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'Heroes' Gives Credit to Its Fans

Saturday was television's biggest day at Comic-Con, with fans starting to line up at 6 a.m. for the "Heroes" panel. By 10 a.m. -- three hours before showtime -- the line wrapped around the entire second floor of the San Diego Convention Center, both beginning and ending outside the panel's entrance, an unprecedented response for a TV presentation at Comic-Con.

The biggest room allocated for TV events, the 4,000-capacity Ballroom 20, hosted Saturday panels on NBC's "Bionic Woman" and "Heroes," Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galatica," animated series "Futurama," TV Guide's Hot List and Joss Whedon, creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

"A few years ago, the networks thought that the genre audience was too small to launch a show," said Tim Kring, creator and executive producer of "Heroes."

"The genre audience has become the mainstream audience," he continued. "If you look at the movies in theaters this summer it's fantasy, sci-fi, comics" -- respectively, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Transformers" and "Spider-Man 3."

Each show panel featured cast members, show creators and executive producers. A common theme among the panels was ensuring that the fans were made to feel responsible for and integral to a show's success, with "Heroes" co-executive producer Jeph Loeb billing the panel as "'Heroes' Thanks You."

"Kyle XY" actor Matt Dallas said, "Before I started on the show, I wasn't a sci-fi fan because I didn't know how much about it. But now I realize just how important the relationship between us and the fans is."

"Heroes" wasn't just full to capacity, the sides of the room were packed solid with standing attendees, with fans still in line outside hoping to get in. Consensus was that even the Con's largest room -- reserved for the Hollywood film studios' presentations -- wouldn't have been able to meet demand.

Biggest cheer of the day was for surprise appearance of Kevin Smith when it was announced he will be writing and directing an episode of the NBC spinoff series "Heroes Origins." Slated to begin airing at the end of April, the six-part anthology series will be separate to the narrative of "Heroes'" second season, with each episode focusing on a different new hero. Mr. Smith's five-minute appearance saw him jokingly pitch his idea for an episode focusing on his perception of the relationship between Hiro and Ando: "If you can do an autopsy on a cheerleader, you can show two gay heroes making out."

A small minority of fans expressed dismay that the only new footage screened was a short, quick-cut trailer that didn't reveal much about the show's second season, but the vast majority were more than happy to wait for hours to see all 12 season-two regulars plus Mr. Kring, Mr. Loeb and visual artist Tim Sale.

The 10 a.m. screening of the slightly truncated "Bionic Woman" pilot (edited to allow for a longer Q&A) was well received by the full house, with the biggest cheer going to "Battlestar Galactica's" Katee Sackhoff, who appeared on the panel, along with executive producers David Eick and Jason Smilovic plus actors Michelle Ryan and Mark A. Sheppard.

"As TV audiences have become compartmentalized -- you don't need a 30 rating to be a hit -- you can find your audience and that's OK," Mr. Eick said of the show's prospects.

When asked about a show about strong female characters being produced by male writers, Mr. Eick pointed out the male executive producers all report to female execs at the network.

"And we all know Ben Silverman's kind of a girl," he added.

(Editor: Horowitz. Eighth paragraph clarified at 1:32 pm)

Comments (3)

Bill:

Mr. Smith's five-minute appearance saw him pitch his idea for an episode focusing on his perception of the relationship between Hiro and Ando: "If you can do an autopsy on a cheerleader, you can show two gay heroes making out."


Why does every same sex friendship on TV today need to somehow be sexual?

Alex:

Mr. Smith was joking. I've amended the story to make it clearer. Thanks.

By 10 a.m. -- three hours before showtime

Ah, that's nothing. Supernatural fans were in place at 8 am for a 2:45 panel and since most missed breakfast they really appreciated the pie that was handed out after the Pushing Daisies panel in the same room! Yum!

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