SDCC@HOME: ‘Mission: Impossible’ – Panel Rooms at San Diego Comic-Con 2020

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EDIT (16/07/2020): listings and commentary edited to now include the 20th Century Studios THE NEW MUTANTS presentation, to be held on Thursday 23rd July at 2pm PT…

We’ve had some time to look over the runners and riders, the video presentations, that Comic-Con International has pulled together for its virtual equivalent of San Diego Comic-Con – SDCC@HOME – that will be debuting content on the CCI YouTube channel over the days of what would have been the con: Thursday 23rd – Sunday 26th July; Preview Night, Wednesday 22nd July 2020.

And it’s a very impressive line-up, covering the full panoply of content that you would find from the bigger ballrooms to the smaller panel rooms – from films and television, from animation to literature, from comics to comics to even more comics. It’s stunning what Comic-Con International has brought together in the short space of time between the cancellation of the physical con to today.

That being said, it’s only natural that Comic-Con fans would try to imagine where a number of the headline-grabbing panels would be found around the San Diego Convention Center, whether they’d be in Hall H, to Ballroom 20, to the Hilton Bayfront’s Indigo Ballroom. I’ve decided to take on an Impossible Mission – to put myself in the mind of the CCI Programming Department, grabbing at those Post-It notes and throwing them down on an imaginary whiteboard, designing a schedule for each of these massive rooms.

Now, we are talking about a much reduced programming schedule which means I did find myself with gaps in the daily listings – the only thing I would recommend is, if you see an hour or two in the lineups, that would be the time for you to go find a stale pretzel, a microwaved thermonuclear-heated corndog and a day-old piece of pizza to nibble on while waiting on the next video to load up!

I’ve stuck with three big rooms – Hall H, Ballroom 20 and Indigo Ballroom. I’ll try and justify how and why I’ve placed each show where I have but I think the locations pretty much speak for themselves: Hall H for the Hollywood big screen or huge cast, attention-grabbing panels, Ballroom 20 for the television and established content; and, Indigo Ballroom for the new and breaking shows and legacy presentations.

(EDIT: reading this, you may see me using the word ‘they’ a lot and it sometimes reads that I critiqing the convention organisation team – nothing could be further from the truth. Just to clarify, when it comes to the putting together of the panels themselves, that’s down to the individual panel organisers and not Comic-Con International. So any particular gripes I may focus on, with missing panellists or elements or whatever, is down to the submissions and not the convention – CCI can only upload what they’re given, am I right?)

What do you think, have I overstepped my mark? Would you put something in a different location, would you have dropped anything from the lineup? Let me know in the comments below or on my Twitter, @EnglishmanSDCC


SDCC@HOME 2020: ‘PANEL ROOM’ BREAKDOWNS

HALL H

Thursday 23rd July

“A bit of a quiet first day in ‘Hall H’… that room always takes a day to rev up its engine – and it does it with some cool panels on Thursdays. HIS DARK MATERIALS, with Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott and Lin-Manuel Miranda: the show may not have totally stuck the landing but the cast alone will attract eyes. And the Collider Directors panel is an incredible collection of talent, including Robert RodriguezColin Trevorrow and Joseph Kosinski – true visionaries.”

EDIT: “Well, this is a spanner in the works! I’m leaving the DIRECTORS ON DIRECTING panel in the post because, yep, I still believe this would make an ideal Hall H panel, with the people they’ve got on-board. But with 20th Century Fox now getting in on the action with that massive THE NEW MUTANTS panel, that will now be the standout panel of the day! We may hopefully be seeing some more surprise panels announced, closer to the launch of the event…”

Friday 24th July

“The day starts very strong with the Theron panel – a much-deserved update for that Hall H Spotlight presentation a few years back – and then I’ve put an Eddie Ibrahim panel in there to complement it, celebrating the best in female talent in the boardrooms and meeting across Hollywood. Then it’s the AMC THE WALKING DEAD afternoon – I say, why would anyone break up a solid threesome? – wrapping on something silly, DEEP BLUE SEA 3, before heading out into the Gaslamp for a brew or two…”

Saturday 25th July

“The traditional mammoth day in Hall H, unfortunately, suffers in SDCC@HOME with a number of the big companies skipping this virtual con – so no Sony, no Paramount, no Warner Bros./DC (they’ve got their own DC FANDOME coming down the pike), no Marvel Studios… So I’ve tried to pull together what I think would serve well on a big stage, kicking off with the first of two Keanu Reeves panels of the day with what I feel is a poorly attended CONSTANTINE retrospective (what, no Rachel Weiss? no Shia LeBeouf? no Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare or Gavin Rossdale??), then a ‘Women who Kick Ass’-lite presentation in the middle, and then arguably the headliner of the entire ‘con’ – BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC. This is followed by an audience fav with WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, before Kevin Smith steps up and blows the roof off the place to close. A shame that Kev’s not going to be live and a audience Q&A proper, something that would let him riff off the vibe of a big room and an audience, playing to his strengths, but I guess we take what we get…”

Sunday 26th July

“There’s no Ballroom 20 programming on a Sunday, of course, so these panels tend to have to be loud and flashy to get people’s attention – Nathan Fillion can always serve that role, the charmer… NEXT would pull out the stops to garner some eyeballs this Fall, THE 100 is always a fan favourite, and THE GOLDBERGS would have the room rockin’! Shame they haven’t pulled some more big names for the TMNT movie flashback – it’s not like they’re overly busy at the moment, WTF…!”


BALLROOM 20

Thursday 23rd July

“It’s a Comic-Con tradition to program back-to-back a specific company or network, especially in B20 – here, I’ve emulated that with four non-stop Amazon Prime shows which would either get people signing up or not, it’s always a gamble. Still, good shows so would serve the room well (especially as you start that block off with Pegg, Frost and Serafinowicz, tell me that wouldn’t be a blast!) And following a mammoth STAR TREK panel, too, which I’m curious to see how they’re going to fit all of what they’re bringing in an hour, might be a bit slim on the actual content – bit of a squeeze. BUGS BUNNY as a palette cleanser before it gets bloody with VAN HELSING….”

Friday 24th July

“This right here is a textbook Ballroom 20 line-up, with a selection of both outgoing and legacy shows with huge audience support, some group discussion panels with some very attractive stars of the silver screen, peppered with a couple of spotlight presentations from creators with MAMMOTH egos… basically, panels that are begging for lots of noise and call-and-response from an audience. Not sure how they’ll emulate that with the streaming panel format but I’m sure Whedon is glad to not have a room asking some big questions live about a) his rumoured behaviour on set, b) his history with the ladies in his life, and c) JUSTICE LEAGUE – expected the Snyder Cutters to make an ABSOLUTE MESS of the Q&A/comments section on that video…”

Saturday 25th July

“All fan favourites – the dictionary definition of Ballroom 20 shows – although I’m curious to see what THE SIMPSONS can bring to the table after so many years under its belt. But I’ve programmed a day of non-stop new or relatively fresh shows, all of which are of a high quality, great cast attendance and got solid fan support – the only risky panels here are FOR ALL MANKIND – did anyone actually sign up for Apple TV+ for this show? and BRAVE NEW WORLD. It’s the same concern I have for DUNE and FOUNDATION: acclaimed science fiction masterworks, yes… but that’s never guaranteed an audience. The CHILDHOOD’S END conundrum: they’re going to have to work BLOODY HARD to keep people’s attention…”


INDIGO BALLROOM

Thursday 23rd July

“Indigo Ballroom: niche programming, sure, but with plenty of spice to keep an audience engaged – nothing that’s going to trouble the metrics too much but enough to get some bums on seats (eyeballs on browsers). DUNCANVILLE has a blinding cast to get people in the room first thing, THE BLACKLIST might have sufficient behind-the-scenes stuff to entertain and, c’mon, MST3K is always going to be a solid draw…”

Friday 24th July

“It’s animation time – and all of it geared towards those of a mature sensibility. SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, this isn’t with a bit of mature humour, intelligent and witty writing throughout… too much? Maybe…”

Saturday 25th July

“This is where the animation fans of a more traditional frame of mind will be served with the ever-entertaining Leonard Maltin giving a glorious look back at cartoons glory days, the fresh and new represented by PHINEAS AND FERB’s latest outing on Disney+, a double-hit of Seth McFarlane, and then you’ve got SAILOR MOON which, I guarantee, will have view counts like you wouldn’t believe – the not-so sleeper hit of the entire SDCC@HOME line-up.

I then put some live-action panels at the end which just shifts gears a bit but I felt they would belong in this room at this point – something new (doing something old), something old (maybe doing something new)…”

Sunday 26th July

“It’s all about the giggles to wrap things up in Indigo this weekend with HOOPS from 20th Century Fox Television featuring a truly incredible cast – including Jake Johnson, Rob Riggle, Ron Funches and Natasha Leggero – and then the Brits take over for a RED DWARF panel. Warning, Americans: if you’ve not experienced Barrie, Charles, Llewellyn on a panel before, you’re in for a treat! Then, to finish, there’s a Power Rangers panel – and, I have to say, unfortunately it’s a bit of a damp squib to close on. None of the big legacy names involved, this might be the equivalent of the air slowly leaving the balloon. Time to catch the free bus back to the hotel, perhaps…”


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