Nerdist was started by Chris Hardwick and has grown to be a many headed beast.

The New Norm: Geek-Worthy ≠ Genre?

by on July 12, 2010

Images of Castle, Community and The Big Bang Theory, plus the Comic-Con International logo

Oh, Comic-Con. Every year we anticipate your cornucopia of nerdtastic offerings, and still your jam-packed schedule ends up giving us at least one – and usually five or six – apoplexy-inducing conflicts of interest. You’re like the abusive boyfriend who entreats us with pretty gifts and sweet-talk and then leaves us in tears. This year I thought Thursday’s slate was unusually tough, but Saturday’s damn near made me cry: If I spend all day loitering around Hall H waiting to see the Paul and Cowboys Vs. Aliens sneak peeks, I should just forget about seeing the Fringe and Guild panels. Wait… and I’d never make it back from the Guild panel at the Hilton to get into the Fringe panel, either. Oh, Gaius Christ! (Head, meet desk.)

But I digress, sorry. </vent> Really, the impossible to navigate, industry-driven scheduling of SDCC as we know it today is only the jumping-off point for what I really want to talk about: What comprises appropriate con programming, and why?  Are the lines between genre and mainstream TV starting to blur beyond recognition? It’s not a question with an easy answer, in part I think because every individual’s response is subject to their own personal preferences and interests. Comic-Con has long since diverged from its pure comics and publishing origins to embrace geek-beloved films, TV, and now internet properties.  Beyond that,  what we see more and more every year is the presence of titles that even less than a decade ago would have seemed all but irrational as Comic-Con-audience interests. Especially in the TV offerings – more sitcoms, more dramadies, more procedurals, all adding to the criss-cross mayhem of trying to figure out how best to spend your time at the con. (Apart from time you adamantly set aside for getting in the trenches on the exhibit floor and exploring the indie merchants and small-press exhibitors, which you really should do. Really.)

The gang at io9 recently chimed in with a run-down of TV titles that will have a presence at this year’s SDCC and which, as they interpret it, the industry is attempting to communicate that the geek community should be watching. For the most part, their logic is sound and their assessments on the money*, particularly the stuff about cast members that command nerd loyalty; it’s easy to question if a show like Castle, diversionary and fun though it is, being as much a Comic-Con priority for ABC if it didn’t star Nathan Fucking Fillion. Declarations of “WTF” on the Hawaii Five-O remake taper off a bit when you recall that it stars Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. (I still think the show ought to be titled Jin Kwon and Sharon Valerii Will MAHALO You In the Face, but that’s just me.)  I do think a few on io9’s list might not really be that puzzling at all – The Big Bang Theory may be a sitcom, but if that’s not a show aimed at the con crowd, I don’t know what is – yet I get what they’re driving at.

What I don’t see being discussed in the io9 article, or very much at all with regard to this issue – and this is what I want to posit to you, Nerdist readers – is the notion that quality can, and often will, trump content with regard to wanting the opportunity to geek out over a show that you love. It’s been my theory that over the past decade, the quality of scripted television has soared so high in part as an result of the reality television boom; viewers flock to excellent and challenging cable shows, which is successful counter-programming, and some scripted network offerings have to step up their game in order to get the network to green-light them in favor of a cheaper reality show in the first place. It’s because the shows are good that fans delight in them in such nerdtastic proportions, not necessarily because of who they star or what they are about. It’s a pet theory (and maybe a cock-eyed optimist’s one), but one that I feel a teeny bit vindicated on every time I lurk around LiveJournal and see yet more elaborately-designed Mad Men and Community icons and banners, and one that I’m curious if anyone else shares.

*I’d categorically disagree, though, that White Collar is merely a “Burn Notice wannabe.” It may not co-star Bruce Fucking Campbell, but it’s much more than that.