Attendance at the “Lost” panel on Thursday proved TV has finally arrived as film’s equal at Comic-Con.
The convention started life in 1970 as a gathering of 300 comic book fans in a hotel basement, and has since mushroomed into a major event attracting more than 120,000 attendees, the largest comic book and pop culture assembly in North America.
Spread over four days and the entire San Diego Convention Center, recent years have seen “the Con” become a launchpad for the major movie studios’ upcoming genre fare. Seeing its importance to creating advance word of mouth for next summer’s blockbusters, television networks have begun to use the Con to create buzz for their upcoming shows.
Last year’s indication of the soaring popularity of TV-related material was confirmed Thursday when the “Lost” panel, held in a 4,000-seat ballroom, had completely filled 30 minutes prior to the panel’s start. Hundreds were left lining up outside after the panel had started, hoping to gain access under the “one in one out” policy.
The hardcore fans who lined up for more than six hours didn’t seem to mind that the panel’s big news had been revealed Wednesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, but executive producer Damon Lindelof did.
Mr. Lindelof expressed dismay at ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson’s decision to reveal the return of Harold Perrineau’s character, Michael, in season four.
“That was a bummer for us because we got spoiled,” he said. “That was an announcement we were hoping to make at the Con.”
ABC debuted “Lost” at Comic-Con three years ago to enthusiastic response, and the two executive producers have presented here each year since.
“This is literally the highlight of our year,” said Mr. Lindelof, addressing the fans. “This show was born out of the Con. We do it for you and with you.”
NBC followed ABC’s strategy by debuting the pilot episode of “Heroes” at last year’s Con. The strong positive buzz resulting from that screening is credited with playing a significant part in the show’s immediate ratings success.
In total, nearly 100 TV-related events will take place across the weekend, with the major networks screening no fewer than five pilots this year, each followed by Q&As with cast and showrunners.
Screening exclusive footage and wooing the Comic-Con crowd doesn’t guarantee a show’s success, however. For every “Lost” or “Heroes,” there’s a “Threshold” or “Invasion,” neither of which lasted more than one season.
Saturday is shaping up to be a significant day for TV fans, with a screening of NBC’s “Bionic Woman” pilot, a “Heroes” panel featuring the entire cast, and fan favorite “Battlestar Galactica.” The latter attracted a beyond-capacity crowd last year. That popularity resulted in near pandemonium, with hundreds of fans locked out of the panel. This year, organizers revamped security and instituted a new line system.
Other tidbits from the “Lost” panel:
- Carlton Cuse, executive producer, on the season-three finale: “We were trying to have a satisfying ending—it won’t be 10 seconds of black tape.” (“It’ll be 20 seconds of black tape!” quipped Mr. Lindelof.)
- Mobile phone episodes are still scheduled to debut in the fall on Verizon cell phones.
- Production on season four starts in four weeks.
- The first episode, which does not have a title yet, is set to air in February.
- ABC will not be showing repeats of season three.
- The producers expect to be writing episode 14 as episode one airs.
- By nodding his head, Mr. Lindelof indicated Jack would soon find out Claire is his half-sister.
- The flash-forward in the final episode of season three was not the end of the show.
- The concept of the flash-forward has been with the writers since the first season, but they could not employ the technique until they had a finite end to the series scheduled.
- Mr. Lindelof: “The show has never really been about getting off the island.”
- Michael is the “first and only” character written out of the show with the express intention of bringing him back.
- Libby is connected to the Dharma Initiative, and she will be seen in season four.
- Mr. Lindelof: “The survival of the island is now at stake.”
- Mr. Lindelof: “The flashback element is slowly going the way of the dodo.”
- The mysterious character Rousseau will have a flashback episode in either season four or five.
- Season four will reveal how Ben Linus got caught accidentally in Rousseau’s trap, and who Henry Gale really was.