SAN DIEGO -- For the first time in the six years that I have attended the annual Comic-Con here, television totally trumped movies in terms of dominating the environment and capturing the attention of convention-goers. Other than a blowout panel for the upcoming fifth and final movie in the “Twilight” series, there didn’t seem to be a single movie event here that made a significant impact with the crowd of approximately 125,000 genre fans that had gathered in the city’s historic Gaslamp district for this annual outsized onslaught of panels, premieres and other media events devoted to television series, movies, comic books, video games, Internet content and licensed characters of all kinds.
Instead, television ruled inside the convention center and out -- so much so that a casual observer might have mistaken this multimedia extravaganza for a massive TV convention. For example, in the past buildings in the area were typically draped with eye-catching campaigns for big-budget movie releases, but this year striking images for NBC’s new fall adventure series “Revolution” and Syfy’s upcoming scripted television drama and massively multi-player online gaming hybrid “Defiance” covered the two high-rise hotels that bracket the convention center, the Hilton and the Marriott, respectively.
Directly across the street from the entrance to the center, in a prime location that almost all convention goers must pass through every time they walk to or from it, NBC had a large display for “Revolution” and an even bigger attraction promoting its returning horror series “Grimm.” At the center of the “Grimm” attraction was the trailer that is home to one of the characters on the series. Throughout the Con there was always a line of fans waiting to walk through it and have something creepy done to them while inside. (A sign outside invited visitors “Grimm Your Skin” while inside the trailer.)
In back of the convention center, anchored at one of the expansive docks in the San Diego harbor, was the TV Guide Magazine yacht, which at any given moment Thursday, Friday and Saturday was bustling with visiting stars from current and upcoming television series. This was only the second year for this unique TV Guide effort, but it was clear that television personalities required very little coaxing to take a break from the bustle of panels, press conferences and other promotional demands and instead relax in what was commonly described as a floating lounge.
Syfy this year was a partner in the TV Guide Magazine yacht, so much of the space on board was utilized to promote “Defiance.” Video game consoles lined one wall, allowing guests to play a few minutes of the upcoming “Defiance” game. Syfy also promoted “Defiance” in the Wired Magazine café in the nearby Omni Hotel and in the restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was re-branded Café Defiance for the Con.
Similarly, and just a couple of blocks from Café Defiance, The HUB took over the Broken Yolk restaurant and transformed it into a highly visible promotional environment for itself.
To the side of the convention center, in the sweeping Bayfront Park, Warner Bros. erected a stage area that was branded by its syndicated entertainment news magazine “Extra.” Throughout the Con stars from a broad range of television series including “The Big Bang Theory,” “Bones,” “Teen Wolf,” “Person of Interest,” “The Vampire Diaries” and the upcoming “Arrow,” “The Following,” “Psych,” “Nikita,” “Revolution” and “Elementary” were interviewed while hundreds of fans gathered at the foot of the stage. (Movie and Web personalities also appeared on the “Extra” stage throughout the weekend.)
The biggest and best parties of the Con were also focused on television. They included Showtime’s annual party for its serial killer thriller “Dexter”; FX’s annual bash with Maxim magazine, which was filled with talent not only from FX shows but other television and Web series; Warner Bros. annual VIP press party with its television talent; a party for the Internet and television franchise FEARnet; a relatively intimate party with the cast of the Syfy series “Haven”; and the annual closing-night party thrown by Entertainment Weekly, which has long been the must-attend event of the Con for anyone involved in television. Guests at this year’s EW party included stars from “True Blood,” “Once Upon a Time,” “666 Park Avenue,” “Being Human,” “Glee,” “Teen Wolf,” “Grimm,” “Doctor Who,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Arrow” and “The Vampire Diaries.” In addition, AMC staged a lavish event for the season premiere of one of its signature dramas, “Breaking Bad.” It is no longer unusual for television programs that do not even remotely fit into the genre categories that characterize this convention to be promoted during it, but this may have been the first time that a series with no genre connection of any kind was at the center of so large a Comic-Con event.