot to V, a remake of the fondly remembered—or maybe that’s just me again—‘80s alien invasion/Nazi allegory. I don’t know whether the excitement of the pilot, which features both the seemingly benign arrival of alien ships across the globe and some clever twists and turns, can be sustained, but I’ll definitely be tuning into find out. Lost’s Elizabeth Mitchells, one of my favorite television actresses, anchors the show as a single-mom FBI agent who, by the end of the first episode, has begun to suspect that the alien visitors might not be as altruistic as they first appear. Also featured: Mitchell’s teenage son (Logan Huffman) who ends the episode enlisting in the show’s equivalent of the Nazi Youth, Joel Gretsch as a skeptical priest, Firefly’s Morena Baccarin as the alien leader, Morris Chestnut as a man with conflicted motives, and Scott Wolf as a callow TV news reporter. Wolf’s character could be key, since some of the best bits of the show exploit the weirdness of our 24-hour cable news cycle. A few moments feel a bit forced, but this is definitely a show fans of science fiction should welcome, assuming it can sustain the feel of its compelling pilot. It also created one of those only-at-Comic Con moments: When Alan Tudyk showed up on screen, the crowd cheered.
I stuck around for Vampire Diaries… for a while. Produced and, at least for this first outing, co-scripted by Scream and Dawson’s Creek creator Kevin Williamson, it’s based on a novel by L.J. Smith that preceded Twilight. But it still feels a lot like an off-brand Twilight: The Series, complete with a tragically inclined heroine (Degrassi’s Nina Dobrey) and a sensitive, hunky vampire hero (Paul Wesley). Williamson’s once-distinctive voice is tough to discern beneath the generic teen angst, and though I did like the soundtrack, it wasn’t enough to keep me around, especially with the prospect of more floor wandering and drinks with some colleagues on the horizon. Time’s too tight here to waste on mope without depth and bloodletting that feels weirdly bloodless. And if I stuck around, I would have missed this, whatever this is: