TV-Focused Comic-Con Keeps Fans Intrigued

SAN DIEGO Ratings may be softening for veteran serialized TV shows, but at Comic-Con hard-core fans were as adoring as ever as the casts and creators of returning shows received rock-star receptions.

NBC’s Heroes, ABC’s Lost and NBC’s Chuck were among the most popular panels, with all three shows re-setting their storylines next year to various degrees.

For Lost, fans camped overnight outside the San Diego Convention Center for seats in the cavernous Hall H, a space Comic-Con typically only schedules for tentpole film panels like Avatar.

During the entertaining and carefully produced session, producers confirmed fan suspicions that several deceased characters would be coming back for the final season. Elizabeth Mitchell and Jeremy Davies will be back on the show, along with Ian Somerhalder, who will have to juggle his schedule with shooting the CW’s Vampire Diaries, and almost certainly more.

Last May’s finale concluded with a bomb exploding that could reset the last several years of the character’s lives. The final season, producers said, will in some ways resemble the first.

In the first season, the characters “were running around the jungle, things felt intense and surprising and there was a sense of emotional discovery about the characters,” said executive producer Carlton Cuse. “We have a way that we’re going to be able to do that in the final season too.”

The show will also employ a new narrative device that’s unique to the final season.

“The time travel season is over, the flash forward season is over,” executive producer Damon Lindelof said. “We’re going to do something different.”

As for lingering mysteries about the show’s story, “everything that matters we’re gonna answer,” assured Lindelof.

Heroes also received a rapturous response, with producers giving some details about next season’s plot. The heroes will return to normal lives, but what will “normal” mean exactly?

“Do you hide? Do you assimilate?” asked creator Tim Kring. “It’s a chance to go back and strip away some of the story elements that make the show harder to relate to. With Claire in college and Parkman is a detective and Peter is a paramedic, it’s an entry point into the show that’s easier for the audience.”

The rock star reception for Chuck was practically literal, with the show’s mock-rock-duo Jeffster introducing the panel to Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” and bringing the audience to its feet. Though Comic-Con panelists usually thank attending fans, star Zachary Levi and others displayed a deeper-than-usual appreciation for critics and viewers who helped convince NBC to give the show a third season.

“We have the best fans in the world who will go and eat multiple Subway sandwiches.” Levi said, referring to a fan campaign to save the show. “You guys are incredible, I love you so much, thank you so much.”

The second season concluded with Chuck quitting the Buy More and gaining kung fu superpowers and the cast addressed how the twist will change the show.

“The ‘Chuck-fu’ — he can’t just know kung fu all the time, otherwise his handlers are obsolete,” Levi said. “So our very talented and wise creators, they’ve structured it so the powers have a window, a shelf life, there’s a glitch in the system … I have my powers, but they don’t necessarily last. That’s the secret.”

Meanwhile pilot screenings for some new shows such as Fox’s Human Target and the ABC’s V received strong reactions from the crowd, relieving studios that their shows passed the initial sniff test among Comic-Con fans who can be both the most discriminating and forgiving of viewers. Some other shows fared less well, including an experimental off-site screening of ABC’s family sitcom The Middle, dubbed Mom-a-Con, that drew few attendees.