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Showrunners: Fest Pros Outweigh ‘Cons’

The CC in NYCC refers to Comic Con, but it increasingly could be TV as television ups its presence significantly at New York Comic Con, which kicks off Oct. 8. Fully 60 series, from CBS’ ballyhooed rookie Supergirl to USA Network hacker drama Mr. Robot to AMC ratings magnet The Walking Dead will take part in the fall festivities—well up from the 35 to 40 present last year, according to organizers.

Between all the comic book heroes brought to life on the small screen and the increased pressure for a show to open big, NYCC is a bigger and bigger player in the TV world. Warner Bros. Television (WBTV), for one, will have seven shows on display at NYCC, up from just a few last year. Lisa Gregorian, president and chief marketing officer of WBTV Worldwide Marketing, says the gain is due to more TV productions on the East Coast and the ideal timing of the New York convention. “It represents a nice bump after the season launches,” Gregorian says. “It’s a follow-up—you get another hit after the show gets that [premiere] hit.”

WBTV shows at NYCC beyond Supergirl include Fox’s Gotham, NBC’s Blindspot and The CW’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Among many other networks, Syfy will host panels for The Expanse and 12 Monkeys, and AMC will do the same for Into the Badlands and Comic Book Men, while also renting out Madison Square Garden for a Walking Dead season premiere. “AMC always comes out in a huge way for Comic Con,” says Lance Fensterman, senior VP of ReedPOP, the convention’s producer.

The event, which is independent of San Diego’s Comic-Con in late July, is held at the Jacob Javits Center on Manhattan’s far West Side. (At NBC’s upfront presentation there in 2014, host Seth Meyers referred to the neighborhood as the “Stabbing District,” though it’s more desolate than dangerous.) Fensterman says the rise in TV properties at NYCC is a result of there being more scripted originals on TV, and more genre series in particular. “That resonates really well with this hard-core audience,” he says.

Julie Plec, showrunner on CW series Containment, Vampire Diaries and The Originals, has been to both the San Diego and New York events. The whole of San Diego seems to dress up for Comic-Con, she says, while New York’s merriment is more contained. But there’s a critical batch of superfans and social media practitioners in Gotham to reach. “Any time you launch a new show, you have to find a way to cut through the clutter,” says Plec.

Floored By Feedback

The producers say such events are a golden opportunity to interact with fans and hear what’s working, or not working, with the series. In early October, chances are viewers have seen a bit of the new season. “When you listen to what they tell you, you really get a sense of what connects with them,” says John Stephens, Gotham executive producer. “It’s kind of like crowd-sourcing.”

After long hours in the writers’ room and on-set, show-shapers find it energizing to see people turn up in their characters’ costumes or toss them an insightful panel question. “To think that people are so passionate about this thing we’ve been making,” says Ali Adler, exec producer on Supergirl, “is really inspiring.”


Two days after Comic Con clears out of Manhattan, a new season of Manhattan will kick off on WGN America. While season 1 of the well-received ‘40s drama featured a lot of talk about the atomic bomb, season 2 is when viewers will glimpse the devastation it can wreak. “It’s less talk, more action,” says creator Sam Shaw. “This thing we’ve been talking about is about to become real.”

The new season features William Petersen, last seen reprising the role of Gil Grissom on the CSI finale Sept. 27. WGN America has not yet committed to a season 3. “We’re doing the best we can to market and promote the show,” says director/executive producer Thomas Schlamme. “Our fingers are crossed we get to do a third season.”

Shaw and Schlamme are not headed to New York Comic Con, but they think the show could find some fans there. Says Shaw: “Who loves a nuclear apocalypse more than the denizens of Comic Con?”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.