Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chuck vs the Sepinwall, take two

For those of you making the pilgrimage to Comic-Con in San Diego, I'm going to be moderating the "Chuck" panel. My first trip to SDCC; any tips on what to do when I'm not interrogating Schwartz, Fedak and company?

(And I have no details beyond my own presence.)


Chad said...

Alan, this comment has NOTHING to do with your column, also something I found today, that back in 1995 when you won second place for Entertainment Review back in the Columbia Scholastic Press Review, I won second place in Sports Column. Nothing to do with anything except that ultimately, the Internet makes for a small world.

Ivy Gabrielle said...

Since the panel is on a Saturday, the Con is going to be packed. The best thing to do is to get out of the convention center for a little bit and see San Diego. Maybe go to the zoo, Sea World, Legoland, or the beach (after the panel, of course).

Anonymous said...

Well if you're an animal lover, the Zoo is just amazing. A true masterpiece of animal magistery.

BTW, I can't think of someone more qualified or deserving of the honor of this priviledge. I mean Mo Ryan and Jace are right up there but I'm glad it's my man Sepinwall, kudos sir!

And just remember, "Don't freak out!"

Kenrick said...

Wow, I'm kinda surprised you've never trekked to SDCC. I guess NJ is on the opposite corner of the country.

I'll mention what I like to do at SDCC, but since you've been to other cons, I'd imagine you must be familiar with all this.

I've gone a couple times (and will be going this year). There are two main things I like to do. Wander the convention floor and meet writers and artists I like. You can find out who will be where and when by looking at the program (artist's alley and booths) or you'd have to hit up the big publisher booths and they'll have a schedule letting you know when they'll have signings. Beware though, some require you to get a ticket early in the day to ensure your place in line.

I also like to just rest and sit in panels (usually the movie ones and some TV), but it has become a lot more difficult getting into the popular panels because of how ginormous the attendance has gotten. A fun panel to check out that they have every year is Quick Draw. A few cartoonist are asked to draw things quickly based on audience suggestions.

Not sure if you'll be out there with friends or schmoozing, but I find it helpful to bring my own bag lunch when I go to conventions.

Anyway I used to plan out my days very carefully about what I want to do, just 'cause there is SO MUCH going on at the same time, but I've since lost the energy for it. I don't even search for swag that much anymore. Even trying to buy exclusives has become a huge hassle.

On a side note, the race track in San Diego is opening that week, so if you're looking for something else to do you can also try that.

Unknown said...

Be prepared for a busy time on the Exhibit floor, as well as making your way to the room for the panel. If you're not going to see any of the other panels any other day, enjoy the rest of SD. Just stay away from the Convention Center and half of downtown, as it'll be filled with CC goers.

Kenrick said...

Also, don't know if you've seen this:

It's part of a viral campaign for Funny People:

It's only funny in the intentional corniness of it and how well it captures the essence of those 90s teacher shows.

Alyson said...

BTW, I can't think of someone more qualified or deserving of the honor of this priviledge. I mean Mo Ryan and Jace are right up there but I'm glad it's my man Sepinwall, kudos sir!

Amen to that. You are, after all, the Man Who Saved the Show. ;)

In all seriousness, congrats, I can't think of a better moderator type. I shall be living vicariously through your reports from Sam Diego.

TimmyD said...

Go to Coronado and walk around the Hotel Del Coronado. It's amazing and where they filmed "Some Like It Hot" (or an episode of Baywatch if you need a TV related excuse to visit)

Michael said...

Remember this line from "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"?

"Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

Replace "space" with "SDCC" and you'll get some idea.

Here's a good start to figuring things out.

I'm not quite sure where to go - maybe Heidi MacDonald's The BEAT? - but I'm sure there will be a fair number of old-timers who'll remember you from your RAC days.

Word verification: "press".

dyb said...

For SDCC tips, you might consider contacting Mark Evanier, who blogs at He's been attending the Con from the beginning and usually hosts a dozen panels every year, so he'd know the ins and outs.

He also has great stories about writing for Welcome Back Kotter, Pink Lady and Jeff, and Scrappy Doo, so maybe just harrass him at the Con.

Anonymous said...

Any words on who will be attending the panel, Alan? If the whole cast is going, like last year, I hope more questions can steer towards the supporting ones. Seemed like Sarah Lancaster and Ryan McPartlin didn't get to say much during the panel; it was mostly Zac doing all the talking.

Matt Melvin said...

Stop by the Cyanide & Happiness booth (1232) and I'll give you a free t-shirt and draw you a Wire-inspired comic. :D

Hatfield said...

Ok, not to geek out, but I love Cyanide & Happiness, and in fact was just showing my girlfriend some of the archives last night. You guys are a part of my morning Internet routine, along with What's Alan Watching? and my fantasy baseball team.

Ok, so maybe that was more of a complete dorking out than a geeking out.

As for San Diego recommendations, PB has lots of good places to eat, and pretty much any Mexican food place you hit up will be good, as long as it's authentic.

Anonymous said...

I've gone to the Con for the last four years, with my primary interest being the movie and TV panels. I suspect you'll care about that more than comic-book related stuff and getting autographs.

About a week and a half in advance, they'll release the program guide online. Go through it and figure out what you're interested in. Then put together a schedule for yourself, including alternates if you can't make your first choices.

The Con is *very* crowded. They put the most popular panels in Hall H, Ballroom 20, and Room 6CDEF, which are the biggest rooms but are still almost always filled to capacity. If you're interesting in anything in these rooms, get there early. If you're interested in any of the Friday or Saturday night panels, and you aren't already in the room or at least in line by mid-afternoon, forget it. You won't get in. (Unless your presenter badge allows you to bypass lines. I'm not sure if that's the case.)

If you're interested in multiple events at the same time, try to lay out a schedule that minimizes room changes. They don't clear rooms between panels, so staying in the same room is a way to avoid lines. I often spend all of Friday or Saturday without leaving Hall H, which is where the movie panels are.

If you don't like crowds, stay away from the exhibit hall. The exhibit hall is generally devoted to vendors selling comic books, toys, artwork, T-shirts, and games. I don't know if any of those things appeal to you.

I won't be coming this year, because passes sold out four months in advance and I didn't manage to get one. Hearing you'll be there makes me extra-sad to be missing it.

If you're curious about what the panels are like, you can read my blog posts from last year:
The Middleman
Race to Witch Mountain, T2on
Dark Castle
The Big Bang Theory, Watchmen
The Wolfman
The Spirit
Dollhouse, Terminator Salvation
Bolt, Up
The Mummy 3, Death Race
Drag Me to Hell, Land of the Lost
Underworld, Pineapple Express

Alan Sepinwall said...

I should clarify that I have lots of experience with San Diego itself; it's just the Con that's new to me.

debbie said...

Bring us back whatever info you can get on LOST!

LA said...

Is Comic-Con downtown at the convention center? If so, try to have dinner at Soleil @ K. It's only a couple blocks from the convention center, and the food is to die for. It's at the corner of K & 6th, ground floor at the Marriott Gaslamp (a hotel I recommend, BTW).

Todd said...

Alan, you looking for dining suggestions as well?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Todd, I wouldn't object to them, certainly.

Beth said...

If you're into tapas, there's Cafe Sevilla only a few blocks from the convention center. Their happy hour is inexpensive and delicious. I'll be at the Con on Thursday, but wish now that I had snagged a weekend ticket. Best of luck to you, sir! And keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Alan, just promise us that when you are there, asking questions, that you be sure to not ruffle any feathers and not take the opportunity to point out how lame it is to use the same boring and tired old will-they-won't-they device that has been used since the dawn of television. Also, don't remind them that they have nothing to lose by just doing something different, since they are already on a massive bubble.

I would appreciate you doing, or not doing, all those things, because kissing ass should not be Ausiello's sole domain.

Anonymous said...

Alan, would you please ask Schwartz and Fedak if Sarah Walker will ever have sex again. It's been a very long while since the CIA honeypot got some--not since before Bryce Larkin's first death.

imkeh said...

Alan, first I'd like to say how much I have enjoyed your Chuck reviews. They are comprehensive, witty, and most importantly, they usually agree with my opinion :)

I'm a Comic-Con virgin myself so I have nothing to add except I will see you there this year! You probably won't see me, but I'll be glad you're up there along with the cast. Your support has undoubtedly helped bring my favorite show back.

One last thing I'd like to add though is a "hear hear!" on the last anonymous commenter who suggested you comment on abandoning the will-they-won't-they angst. I know that fedak and schwartz and professionals, but I also know if you want to slip it in there, it can be done in a classy, non-invasive manner.

That's it. Let's have fun!

Cindy said...

PLEASE tell/beg/threaten (whichever you prefer) Schwartz and Co: No triangle. Please?

Definitely more Sarah's history (maybe return of Gary Cole? and young actress who played young Sarah -- she's cute!), more Casey (give Adam something more than just grunts), more Ellie+Awesome (even if Chuck is moving out, now that they are married)..and of course, more Jeffsters!

Randy Lander said...


Tom Spurgeon has an invaluable Con "how-to" that he updates every year. Here's the link to last year's version:

This is my 11th year, and here are my tips:

1. Go to Ralph's Supermarket to get lunch. It's cheaper and better (for the money) than most of the restaurants I've been to.

2. If you like seafood, go to The Fish Market.

3. If you can, make a point of seeing the Quick Draw panel. It's one of those things everyone who attends Comicon should see.

4. If there are any pros you absolutely want to see, check out their blogs beforehand and try to figure out where they'll be. It's damn near impossible to "run into" someone unless you've planned it ahead.

At this point, I usually do a planner of what panels I want to go to, where they are, what artists/writers I'm hoping to see and anywhere they've announced, and any stuff I've seen online that I want to make a point to buy (this year's first item on the list is Chris Samnee's sketchbook). I'll confess that it looks a bit OCD, but it's been invaluable to me in getting to do a lot of what I wanted to do in San Diego.

Hope to see you there. I still remember the days when we were both just guys posting on, and now you're a famous TV writer who helped save one of my favorite shows and I'm...

Well, anyway, you're famous. :)

Randy Lander said...

Sorry, that URL didn't work. Try this one:

Ally said...

Good one Cindy! Threaten, huh? LOL.

Anyway, please Allan. I agree with Cindy please ask Schwartz & Fedak more about Sarah's life before she became an agent. I'm still stuck with this "Sarah having a sister thing" and one fan thought it's Carina LOL. I'm losing my mind haha! It would be great having Sarah's family together -- well if there's any and also Chuck, I hope he finds his mom.

Good luck on the panel by the way :)

SC said...

The Gaslight District, where the convention center is, has a ton of really nice restaurants, so I suggest just walking a bit and finding a nice outdoor place and sit and people watch for a while.
Also, if the Padres are home, the park is right there, and the weather is certainly conducive to sit and watcha few innings.
Have a great time.

Q Ball said...

I'm a native San Diegan, so I felt I should weigh in.

Comic-Con has turned into a frenzy the last few years, but like others said, if you have a plan, backup-plan and backup backup-plan, then you should be able to navigate the huge Convention Center.

I grew up in Ocean Beach (O.B.) and while La Jolla gets all the publicity, I think O.B. is worth checking out if you've never been. Just go down Newport Street and you can find great mexican food (Nico's), a kickass burger (Hodad's) and some tasty ice cream (Bud's). O.B. isn't the cleanest place, but it feels real and not artificial like Pacific Beach or La Jolla can feel.

Check it out, and have a great time in San Diego!

Alan Sepinwall said...

I have friends in Del Mar Heights whom I visit fairly often (and with whom I'll be staying on this trip), so hopefully I won't get too screwed up in my travels. Thanks for all the tips so far, guys, and keep 'em coming if you want.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, on the Chuck/Sarah tip, I asked Fedak about it in our season post-mortem, and I asked him and Schwartz about it at New York Comic-Con. These guys are masters at giving vague non-answers to stuff they don't want to discuss. I don't know that I'm suddenly going to get them to crack at San Diego.

Henry said...

Native San Diegan here, Alan.

Don't make the panel about yourself and geek out at the show like a lot of moderators do. This was a mistake that Kevin Smith (yes, the director and giant BSG fan) made last year with the Battlestar Galactica panel. He asked questions to the cast and RDM and David Eick, sure, but he made it all about himself and commented on all of the stuff that he loved about the show. Don't run over the cast and showrunners and allow them to answer your queries.

Otherwise, I'd advise you just to enjoy the Con. It's gonna be huge and you may get overwhelmed by the large amount of humanity in one single place (I was last year, when I attended the Con for the first time). I think the Coaster goes from Del Mar Heights to trolley stations around the city that can get you to the Convention Center. I'd advise that instead of driving anywhere near the Gaslamp Quarter or downtown near the Convention Center. Parking is hell-ish during the Con, especially if it's a Saturday panel.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Don't make the panel about yourself and geek out at the show like a lot of moderators do.

I don't think you need to worry about that, Henry. People who were at the New York con are obviously free to disagree, but my goal was to ask a few questions and get the hell out of the way. (Schwartz even joked that I was turning it over to audience Q&A too quickly.)

The one lesson I learned at NYCC was to establish firmer ground rules upfront about autographs, gifts, etc. Assuming they have more actors at the SDCC panel, this may be less of an issue, but there was a whole lot of time wasted on people asking Yvonne to sign something, while the next person in line also had an Yvonne question.

Pamela Jaye said...

wait. who said Chuck was moving out cause Ellie was married?
JD stayed a good while after Turk & Csrla married (and what about Izzie & Alex? that should be fun)

Anonymous said...

Allen, I love your reviews but I honestly don't care for you as a person ... clean up your act!

Anonymous said...

but my goal was to ask a few questions and get the hell out of the way.

Oh no. That would be no fun at all. Questions should be asked that would facilitate the panelists to get involved. I think a good moderator is one who know how to take charge of the panel and keep everyone in line.

I attended Chuck's panel at the PaleyFest last year, with every cast members in attendance (yes, including the Buy More gang...except for Sarah Lancaster), and there were times when discussions were going off main focus/topic (due to fans' questions, Zach's ramblings, etc). The moderator, Damon Lindelof, was great in keeping the panel in focus about the show and had facilitated variety of questions that got every cast members to participate in the discussions. This cast is full of hilarious people, I might as well add, so you should have a back up plan. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Alan, if you haven't picked a hotel yet (though the "Veronica Mars" geeks attending ComicCon might have sold the place out) I would suggest the Inn at Sunset Cliffs ( in Point Loma. A friend turned me on to the place around '00, and I've stayed there ever since -- very reasonable, and if you're actually there for the sunset on their deck, it's a knockout.

After I became a fan of VM, only then did I actually notice that The Inn was Veronica and Dad's home! Knocked me out when I finally noticed it.

A-T-G said...

Hey Alan!

I go to 'Con yearly. My Hubby and I are exhibitors there. It's a madhouse on the weekend, so be prepared!

Take deep breaths and have a place to escape to when the crush gets to be too much for you. I take small jaunts onto the floor and then race back to the safety of my booth.

Check the book to see what's happening on the weekend you might want to check out but, GO EARLY! The lines for some of the talks are HUGE!

Check out "Artist's Alley" if you care to. Lots of creative types with fun books and stuff.

Put your cell on vibrate, you'll never hear it ring.

Bring aspirin - there are a LOT of sights and sounds and flashing lights. You may get a headache and half.

Feel free to stop by our booth to say "Hi!" (it's the Red Window booth #4400), I love your blog and you are welcome to dodge traffic with us.

Have fun! Bring your camera! And drink lots of water.

Anonymous said...

hola alan, i´m from a little town in Argentina and i´ve been reading your blog since i became a huge chuck fan.At this point i know what the comic-com is quite well, but i´m so far away! you get to go and you have no idea how much i envy you! have fun, i´ll be waiting the details =)muchos besos.Silvana

afoglia said...

Ugh, I wrote a long message which just got eaten by the internet. Here's the short version of my tips from 4 or 5 years of attending:

1. If you can get into the convention floor early or stay late, do it. It's the only way to truly get the scope of the show. Otherwise, you'll be hemmed in by the crowds. (I don't know if your pass will allow it.)

2. Here's a rough layout of the convention. Starting from the northwest end, there's some small toy sellers, fine art, old toy sellers, back issue sellers, smaller comic companies (e.g. The Tick, View Askew, Keenspot). Then the bigger stuff (upcoming movies, toy and game companies, Marvel, SciFi, TokyoPop, etc.), and finally at the southeast end, back to a few small toy and memorabilia sellers.
In addition there's small press, independent press, and artist's alley.
If you're only there one day, focus on the big, awe-inspiring stuff. Otherwise, stay away from them and focus on the smaller titles you've never heard of and wouldn't have stumbled across otherwise.

3. Stay away from 5th Ave for dinner.
5th Ave is one of the few streets that cross the train tracks, so when the convention lets out, everyone goes up it, and goes into whatever restaurant they first come across. You're better off going over one street to 4th as soon as possible. Less crowds, and the food is slightly less geared towards the conventional hall.
(At least every other restaurant on 5th is Italian. You can get good Italian in NJ.)

Most importantly, realize you won't get to everything. Have fun.

Unknown said...

I have no tips on what to do at a Comic-Con, nor any advice on San Diego. I will say this:

Get ready for a warm reception. I'm willing to bet right now that you'll get a standing ovation for your role in saving the show. There's a reason they picked you Alan.

Yes, I know you've been humble and gave lots of credit to other deserving souls. But you've earned this trip dude.

So, my one bit of advice is to give kudos to Mo Ryan, Fienberg, Jace @ Televisionary, Give Me My Remote and other jouno/bloggers who had a hand in it. I'm sure Wendy aka serendipity who mothered the "Finale & a Footlong will there too, so point her out if possible.

Have fun and be safe. We can't wait to hear about it.

Henry said...

I don't know if the Chuck panel is big enough to warrant it, but before each Q&A of every popular panel (and if it's in Ballroom 20 like last year, when Chuck followed BSG, it's gonna have a lot of people), there is a question screener who moderates the questions from the fans. It's made clear that it should only be questions and no personal requests (autographs, hugs, statements like "I love the show," etc.). Of course, sometimes, the screener for the panel doesn't work. As an example, the Heroes Q&A session last year was a mess from the start because the screener let a personal request (for Milo to hug a girl) through as the first "question." But I'm sure you'll do a good job. I look forward to seeing the Chuck panel at Comic-Con!