TV shows loom at Comic-Con

At least 80 series will be promoted in 2011

Films may have hogged the spotlight at Comic-Con Intl. over the years, but TV shows now far outnumber movies at the fanboy fest.

At least 80 series will be promoted this year through panels, press conferences or other promo events, easily a record for the San Diego confab. Studios, by contrast, will have around 35 films at the confab, which begins July 21.

Networks are looking to reconnect with the fanbases for returning shows, so as to keep auds hooked for upcoming seasons. But for their frosh crop of shows launching this fall, the nets are borrowing from the promotional playbook that studios have used to hype their films, hoping to entice eager early fans.

Among the roster of new shows being tubthumped at Comic-Con this year, CBS, the CW, Fox and NBC will screen pilots of “Person of Interest,” “The Secret Circle,” “Supernatural: The Animated Series,” “Awake,” “Alcatraz,” “Terra Nova” and “Grimm.” And although Fox passed on the spooky drama pilot “Locke & Key,” creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez and exec producers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci will screen the pilot for the show, penned by “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles” creator Josh Friedman. Show is based on the IDW comicbook, and positive buzz could help get the project be revived down the road.

With the convention taking place just eight weeks before the traditional start of the TV season, Comic-Con proved an important launch platform for NBC’s “Chuck” and “Heroes” in years past and built momentum last year for AMC’s zombie drama “The Walking Dead.” Ubiquitous signage, booths on the show floor, screenings, promo handouts and panels helped generate buzz that resulted in strong ratings.

Comic-Con also wraps up just a couple days before the Television Critics Assn.’s summer press tour kicks off, a scheduling move that began in 2009.

“The timing of Comic-Con is perfect for television,” said Lisa Gregorian, Warner Bros. TV’s chief marketing officer. The studio will bring 16 shows to San Diego, up from 11 last year. “It’s the end of upfronts and the beginning of the new season. The end of July is the best time to promote to the consumer.”

In addition to screenings and panels, Warner Bros. TV will also hype “Person of Interest” and “Alcatraz” on 40,000 hotel keycards handed out at 36 area properties (which will also promote “Smallville’s” DVD, the “Mortal Kombat” Web series and the “Lord of the Rings: War in the North” videogame). Company’s new animated “ThunderCats” and “Green Lantern” series will also appear on oversized WB bags handed out to the confab’s 130,000 attendees.

In its fifth appearance at the Con, Showtime will again blanket San Diego with ads for “Dexter,” “Shameless” and the upcoming “Homeland” on the sides of shuttle buses, and it sponsors the lanyards that every attendee will wear, to guarantee exposure for the “Showtime Saves!” tagline that it’s using to tie into superhero fare at the confab.

Other cable nets have found Comic-Con to be fertile ground for promoting genre fare.

AMC’s senior VP of marketing Linda Schupack said “The Walking Dead” was a perfect match for the nerd herds that wander the halls of the San Diego Convention Center because of the show’s roots in Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels. The network is back this year to promote the show’s upcoming second season.

“Comic-Con is important as a launch platform for ‘The Walking Dead’ because it ignites the fan base,” Schupack said. “The panel allows the creators (including Frank Darabont) and talent to interact with the fans. It marries so perfectly with Comic-Con because of its origins. The heart of Comic-Con comes from these genre shows.”

But not every show going to the Con is a genre property. Among those joining the fray:

• ABC will promote new dramas “Charlie’s Angels,” “The River,” “Once Upon a Time,” and returning show “Castle.”

• ABC Family has “The Nine Lives of Chloe King.”

• Adult Swim is promoting Web series-to-TV comedy “Children’s Hospital.”

• BBC America is pushing “Bedlam” and “Doctor Who.”

• Cartoon Network is bringing “Green Lantern: The Animated Series,” “ThunderCats,” “MAD,” The Looney Tunes Show,” “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” and “Young Justice.”

• CBS will promote nerd-friendly “The Big Bang Theory” and “Person of Interest.”

• Comedy Central is bringing “Workaholics.”

• The CW has newcomers “Ringer” and “The Secret Circle,” along with “Nikita,” “Vampire Diaries,” and “Supernatural,” with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles making their first Comic-Con appearance.

• Discovery Channel is back with “Mythbusters,” and is pushing “Penn & Teller Tell a Lie” and “Reign of the Dinosaurs.”

• Disney Channel will roll out heavy onsite promotion for “Phineas and Ferb,” while Disney XD has “Kick Buttowski” and “Fish Hooks” reps the Disney Channel.

• Fox is selling new series “Awake,” “Alcatraz,” “Terra Nova,” “The Finder,” and animated shows “Allen Gregory,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “American Dad,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “The Cleveland Show,” “Family Guy,” “Futurama,” and fan favorites “Glee,” “Bones” and “Fringe.”

• FX is taking “Wilfred,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and animated series “Archer.”

• HBO has its first panel for “Game of Thrones,” while “True Blood” is marking its fourth showing.

• MTV will promote “Beavis and Butt-Head,” “Good Vibes,” “Death Valley” and “Teen Wolf.”

• NBC is bringing back “Chuck” for its final season, along with laffer “Community” and new fantasy drama “Grimm.”

• Nickelodeon has “Power Rangers: Samurai,” “Fanboy and Chum Chum,” “The Penguins of Madagascar,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Supah Ninjas” and “T.U.F.F. Puppy.”

• Starz has “Spartacus: Vengeance” and “Torchwood: Miracle Day.”

• Syfy is taking freshman show “Alphas” plus “Being Human,” “Eureka,” “Lost Girl,” “Warehouse 13” and “Sanctuary.”

• TNT has “Falling Skies,” fresh off its first season.

• And USA Network is taking “Covert Affairs,” “Psych” and “Burn Notice,” marking the network’s third year at Comic-Con.

With the sheer number of shows being tubthumped to fans at this year’s Comic-Con, TV now has the same problem as film: how to mount an effective presence at the confab without getting lost in the clutter.

“The way we look at it is Comic-Con is a community,” said Warner Bros. TV’s Gregorian. “We are fans as much as they are fans. There can be a lot and not all of it is clutter. Also, when we bring a show to the community there, we don’t just bring it once, we bring it back again and again.”

WB’s laffer “The Big Bang Theory,” for example, is returning for its fourth year at the gathering.

“We debated if ‘Big Bang’ was a good fit,” said Gregorian. “It was a healthy debate. In the end, we decided the characters reflect the love and joy of the people who usually attend Comic-Con.”