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Comic Con Day 2: Spaceships! And, Also, No Spaceships.

One of the things that takes some getting used to at Comic-Con is just how thoroughly everything is propagandized within an inch of its life here. Obviously, there's a reason the studios/networks/what have you do this: They have a captive audience of people who are asked to ask "respectful questions" (not like adoring fans wouldn't do this anyway) and have those questions screened anyway. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. Offering a place for fans to interact with their favorite creative folks is a nice thing to do, and it gives the fans a rush. But that Comic-Con seems to increasingly draw more attention than, say, the TCA Press Tour is not a shift I'm terribly comfortable with.

And that's to say nothing of the blocks immediately surrounding the convention center, which have been turned into some weird zone of sheer marketing fervor, as though the studios honestly believe that if they toss a bunch of cute PR girls at the problem of, say, getting geeks in a frenzy over the upcoming animated film 9, it will surely work. Hell, SyFy took over an entire breakfast joint (Mary Jane's Coffeehouse) and renamed it after the Cafe Diem from Eureka. I mean, look at that photo above (which I mostly snapped because I was amused by the people rolling the Prisoner prop into place). The vast majority of the people in that photo are marketers, trying like Hell to interest anyone in what they have to pitch. But will it even work? I'd argue that the increasing placation of the geeks is one of the things ruining so many movies and TV shows nowadays (to say nothing of comics), but at the same time, geeks are among the few people still going to movies. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Spend enough money, and the geeks will know you'll be there. And they'll come. Hell, I probably will too. I'm as susceptible to marketing as any of you, even though I know I'm being bombarded.

But enough about that. What about the panels?

I'm spending all day in Ballroom 20 (at least until the last hour when I plan to hit the show floor and follow some recommendations made by someone who's been attending the Con since the '90s), which is an interesting experiment in audience flow. I tend to hang out toward the back, so I can scurry to the outlets to charge my battery every time there's a break between panels, and it's amazing that the three panels I've seen here so far have filled the room but with largely different people. Sure, there was quite a bit of overlap between the three, but there were enough people leaving the room in between all of them to let floods of new people in in between. The advent of Twitter has also allowed folks to let others know just how many people are still waiting outside and so on. But every time you think you get a bead on the crowd - ah ha! These Stargate fans are just here because the Battlestar panel is immediately after! - you realize that you have no idea what's going on (when many, many of those fans file out at the end of Stargate).

Anyway, I have never really cared one way or the other about the various Stargate series, which I've seen a handful of episodes of, but Stargate: Universe looks watchable, when it's not looking like a National Guard ad. The trailer shown doesn't do a terribly good job of explaining what the hell the show is all about, but, then, it's preaching to the converted, so it probably doesn't need to. It has something to do with a team of scientists (and a videogame geek played by journeyman character actor Daniel Blue) getting stranded at the ends of the universe and then getting a cool spaceship to fly around. It's assembled an impressive cast (Ming Na! Lou Diamond Phillips! Robert Carlyle!), and the look of it is very much Battlestar Galactica lite.

The panel actually made me interested in checking out the show, which I suppose is the intent of such a panel. I have a bottomless appetite for marginally successful-to-mediocre sci-fi (I watched the entire run of Dark Skies, for God's sake), and I like the premise of the show (or at least the premise I made up in my head to explain the trailer), though the fact that almost all of the fan questions focused on nitty-gritty mythological details of the show's universe that had me frantically Wikipedia-ing things suggests the learning curve may be steep, despite the producers' assurances that this is going to be a Stargate for non-Stargate fans. What's keeping me interested is that cast. They all seem really high on the project, and the supporting players, especially, were terrifically enthused to be there, giddy at what they were being asked to do.

The only reason I even went to the Stargate panel was because I had to cover the Battlestar Galactica: The Plan/Caprica panel immediately afterward for Hitfix.com, so if you want really detailed discussion of it, go there. If you just want the quick hits, though, I was surprised at the decision to not look back at the end of the run of one of the most critically successful science fiction series in history (maybe because I increasingly think I'm one of only four people to have liked the series finale) and, instead, look forward at the spinoff (which we got no new footage of) and the new movie (which we got a very cool trailer for, complete with suggestion that Dean Stockwell's Cavil might be the main character of the film). Caprica sounds, simultaneously, as though it will grow the franchise's world-building powers exponentially (Ron Moore started rattling off facts about Caprican society that sounded oddly fascinating) and create a less sci-fi-heavy world for people who just couldn't make the leap for Battlestar. At the same time, The Plan sounds as though it's going to be the ultimate hardcore treat for bigtime fans of the first series (which was the second series but ... never mind). It was a fun and insightful panel, overall, and Ron Moore, David Eick, Edward James Olmos and Jane Espenson are handling this transitional time for the franchise exceptionally well.

Then there was The Big Bang Theory panel, moderated by Mike Mignola of all people. I don't know that I got as much out of this panel as any of the others, but the sheer love for the show expressed by the audience made the panel a great deal of fun anyway. The entire ensemble, as well as executive producers Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, were in attendance, and the adoration foisted upon them by the crowd was beyond anything I've seen here so far. Big Bang is one of those shows of the moment, and its blending of traditional sitcom rhythms with geek-friendly material has somehow created something that both my mom and my philosophy-major friend Luke are both incredibly interested in.

As mentioned, the panel itself wasn't full of new insight (though the constant specter of people who want Sheldon and Penny to hook up continues to terrify me). Much of it consisted of people asking Jim Parsons to recreate their favorite Sheldon bits from the show, which he graciously agreed to do time and time again. But, man, it was almost worth it to see Kaley Cuoco flirt with a fan or to see how happy Chuck Lorre (a notoriously glum guy) looked at the reception the show received or to hear Johnny Galecki expound about which Roseanne cast member he'd like to bring on the show next or to watch a fan hand over a napkin to Parsons so he could mop his brow, the better that the fan's sister could grow her own Parsons in a basement lab (a callback to the show's Christmas episode, singled out as one of the cast's favorites). It was an unrepentant love fest, but it was also a lot of fun.

Up next: 24 introduces new cast members, Bones has good chemistry, and everybody loves Joss Whedon.