“You could be forming a line for nothing.” – SDCC 2015 Part IV

The New Mount Rushmore.

The New Mount Rushmore.

Posted by Kim

Life at Comic Con is a BUBBLE.  You’re so focused on getting everything on your schedule done that you have no idea what’s going on in the world other than the status of the Hall H and Ballroom 20 lines and whether or not Hayley Atwell had posted a new dubsmash. It’s a nice place to be.  The BEST place, really. Our last day of Comic Con was a bit of an oddity as there were exactly zero panels we were DESPERATE to get into (many apologies to our Supernatural recapper Dawn, whom we surely let down). Thus, we allowed ourselves the luxury of sleeping in until 8:30 (which in Comic-Con time is practically noon) and set out with no real PLAN for the day. Having no set plan or schedule is a double-edged sword, especially for a Type-A Monica like me.  After 4 days of schedules regimented down to the minute, it was refreshing to just be able to wander and take things as they came. On the other hand, wandering aimlessly led to us making several rookie Comic-Con mistakes.  It had to happen eventually, right?

We have zero idea what day it is.

We have zero idea what day it is.

Rookie Mistake #1: Planning on hitting the offsites before the Exhibit Hall.  With no panels, we decided to use Sunday to visit all of the offsite events we had been ignoring all weekend.  We made a stop by the Petco Interactive Zone on our way to the convention center because we had been walking past the giant Snoopy house (promoting the new Peanuts movie) all week and had been dying to go in.  By 9:30 AM, the line to go through the house wound its way around the park several times and it crept along at a snail’s pace.  We left.  No amount of free Charlie Brown trucker hats or snuggles from rescue beagles was enough for us to wait several hours to go down a slide. This is Comic Con, not Six Flags, y’all.

We bypassed the convention center in favor of heading towards the FX Arena and the Adult Swim carnival.  Both were closed until 11. Lame.  We opted to walk along the marina on the way to Nerd HQ, which we knew for certain would be open. It was a lovely walk and was decidedly less crowded than the main drag in the Gaslamp. Plus we got to see all the boats and discuss what fandom related name we would give to our yacht when this website goes public and we become bajillionaires. (It could happen.) For future reference, my yacht will be called the Hello, Sweetie.

BOATS BOATS BOATS.

BOATS BOATS BOATS.

So why was this a mistake? We assumed that we’d be able to wander the exhibit floor pretty easily towards the end of the day, based on past experience at New York Comic Con, where we were able to zip through the floor finding last-minute deals in the dwindling hours of Sunday. False. Sunday afternoon was the most packed we EVER saw the exhibit floor as swag-hungry con-goers devoured as much of the remaining stock as possible.  After being able to wander the floor pretty easily Saturday morning, the sardines-like atmosphere Sunday afternoon was a bit of a shock.  Next year, we’ll know better.  If our Sunday schedule is empty, we do the exhibit hall first and then hit offsites when they open later in the day. Ah, well.  It’s a blessing in disguise. WE DIDN’T NEED TO BUY MORE THINGS ANYWAY. (Though we did miss out on a print we had been eyeing the day before because it sold out. Moral of the story: buy something when you see it. Don’t count on it being there on the last day.)

Rookie Mistake #2: Leaving NerdHQ while a panel was happening

Have we MENTIONED we love photo booths?

Have we MENTIONED we love photo booths?

Thanks to our super packed panel schedule, Sunday was the first day that we were able to make it to the Zachary Levi-founded Nerd Haven known as NerdHQ.  What a haven it was! There were couches and there were charging stations. There was actual FOOD for sale as opposed to just hot dogs and nachos (thank you for your cafe, New Children’s Museum) and there were a handful of food trucks outside. And much to our delight, there were photo booths galore.

High Five Rogue!

Much to the delight of the cute guy running the photo booth, my green “Sinceriously” shirt blended in with the green screen, rendering the top half of my body invisible.  Well…it’s either that or the Hall H sand fleas gave me superpowers. I’ll keep you posted.

The tickets for Nerd HQ’s “Conversations for a Cause” literally sold out in seconds.  Sage and I tried for no less than six panels when they went on sale…some were “sold out” immediately, some we managed to get “tickets” in our cart only to find they were no longer available when we went to fill in our information.  It was a disaster and we were crushed that we weren’t able to include this in our SDCC experience. We hung around the entry line for the Conversation with SDCC 2015 MVPs Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Clark Gregg, and Chloe Bennet in hopes that people wouldn’t show (HA!) or that they would release some last-minute standing room tickets.  Nope.  DENIED.  After leaving our mark on the giant blackboard, we pondered what to do next. Would Hayley and Company DO a photo-op after?  Surely not, we thought.  We knew that Nathan Fillion was doing a panel later that afternoon, and as he had spent at least an hour doing photos the day before, we decided that we would throw our hope for a picture behind him.  Thus, we left NerdHQ and headed off to check out the Nerdist Conival over at Petco.

Big. Huge. 

The walk from the New Children’s Museum to Petco was not a short one. Along the way, we sadly observed that some of the offsite installations were already in the process of being taken down. (The Comedy Central Mini-Golf, which we had wanted to do, was one of them, much to our dismay.) One thing NOT taken down? The terrifying Colonel Sanders statues, which continue to haunt my dreams.

WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?

WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?

The Conival was set up all around one of the mezzanines of Petco Park (the baseball nerd in me was delighted to get a peek at this GORGEOUS ballpark).  There was swag (“I don’t know what that is, but it’s free, so I want it.”).  We got to color our own buttons at the Smart Girls booth because our Queen Amy Poehler knows what’s what.  We were in line for yet ANOTHER photo booth when both of our phones went off with an alert from NerdHQ. We looked down in horror…the Marvel Crew was doing a photo-op.  It took all of 30 seconds for us to decide that we had to double-back to the museum and we had to do it FAST.  Did I mention before it was not a short walk?  IT WAS NOT A SHORT WALK. It should also be noted that Sunday was the hottest day of the weekend. Just shy of ten minutes after the alert went out (honestly, the time we made was miraculous), we arrived back at the museum, drenched in sweat and calves burning.  The line for the photo-op was capped.  NO HAYLEY FOR YOU, IDIOTS WHO LEFT.

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Team BAMF: Bad Ass Major Feels

“I thought we were going to have whiskey on this panel!” – SDCC 2015, Part III

Team BAMF: Bad Ass Major Feels

Team BAMF: Bad Ass Major Feels

Posted by Kim

By Saturday, we felt like SDCC pros. We were getting into all the panels we were wanting to see. We had scored the exclusive merchandise we had lusted after.  We had partied the PERFECT amount to where we didn’t feel like zombies the next day.  We were, in a word, killing it. Would Saturday proved to be as charmed of a day as the first two?  Read on to find out!

Walking the Exhibit Hall

We live at the convention center now.

We live at the convention center now.

After walking the now familiar route around the top floor of the convention hall (Me: “Let’s do a lap before we commit to a location”) to settle into the line for the Exhibit Hall, we had one goal in mind: getting to the Legendary Booth for a chance to win a ticket for the Crimson Peak signing (HIDDLES) later that afternoon. The autograph culture at SDCC is much different from the one at NYCC.  At NYCC, as long as you have the money and the willingness to stand in line, you can get the autograph you so desperately need.  Not all of the talent attending NYCC (especially your A-Listers) does the autograph booths, but if the object of your desire does do them, you can get your autograph for a sum ranging from 20 to upwards of 100 bucks.  (This also applies to paid photo-ops, also known as what currently decorates my kitchen walls, also known as that time Stephen Amell caught a bit of Sage’s side boob.)  At SDCC, all the autographs are free and the A-list talent DOES participate. The catch? It’s all based on a lottery system.  That’s right…some people will line-up in the wee hours of the morning for a chance to DRAW A TICKET to win a chance to get autographs from the Game of Thrones or Arrow casts.  I have a hard time comprehending that, to be honest. When we camped out for 21 hours, we at least KNEW we would be guaranteed to be in the presence of Peter Capaldi.  I digress.

Once the exhibit hall opened, we made a beeline to the Legendary Booth, taking full advantage of our New York City honed power-walking skills (NOT RUNNING!).  Alas, the line to draw a ticket was capped by the time we made it there.  Clearly, the universe knows we aren’t ready to be face to face with Tom Hiddleston.

Free Star Wars buttons!

Free Star Wars buttons!

Since the majority of the early morning crowd was occupied with getting exclusives, we took advantage of the lighter traffic flow and walked the exhibit hall from end to end. I highly recommend anyone attending a major con to do this.  There are so many unique booths and vendors to discover outside of all the licensed merchandise. The degree of creativity displayed in the hall is astounding, from traditional comic book art to handmade toys to prints inspired by various fandoms.  These are the best souvenirs, in my opinion, because despite the “exclusive” merchandise, these are the things that are truly unique to each con.  Before I came to SDCC, I had vowed not to buy any fan art due to the fact that my available wall space was rapidly decreasing. On the exhibit floor, however, my attitude was thus: “GIMME ALL THE ART”.  I was on the hunt for a good gift for Kelly, who was graciously watching my dog for me.  In the course of doing so, naturally things like this happened…

Honestly, as soon as I bought those Rose and Nine prints, I knew I wanted to keep them. I knew deep in my heart I wanted to find something X-Files themed for Kelly anyway. One would think that X-Files art would be easy to find. Nope. Whenever we would ask a particular booth whose style we enjoyed whether or not they had any Mulder and Scully, the reply was always the same: “No, but I should TOTALLY do them!!”  Yes.  Yes, you should. I expect there to be an abundance of Mulder/Scully art next year people. We did find that Joe Harris, who illustrates the comics for The X-Files, had a booth. He had a limited edition (there were only 100) print of Mulder and Scully for sale. I was unsure about getting it because I knew we had NO time to go back to the apartment that day and I was concerned about toting a print around all day without damaging it. He saw me waffling, grinned, and pulled out another print that he had limited quantities of.  I immediately forked over my money without giving it a second thought.  Why? Because this one had Mulder, Scully, AND Skinner.

Joe also recognized Kelly’s blog series, “Times Mulder and Scully Should Have Made Out This Week” (“It’s so clever!”) and wrote her a personal message on the back of the print. Thus, I left the exhibit hall with my wallet lighter but secure in the knowledge that I had scored an amazing gift for my friend. Mission accomplished.

On our way to our brunch destination, we had to pass through the crowds of protestors that had amassed outside of the convention center. Yep. Every day there were radical Christian and Anti-Abortion protestors outside the center with their bright yellow signs and fliers.  Perhaps they were taking advantage of the massive crowds or perhaps they really DID think we were all hell-bound for attending Comic Con. I’m not sure which. I’ll leave what Sage oh-so-eloquently said to a person who tried to shove an anti-abortion flier into her hand to your imagination, but just know it was amazing.

Party poopers. #SDCC

A photo posted by Head Over Feels (@headoverfeelsdotcom) on

Then we ran into what I consider to be one of the most brilliant publicity stunts I’ve seen. Well done, Team Damien. WELL DONE. (They often stood with their signs right next to the legit protestors, these guys were just on their break.)

Party starters #SDCC #Damien

A photo posted by Head Over Feels (@headoverfeelsdotcom) on

Brunch with OJ and a side of BAMF

IMG_0192

Yay for mimosas!

It goes without saying that we were devastated when Sleepy Hollow pulled out of SDCC because of production conflicts. Not only because the show missed out on some much-needed exposure (When someone on the floor saw Sage’s Ichabbie shirt we overheard them say “Is Sleepy Hollow still ON?” #promoteSleepyHollow) but because we had been counting on getting into its press session and getting face-time with our beloved cast.  We were delighted when our friend Terena informed us that she was coordinating an intimate offsite brunch event with Mr. and Mrs. BAMF themselves, Orlando Jones and Lyndie Greenwood. Time with two of our favorites, plus delicious brunch food (Crab cakes Benedict!! Chocolate pancakes!!), PLUS legit bottles of champagne for only 8 bucks? SIGN US UP.

I love that even though Orlando is leaving Sleepy Hollow (I can’t talk about it yet, you guys), he’s still the biggest ambassador to the fandom. Some performers THRIVE on interacting with their fans and Orlando is clearly one of them. Orlando didn’t sit down ONCE during the 2 hour event, instead choosing to visit every single table and spend a good amount of time with every attendee. When he arrived, he literally bumped into our waitress, whose hands were full of plates for another table. She was absolutely paralyzed with delight at seeing him and he promptly took the plates out of her hands and personally delivered them to the proper table. That’s the kind of guy he is. When we later teased him about how he worked the room, saying “Dance, monkey, dance,” he BELLY LAUGHED, teasing “I don’t appreciate your choice of animal!” Basically, he’s the best and we’re best friends now.

Besties

Besties

Lyndie Greenwood arrived a little late because she walked over to the restaurant on her own, rather than taking the car offered to her (she is THAT down-to-earth). She also arrived in a handmade cosplay of an obscure comic character that was SUPER HOT. She had tweeted earlier in the week that she had cleaned Party City out of its stock of mini-skulls, so it was awesome to see the fruits of her labor. We asked her if she was planning to walk the floor after brunch and her response was a giddy “Hell yes!”  She squealed with delight when she noticed that my phone case was Abbie and Ichabod (which I had completely forgotten about until the moment we took our picture together) and flailed when I showed her a picture of the Ichabbie prints I had bought at the Sherlock party the night before. “You don’t see NEARLY enough Sleepy Hollow art,” she exclaimed. “Tweet me the name of that artist!” ONE OF US.

IMG_1452

LOOK AT THIS ADORABLE NERD.

It was neither the time nor place to try to get any scoop about what’s to come on Sleepy Hollow (we didn’t want to be THOSE people), so sadly, we have nothing to report on that front.  (Hopefully Sleepy will have a big presence at NYCC and we’ll be able to bring you all the scoop then!) We were just grateful to be able to have some time to celebrate our show and to hang out with fellow Sleepyheads. We should do this every year…someone get it on Tom and Nicole’s calendar for next July!

I enjoy this candid shot so much. FRIENDSHIP.

I enjoy this candid shot so much. FRIENDSHIP.

Seth MacFarlane Animation Panel

GOD HELP US.

GOD HELP US.

Let it be known that SDCC is all about sacrifices and hard choices. Saturday afternoon’s schedule was jam-packed with everything from the offsite official Doctor Who meet-up to John Barrowman in a room with a microphone to the EW Women Who Kick Ass Panel and Crimson Peak (HIDDLES) in Hall H.  And where were we? Suffering through an HOUR AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES of Seth MacFarlane and company all in the name of getting good seats for Outlander and Hannibal.

And that’s all I have to say about that.  However, I will begrudgingly admit that it was pretty impressive when they did a live-read of a few Family Guy scenes.

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“I know my value too.” – SDCC 2015 Part II

bad blood 2bad blood 3 
Posted by Kim and Sage

Sage: By virtue of scheduling, our SDCC decreased in intensity as the convention went on. After a few hours of sleep on an actual mattress, we were back in the heart of it all on Friday morning and ready to spend almost all day in Ballroom 20, the convention center’s second biggest panel room. As we are mostly a television blog, we made the call to cover as many serialized TV panels as we could. That, coupled with the fact that Star Wars fans had started lining up before Thursday’s audience was even loaded into Hall H, meant that seeing Harrison Ford in the flesh was not in the cards for us. (Massive nerd girl failure: we know.) On the plus side, our early bird arrival to the exhibit hall line meant that we were able to snag the BBC America SDCC exclusives that had eluded us on preview night. Successfully geared up with the Doctor Who merchandise that we definitely needed (my dresser is literally falling apart because I have too many fandom t-shirts), we installed ourselves in our home sweet home for the next several hours. And may no one ever say we don’t suffer for our craft, because that first panel was a great test of dickhead endurance, patience, and our devotion to Peggy Carter. WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME REMEMBER THIS?

The Big Bang Theory

STEELY DETERMINATION.

STEELY DETERMINATION.

Fate, you cruel, cruel mistress.

At least some good came out of our torment. Our friends were so amused by our anguished tweeting that one of them Storifyed our comments for posterity. Instead of re-living this 40 minutes in feminist hell, I will simply point you to that link. Thanks to HOF contributor and Doctor Who author/podcaster Graeme Burk for doing something productive with his giddy schadenfreude.

Falling Skies

Dr. Carter: could still get.

Dr. Carter: could still get.

Kim: As Sage said, we were firmly ensconced in Ballroom 20 in order to secure seats for panels later in the day, so we sat through some panels we wouldn’t have normally chosen to attend. Unlike The Big Bang Theory, the panel for Falling Skies was a delight.  And not at all misogynistic. On paper, Falling Skies is a show that I should have been obsessed with from day one. It has a 90’s heart-throb who has only gotten better with age. It has aliens. The aliens apparently have robots. It’s about the human race struggling to survive in the face of the apocalypse.  It has “KIM WILL LOVE THIS” written all over it.  So why am I totally ignorant about it? I will fully admit that I’ve never seen an episode because I have an unexplainable bias against TNT Originals even though they CLAIM that “they know drama”.  Because to me, TNT is where I go to watch Bones re-runs when I am home sick from work.  So kudos to this panel because now Falling Skies is in my ever-expanding queue of shows I need to watch.

  • On the panel: Noah Wyle (Tom Mason, Forever Dr. John Carter), Moon Bloodgood (Anne Glass), Drew Roy (Hal Mason), Will Patton (Captain Weaver), Sarah Carter (Maggie), Connor Jessup (Ben Mason), Colin Cunningham (John Pope), Doug Jones (Cochise), and Executive Producer Olatunde Osunsanmi.  It was moderated by our writing crush Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly, which was an added bonus.
  • We were treated to an extended trailer for the final episodes and it looked epic. Part of my unexplained bias against TNT shows is that I always believed they were cheesy and low-budget.  This proved me wrong…it looked spectacular.
  • Falling Skies is in the midst of its final season and you could TELL that everyone was savoring their final appearance at SDCC together.  The panel was the very definition of a lovefest.  It also made the entire thing very accessible to newbies like us because it was more about reminiscing about their time together as opposed to talking about every single death or shocker that had happened over the course of the show’s run.  I left the panel feeling PRETTY unspoiled, which was nice.
  • The two women on the panel, Moon Bloodgood and Sarah Carter, also did a good job of wooing me to their show, thanks to their passion for their characters being badass women. “I was so happy to be out of the love triangle and on to REAL stuff,” Sarah Carter reflected on Maggie’s journey. I don’t know what that means but I loved that she was so excited about being more than a love interest.  Later, Moon threw a little shade for wanting more women on the show when she responded “How do I answer this? They are all MALES.” when asked what other character she would have wanted to play.
  • The actors do a LOT of their own stunt work.  “In retrospect, you feel GREAT about jumping off a three-story building,” Sarah said, when asked about her favorite moments of the series.
  • Noah’s son got up and asked a question during the Q&A and it was precious.
  • Noah makes his directorial debut in episode 8 of the current season.  When he said that, my jaw dropped because I don’t know HOW he never directed an episode of ER because it feels like the entire cast took a turn behind the camera at some point.
Doug Jones and Connor Jessup

Doug Jones and Connor Jessup

  • Doug Jones wins the fashion award for this panel with his matching plaid vest and tie.
  • Possibly one of my favorite Sage tweets of the convention: “Noah Wyle is so precious. I hope he realizes now that Dr. Benton was only so tough on him because he saw his potential.”
  • The panel closed with a fan requesting that each member of the panel describe the first impression they had of the person sitting to their left.  Noah: “My impression of Moon was that she intimidated me.” Moon: “GOOD.” (I’m obsessed with her.)

The 100

Bob Morley and Eliza Taylor

Kim: I am a fairly recent convert to The 100, having finally given in to the demands of our friend Beth, who is a professional show-pusher (she’s also responsible for getting us into Arrow so basically the CW should hire her).  So I was quite excited that their panel coincided with our Marvel TV panel plan. Sage has yet to see an episode of The 100 (she promises it’s on her list) so this continued our con tradition of Sage sitting through a panel of a show that has no mercy when it comes to offing characters and getting spoiled on everything.  I promised her that this was no Walking Dead though, that The 100 treated its characters, especially its female ones, with respect.  But I think what sold her on bumping the show up in her queue was the guy taking the axe-blade to the face in the first few seconds of the sizzle reel. “You weren’t kidding about it being intense.” “No, I was not.”

Isaiah Washington, Marie Avegerpoulous, Bob Morley

Isaiah Washington, Marie Avgeropoulos, Bob Morley

  • On the panel: Showrunner Jason Rothenberg, Eliza Taylor (Clarke Griffin), Bob Morley (Bellamy Blake), Isaiah Washington (Dr. Preston Burke…erm…Thelonious Jaha), Marie Avgeropoulos (Octavia Blake), Lindsey Morgan (Raven Reyes), and Ricky Whittle (Lincoln). Sadly NOT on the panel? Henry Ian Cusick aka Marcus Kane aka Desmond Hume, forever in my heart.
  • Bob was sporting a “Blake” trucker hat. Ricky one-upped him when he walked out wearing a “Linctavia” trucker hat.  Just in case you wanted any indication of how this panel was going to go.
  • Season three will open with a slight time jump to a few months after Clarke bailed to go on her walkabout.
  • “I’ll assume he’ll do what Clarke couldn’t do and become a leader.” – Bob Morley on Bellamy’s journey in season three. He loved throwing (loving) shade Clarke’s way because it would get Eliza all riled up in defense of her character’s actions.
  • The panel gave a standing ovation to those who had camped out for the panel the night before.  What I love SO MUCH about panels like this is seeing the actors truly understand and respect how much people love their show.

  • Being that The 100 is all about trying to maintain your humanity in the face of horrendous circumstances, there were many questions about the characters’ moral code (according to Rothenberg, the arc of season two was “at what point does the good guy become the bad guy?”).  “Lincoln’s moral compass will never change,” Ricky asserted. He later pointed out that “There are no good or bad people on our show.  There’s only perspective.”  Rothenberg also stated that “Our goal is to paint them into situations where there is no easy answer.” Subtext: don’t expect things to get any easier in season three.
  • “I skip through all the pages and go straight to all my parts.” – Marie, on when she gets a new script.  I do the same thing when I get a part in a play, so we are obviously kindred spirits.
  • “I get to play someone with a disability on TV, which is really important. AND she kicks ass.” – Lindsey on her affection for Raven.  What’s in store for her in season three? “Raven’s coming out on top.”
  • Lindsey and Ricky, given that they were the furthest away from the moderator, were the unruly children of the panel.  At one point, Ricky surrounded himself with four of the microphones on the table so he could be heard properly.
  • Lexa will be back at some point in season three, as the show was able to juggle production time to accommodate Alycia Debnam-Carey’s new role on Fear the Walking Dead.  As far as whether there is hope for Clexa, Eliza and Rothenberg only teased that Clarke is PISSED so the road to reconciliation is a rough one.
  • Rothenberg did the same kind of ship teasing when it came to Clarke and Bellamy.  “Their chemistry is undeniable, so I never want to rule it out,” he said, like the ship-baiter he is.  Eliza pointed out that while Bellarke makes a great team, “but there are going to be some issues”.  Basically, everyone is pissed at everyone and ain’t nobody got time for romance.
Ricky Whittle and Lindsey Morgan

Ricky Whittle and Lindsey Morgan

  • “Are you strong or are you weak? That’s the only difference that matters.” – Rothenberg on the amount of diversity on the show.
  • Isaiah pulled a Christine Lahti at the Golden Globes in the middle of the panel. Just because the water bottle is on the table doesn’t mean you have to DRINK all of it.
  • Eliza admitted that filming the season two finale took a big emotional toll on her.  “I needed a shower!”
  • “I forget I’m in the show! That’s how engrossed I get.” – Isaiah, on watching episodes for the first time.
  • Sage on Bob Morley’s VERY wide shoulders: “How does he fit through doors?”
  • During the Q&A there was a Clarke cosplayer who was completely screen accurate. “I tracked it all down online and then altered it to match,” she admitted when Eliza questioned her about it.
  • Also during the Q&A a girl got to the mic and promptly burst into tears. Ricky jumped off the dais and went to hug her, only prompting more tears.  He then stood with his arms around her as she managed to finally ask her question.  And THIS is why I love Comic Con.
Ricky and a fan.

Ricky and a fan.

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“Don’t you think this is weird?” – SDCC 2015 Part I

The Hall H line is not for the weak.

The Hall H line is not for the weak.

Posted by Kim and Sage

Nothing can truly prepare you for San Diego Comic Con.  Sure, you can scour fan forums for advice and tips (the Friends of CCI forum is an INVALUABLE resource) and can spreadsheet the hell out of your plan for the con, but the only way you can actually understand the con is to just DO IT. And do it, we did.  SDCC is most definitely not for the weak.  It’s intense and exhausting.  It’s crowded as hell.  It’s ALSO the best time a nerd can ever have.  It’s a week full of feels, flails, friends, and fun.  We can’t wait to go back next year.

– Kim

Wednesday: Preview Night/Camping Out for Hall H

Camping spots in the first tent for Hall H = acquired.

Camping spots in the first tent for Hall H = acquired.

Kim: Much has been written about the “new” line culture of SDCC, especially when it comes to Hall H. Long time attendees claim it is ruining Comic Con while local news units find it “fascinating” that people are willing to campout overnight just to see their favorite celebrities.  (I’m amused that even after a decade of people camping out overnight, there are outlets STILL saying “look at the freaks!” as if this never happens.) Like it or not, overnight camping is here to stay until SDCC decides to do SOMETHING more than the wristband system to prevent it.  It’s as much a part of the con as those exclusive Hasbro toys are now.  Deal with it.

When it was announced that Doctor Who would be taking the stage along with Mockingjay Part II and the Alan Tudyk/Nathan Fillion webseries Con Man on Thursday, the first thing Sage and I did was thank our lucky stars that we had opted to fly in on Tuesday night as opposed to our original plan of Wednesday night. Whovians don’t mess around (this is the fandom that managed to crash movietickets.com after all) and when combined with fans of The Hunger Games, we knew that we would have to be in line Wednesday afternoon to have a chance at getting good seats.  Sure enough, while Sage and I were waiting for our delayed flight to take off (YAY DELTA), Twitter informed us that five Whovians were in line…a full 48 hours before anyone would set foot inside.  Initially, I freaked out, fearing that the line would snowball once people had realized it had started.  But when we landed in San Diego just before midnight, the reaction of Twitter was more “why are these people in line already?” as opposed to “OMG GO GET IN LINE NOW.” (SDCC Survival Tip #1: This shouldn’t shock you, but Twitter is most definitely your friend when it comes to line updates.)

The next morning, the line had grown to 30.  Sage and I had an amazing brunch at San Diego Favorite The Broken Yolk.  Enjoying her gigantic omelet two tables away?  Felicia Day.  We viewed it as a sign of great things to come.  Badge pick-up didn’t start till three, so we made our way through the Gaslamp District and walked around the convention center familiarizing ourselves with the lay of the land.  Everything was buzzing with excitement, even as several offsite installations were finishing up construction.  After a stop at Ralph’s to stock up on snacks for the weekend (SDCC Survival Tip #2: Good snacks are a MUST when faced with nothing but hot dogs and nachos in the convention center. Snacks like nuts, jerky, dried fruit, Cliff Bars, and Goldfish are essential. But allow yourself the occasional hotdog because you’re not at a con till you’ve had one.), we made our way back to the Hall H tents.  It was 12:30 and we were among the first 100 people in line.  Let the 21 hour campout begin.

With our lovely contributor Kayti Burt.

With our lovely contributor Kayti Burt.

How did we ever stand it?  Quite easily, actually.  The weather was gorgeous and we were sheltered from the sun by the tents.  We had our camping chairs that unfolded into full mats.  We had books and trashy magazines.  We had a line nemesis who hated Clara for us to roll our eyes at.  Most importantly, we had friends.  By mid-afternoon, we were joined by fellow New Yorker and press badge holder Whitney and our own Kayti Burt (as delightful in person as she is in her recaps). We also adopted the solo 13-year-old girl sitting in front of us because she was an adorable ginger and dressed in the Her Universe Thor dress.  In the middle of the afternoon, we were interviewed by a local news outlet about WHY we were in line so early.  “Don’t you think it’s weird that you’re doing this?” the reporter asked condescendingly.  Enough with the geek shaming, okay?  The reporter didn’t know what he was getting into when he directed those questions at Sage, who put him in his place like the precious unicorn that she is.  “No one says it’s weird when people camp out for playoff tickets or to see their favorite artist in concert.  Why is it weird that we’re camping out to see actors from our favorite television show? Doctor Who has a 50+ year history.  People care about it just as much as people care about their favorite football team.  If people think we are weird for doing this, then I’m sorry they don’t care about anything passionately or have anything in their lives that has brought them the kind of joy that Doctor Who has brought ours.”

Consider the mic dropped.

It should be noted that we have yet to find that interview ANYWHERE.

By early evening, Gallifrey One pal Jane, new friends Kate and Josh, and their little baby Annika had joined us.  Jane came bearing the all important sleeping bags, purchased for a mere ten bucks through her job. The sleeping bags proved to be essential, as it DOES get chilly at night.  (We later paid it forward by passing our sleeping bags off to a pair of Star Wars fans in line for Friday’s panel as we only needed them for the one night.  Con Karma is a real thing.)  The arrival of Jane and Company allowed those of us who had taken the early shift to leave the line and check out Preview Night activities.  Kayti headed to the pilot screenings in Ballroom 20, while Whitney, Sage, and I opted to hit the exhibit floor. Once inside, we learned that it was foolish to try to get in line for exclusives after the Hall had been open for a few hours.  We were lusting after a particular shirt at the BBC booth (shocker) and arrived at the booth to find the line capped.  We were told to “come back in 20 minutes” but here’s the problem with that.  No one would GO anywhere.  Unofficial lines to get in the official line would form, despite the security guard’s attempts to break them up.  The instant the official line would shift, the hangers-around would ruthlessly sprint to try to get to the line.  It was a mess…and a mess that was killing our Comic-Con buzz, so we gave it up for the day.  We went straight to the BBC booth when the Hall opened on Friday and managed to get our exclusives.  That’s SDCC survival tip #3.

Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior Peggy Carter?

Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior Peggy Carter?

The exhibit hall wasn’t a complete bust that night though.  We were able to familiarize ourselves with the room.  We walked through Artist Alley, which unlike NYCC where it’s kept totally separate, was right there in the main hall.  We scored AMAZING Peggy Carter prints for only 10 bucks which no less than 5 people stopped us later asking where to get them (leading us to feel like we were a new sect called Peggy’s Witnesses).  The artist who designed them was shocked that those prints were his best seller.  We weren’t.  Peggy Carter was the STAR of SDCC 2015 when it came to cosplay and all around fangirling.  No one should be surprised by the fact that attendees latched onto this bad ass character.  Females are strong as Hell, y’all.

Recharged, we made it back to the tents.  We ordered pizza and sent someone out for wine.  Like I said…the whole experience was delightful.  And around 10:30 PM, our labors were rewarded with “A” wristbands for the next day.

You're not hard core unless you live hard core.

You’re not hard-core unless you live hard-core.

SDCC’s new policy with the wristbands is that once you get them, you can either stay in line or go home and sleep as long as you are back by 7:30.  If someone in your group stays, you can go back to the same spot.  If your whole group leaves, you just have to go to the back of the line of ALL wristbands. We didn’t get in line ten hours ago for our health.  Naturally, we stayed, save for the people with the tiny human.  Annika may have been the coolest and calmest baby in the world, but she was still a baby and didn’t need to campout among the sand fleas (SDCC Survival Tip #4 OMG BRING BUGSPRAY).  Around midnight, there was a commotion at the front of the tents.  People started running towards the end of the chute…naturally we did too, barefoot and in pajamas.  What caused the commotion, you may ask? None other than one Peter Capaldi.  THAT’S RIGHT. Peter, who had been dining in the Gaslamp District, decided to come say hi to the Hall H line, because that’s the kind of person he is. There were no cameras. It wasn’t a publicity stunt. It was just Peter wanting to connect with the fans.  In my wildest dreams, I had hoped he would do this and my Doctor didn’t let me down. We weren’t able to get close enough to get selfies (ONE DAY) but we were still able to gaze upon him.  That was enough to fuel us through the rest of the night. We slept a solid four hours before I woke Sage up so we could run back to our apartment and shower (God bless my friend who took us in for the week…she lived a ten minute walk from the convention center).  Refreshed and not at all looking like we slept outside, we were back in line by 6:30 clutching gigantic coffees and fueled by adrenaline.  We were in the home stretch!

Modeling our fave looks from Jordan Dene!

Modeling our fave looks from Jordan Dene!

Line Friends about to be loaded in!

Line Friends about to be loaded in!

The line started moving around 9:15, with one line staffer cheerfully congratulating everyone saying, “THIS IS YOUR CON!”.  We were funneled through the chutes with security people giving us high fives as we were escorted into the hall.  “Welcome to Hall H!! You did it!” Yeah, we did. Words can’t describe the feeling of elation we had stepping into an empty hall and filing right up to the front.  Our reward for 21 hours of camping? Sixth row center.  I think the word you would use to describe us is BALLER. Let the first official day of programming begin!!

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ATX Television Festival 2015 Roundup

Austin Texas art

Posted by Sage

It’s the year of cons at Head Over Feels, with three new-to-us events making an appearance on our schedule. First up: ATX, an Austin television festival that’s grown exponentially in popularity in its short history. I hit this one without Kim, though I also wasn’t the only HOF representative in town. (Oooohhhh…SUSPENSE.) ATX is a quirky con, programming-wise. And the events are staggered and in several different buildings, which alleviates the “I LIVE HERE NOW” insanity of your standard multi-day geek gathering. The eyes were clear, the hearts full, and Austin even more fantastic than I expected. Texas forever.

Queer As Folk 15th Anniversary Reunion Panel

Queer as Folk reunion panel atx

Peter Paige (Emmett), Gale Harold (Brian Kinney – SWOON), Randy Harrison (Justin), and Robert Gant (Ben)

To be perfectly honest, it was the announcement of a Queer As Folk reunion panel that got my wheels turning about ATX to begin with. QAF is the first series that I consumed entirely on DVD. (In other words: baby’s first binge watch.) Over five seasons and dozens of discs, I fell madly in love with the denizens of this fictionalized and vibrant Pittsburgh, PA; Babylon, the gay club of my dreams; and Brian Kinney: man, myth, legendary lay.

The final tally of cast members on the panel totaled less than half of the show’s main ensemble. But they were all represented by Robert when he reported that a revival of some kind has been discussed…and that each and every cast member is up for it. Petitions started circulating immediately on the internet. I don’t know how feasible a full-scale relaunch is. But at the very least, Showtime should pony up for a mini-series.

Queer as Folk reunion panel atx

Keep on telling me what I want to hear, Robert.

More highlights from the QAF panel!

  • The panel started off with a five-minute montage of the triumphs, great loves and crushing tragedies of my beloved characters. There was much hand-waving and a few stray tears. They lived, okay?
  • Scott Lowell (Ted) is currently starring in The Elephant Man on The West End and so sent an adorably dorky “hello” video from the show’s motherland. I’d been complaining to my friend Becky about Gale/Randy shippers, but then they leaned casually on each other to see the screen properly and I ate crow.
  • Showrunners Ron Cowen and Dan Lipman were also in the house. They recounted the history of their involvement in the show, which began when another Showtime project fell through. They knew that they’d have to “match or exceed” the graphic content of the British version to make the remake even worth doing. I’d say they succeeded.
  • Casting was a horrendous process, because the major agencies refused to send their clients in to read. Many of the cast, including Randy and Gale, were without representation at the time. Sharon Gless was the only actor considered for the role of Debbie Novotny. She flew herself in on her own dime from Chicago, where she was doing some stage work. And, as every QAF devotee must know by now, they reiterated that Peter originally read for Teddy and was asked to submit for Emmett as well.
  • The production’s start date was pushed repeatedly because Ron and Dan could not find their Brian Kinney. They got a call at their office from their casting director the day that Gale came in. “He’s here. Come over right away.” I can’t imagine anyone else playing that part.
  • On the day of his screen test, Peter was sent a 21-page nudity rider. Its content, paraphrased: “This is the kind of show this is. If you are not down to do this, do not take this job.” His manager got cold feet and told him to walk, but Peter couldn’t. “I’ll kill myself if I have to watch anyone else do this show.”
  • When asked about how they’d considered the potential impact of the show, Randy said, “I was excited to do it, because I knew what it would mean socially and politically if it worked. And Gale: “My primary concern was not to let down friends of mine who I’d grown up with.”
  • The first few days on set were weird for some, as Queer As Folk refused to play it safe, right from the start. Not for Gale. “Randy and I dove in so deep, so soon.” Peter: “Good choice of words.” Gale: “I was teaching him some wrestling moves…and that’s all.”
  • Part of the process of putting the show out there was for the actors to decide if they’d go public with their own sexuality. Scott and Gale (both straight) decided to avoid the conversation, as they thought it would bring on unnecessary scrutiny. Peter thought the idea of his keeping quiet while playing such an out-and-proud character was ludicrous; “I can play coy with the best of them, but…I don’t know how Sean Hayes did it all those years.”
  • Robert was in his own coming out process when the series started airing, so it was incredibly significant to him personally to join the show.
  • “The first thing you need to know is that it’s all about sex,” are the first words spoken in the pilot. Ron took this opportunity to clarify Michael’s voiceover and the role sex plays in the show. It’s not an entirely surface one. “It’s about how sex relates to all of our lives.”
  • Peter addressed the chilly and sometimes angry reception his character received from some of their audience. “I forgave myself for something in playing Emmett,” he said, explaining his theory that viewers’ dislike of Mr. Honeycutt’s flamboyant personality had to do with their own shame. “We stopped apologizing for the stereotypes. We started owning them and transcending them.”
  • Soon after getting started, the main cast were already perfectly comfortable throwing off their clothes and rolling around in bed together. Still, some tricky situations with guest actors resulted in the enactment of a required “sex meeting” with the actors, writers, and director so concerns could be addressed before anyone got it on. The process took time to perfect. Randy: “It took them a while to figure out cock socks.”
  • “Hi, I’m Peter, you’ll be blowing me.” Peter, on guest stars.
  • Moderator Lesley Headland from the Hollywood Reporter asked the panel to talk about one of the show’s most difficult storylines: Justin bashing. “I have a story,” Randy began. “But you’re not going to like it.” And that’s how the conversation turned to the line of cast and crew members waiting to smack Randy Harrison in the head with a Nerf bat instead of a grave discussion of the season one finale’s social impact.

Queer As Folk reunion panel atx

  • When the topic of a revival came up, Robert championed “the Dallas approach” or the integration of a new generation of characters. It would be an efficient way of launching into some new themes, since the landscape of the LGBTQ looks a lot different 15 years later. Also, Baby Gus would be about Justin’s age in the pilot by now, which ought to strike fear into the hearts of his mothers.
  • Would Brian and Justin be domestically together in that dream revival? Ron and Dan weren’t confident of that. Their goal throughout the series was to show different kinds of relationships, none less important for being non-traditional. Brian and Justin have a bond. They’ll always come back to each other, even if they’re physically apart or even with other people. To help us understand this, Ron read us Shakespeare’s 116th sonnet. Don’t look at me.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

My only complaint about the panel paralleled a complaint that many had with the series in general. Where were the lesbians? I believe that Michelle Clunie was on the panel list at some point before ATX actually rolled around, so it’s a shame we didn’t actually get her perspective on the portrayal of that relationship. But still, the male-heavy dais could have at least mentioned Lindsey and Melanie. It was an uncomfortable reminder that the ladies’ storylines were usually less compelling than the guys’ and almost always revolved around marriage, motherhood, and that one time that Lindsey turned straight. Any potential reboot needs to address this imbalance.

queer as folk reunion panel atx

FNL Tailgate

FNL Tailgate

The Friday Night Light extras casting agency used to have a MySpace page back when that sort of thing was necessary, and I spent many an afternoon that I should have been working looking at album after album of regular humans standing next to Tim Riggins in his home jersey and pads. I really feel like I fulfilled some portion of my destiny in Austin on this night.

The show filmed in Austin and the surrounding areas throughout the course of its five seasons, so many of the actors still consider the town home. For the third year, ATX hosted a free FNL tailgate screening in the lot behind the Hotel San Jose. Leading up to the event, fans were able to vote for the episode that would be screened. The winner, by a landslide, was season one classic “Mud Bowl.” Let’s get dirty.

tami taylor mud bowl

“Cows agree with me. I don’t see why you can’t agree with me.”

FNL Tailgate

Cast members in attendance included Derek Phillips (Billy Riggins), Stacey Oristano (Mindy Collette Riggins), Humanoid Goddess Adrienne Palicki (Tyra Collette), Angela Rawna (Regina Howard, Vince’s mom) Katherine Willis (Joanne Street, Jason’s mom), Steven Walters (Creepy Glenn before Matt Weiner’s son was Creepy Glenn), and Louanne Stephens (GRANDMA SARACEN, THE WORLD’S BEST NAN). There were tacos and cheap beers for sale; Delta Spirit, whose “Devil Knows Your Dead” soundtracked the final montage of the series, played a few sets; and the cast gamely mingled and posed for pictures.

FNL Tailgate

I do not recommend standing next to Adrienne Palicki if you can avoid it. She is sweet as anything, but who would not pale in comparison TO THE SUN? Stacey Oristano liked my dress. Derek Phillips is like, real life man handsome. Still, it was Louanne Stephens who won this round. She held court at a folding table, hugging each and every fan who came over to meet her, signing the glossy photos of her and Zach Gilford posing at a Panthers home game; and proudly displaying the #7 supporter pin that she MADE HERSELF. Grandma Saracen always reminded me a bit of my own grandmother. She passed away two summers ago, so I’m very grateful that Louanne made a sincere effort to connect with everyone she met. I needed that hug.

Louanne Stephens

Matt and Grandma FNL

“You’re all my grandchildren!” Stop.

grandma

The muggy Texas heat just made that asphalt lot feel more like Dillon as we sat on folding chairs and blankets with beers and ice cream and watched the Panthers earn their spot at State. As if I deserved more than the privilege of an 10-foot-tall Tim Riggins, the tailgate also afforded me the opportunity to meet blog friends Molly and Traci, the hilarious ladies of Cookies & Sangria. Make sure you hop over to their site to read their recaps of the weekend (like ours, but with 200% more Gilmore Girls!) and then to subscribe, because they are the shit.

Cookies and Sangria

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“I’ll still feel the same around you.” – Why Boy Bands Will Always Matter

1d dance

Posted by Sage

A few weeks ago, I woke up to another must-see Amy Schumer sketch gone viral. And it brightened my day significantly. “Girl, You Don’t Need No Make-Up,” is typical Schumer wit: bouncy and bright, but with a razor-sharp edge of social commentary. I strongly suggest you watch the clip if you haven’t yet, but here’s the gist: As Amy gets ready to walk out the door and face her day, a boy band accosts her with an upbeat tribute to her natural beauty. As they sing about how much they prefer the “real” her to all the trappings of woman-dom, she cheerfully dismantles her entire morning routine. Faced with an actual au naturel lady, the band changes their tune, shoving pressed powder into her hand and crooning worriedly about how they can’t date “the ghost from The Ring.” It’s magnificent. A proper critique of the impossible standards that women face practically from birth.

you don't need no makeup

Though if you only read the headlines that accompanied the clip, you wouldn’t take it that way. “Amy Schumer Skewers One Direction.” “Watch Amy Schumer Make Fun of One Direction.” Okay. While the song in the video is absolutely a parody of “What Makes You Beautiful” and there’s a bargain-basement Harry Styles present, that’s not the end of the story. Methinks that Amy Schumer has better things to do than to write and produce scathing takedowns of four-year-old boy band songs. The song was the vehicle; the target was larger. Yet the same outlets that participate in promoting the very standards that Schumer is protesting decided to lump the blame on one harmless pop group, both to refuse accepting any responsibility and because, hello, clickbait. The headline “Amy Schumer Unleashes Giant Squid-Monster On One Direction” would also garner a lot of hits, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

liam haters gonna hate

The weird mass-framing of this sketch got me really miffed, and not just because I’m in the middle of a One Direction obsession spiral. (Nice to meet you, I’m 32.) It’s because the internet responded to a sketch calling out media sexism with more sexism. Boy bands are traditionally viewed as a feminine interest. Even less acceptable, they’re typically an interest of women who are young, one of the demos that’s given the least credence in pop culture and in society at large. Amy Schumer’s parody was about the relentless and contradictory appearance policing that women face; where filmmakers are barred from a Cannes red carpet for wearing flats at the very same time Midwestern teens are tossed out of prom for baring their shoulders; where magazines scream that yes, men will still want to have sex with us even if we don’t go to bed in eyeliner – as if that’s the be-all, end-all permission that we need to do whatever we damn well please with our own faces – at the very same time they’re running Kate Hudson’s professionally lit make-up-free “selfies” next to full page ads for $200 jars of La Mer. The media turned Schumer’s sketch into something petty, and, in the process, got their jabs in once again on young girls. This thing they like? It’s stupid. It’s stupid and silly and it doesn’t matter.

1d hug

Except that it does. (“It DOES.” – Ross Gellar.) Boy bands matter. They certainly mattered to me. (And continue to. Louis Tomlinson has many important tattoos.) This whole shitshow got me thinking about why that is; what, beyond a flurry of stampeding hormones, makes us love them so god damn much?

one direction slap

Falling in love with a boy band unlocks a chamber of your heart that, until you do, lies cold, dark, and empty, aside from the cobwebs. It is a fierce love, both unimaginably generous and perfectly selfish. I think part of society’s sneering attitude to teen girls comes from fear – fear of our intensity, of how hard we dedicate ourselves to things. That’s why every boy band who’s ever sat on a late night couch gets the question, “What’s the craaaaaaziest thing a fan has ever done to you?” Those raging lunatics, amirite? Animals, all of them. How is it less acceptable for Directioners to feel personally part of the band’s success than for fully grown adult men to beat each other up in parking lots over professional football games? At least those bitches picked up their phones and text-voted for the VMAs.

did you

It’s FUN, though. It is fun as hell, let me tell you. Loving a thing is so much more of a trip than feeling meh about a thing. When I think about it, I can still conjure that pleasantly cavernous feeling that developed in my stomach when *N Sync appeared on stage for the first time at the Pittsburgh stop on the “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” tour back in 1999. They were there, and so was I. I loved them so much, I felt sure I would die of it. I would drop dead on the sticky floor of the Star Lake Amphitheater, in my platform sandals and baby blue American Eagle tank top. (Justin’s favorite color, natch.) I’ve heard people speak similarly about the birth of their first child, which, okay. But how often does that happen? Once. I saw *N Sync in concert six times and that feeling never faded.

nsync live

This heart-breaking, earth-splitting love just takes over. And it can survive any cynicism thrown at it. I was repeatedly told as a teenager that I was “too old” for boy bands, while action figures and video games lined my brothers’ shelves, generating no comment. If anything, my interests were the more adult ones. They were born of a fascination – the siren call of boys. Cute boys, who could dance. (And I will come at anyone who tells me that boy band love doesn’t jive with a feminist identity. There’s nothing about paying five beautiful men to dance for me that’s not the very best of feminism. Carry on.) Nursing a band obsession satisfied my unquenchable interest in boy world, a place I still find exotic as an adult. Boy bands give us the opportunity to observe boys in their natural habitat, without fear of judgement or rejection. Because it starts with the music and the videos, but then it expands. It wants everything. We want to know these guys, beyond the Tiger Beat details. (Though those are still important. Apple Jacks are Justin Timberlake’s favorite cereal, pass it on.) No minutia is too boring. No brief interaction un-mined for personality traits and patterns. There’s a reason why girls flocked to see Never Say Never, The Jonas Brothers 3D movie, and This Is Us. Those movies give girls the opportunity to be both a fly on the wall and the center of everything. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the fans,” they say, and that’s you, oh my god. But also you’re one of the guys, there in the hotel room when Big Rob shakes Joe Jonas awake and in the venue when Louis rolls through on a skateboard and grabs a bucket of popcorn off a table. Being a teenage girl is the most terrifying. There’s humiliation around every corner. But not here. Not with these guys. They will never make you feel bad, or let you down.

narry coca cola

Like any entertainment delivered on such a massive scales, boy bands are marketed to within an inch of their lives. We know, okay? We just don’t care. Knowing that backstage machinations have been orchestrated to sell us “The Hot One,” “The Shy One,” “The Bad Boy,” etc. does nothing to stop the spread of our fervor. Because as soon as said band gets a foothold, they belong to us. The ownership changes. I don’t care how many focus groups have been held to discuss which one looks best with a goatee.

liam i like the idea of saving

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“This is sickness.” – Live Writer Commentary on “Dalek” and Enduring Dirt [Contained]’s Easy Laughter

dalek

Posted by Sage

Last week, I had a double dose of English playwright and screenwriter Robert Shearman. First, I sipped on a Twelfth Doctor cocktail while Shearman gave live commentary at The Way Station on his one and only Who episode, series one’s “Dalek.” Then I sat inches from the heavily-trafficked bar cart in the first New York production of his 1992 play, Easy Laughter. With those two pieces of work running around in my brain, I have made one assumption about the man. For being such a congenial gent IRL, Robert Shearman’s sure got a dark side.

"Doctor Who is for kids!"

“Doctor Who is for kids!”

Of course, every monologue and piece of dialogue drops a shade darker when delivered by Chris Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor. In fact, Shearman told us that Chris, who was “extraordinary to work with,” did things with the Doctor’s private encounter with the Dalek that the writer never expected. Eccles performed the scene in a “very non-Doctorish way,” which initially horrified Shearman – and then he saw the final product. (Fun fact for all you censorship heads: “Dalek” carries a higher advisory rating than the other episodes in the season because the Doctor purposely tortures the captive Dalek.) Shearman described Eccles as an actor without vanity, remembering that he insisted a take where his forceful delivery generated a pretty gross spit bubble that stayed on his lip not be reshot.

Shearman has the unique honor of being the writer who introduced the Daleks to a modern audience. Obviously, he felt the pressure of the job. “This is the only Doctor Who episode I don’t consider to be canon,” he told us. “Because I know I made it up.” Even watching the full episode that day was an unusual experience for him. He finds it difficult to go back to his own work, and guessed he hadn’t seen “Dalek” in its entirety in almost ten years. (I asked him about Series 8’s “Into the Dalek” and he said he was surprised and flattered that his episode was well-regarded enough to merit a bit of a sequel.) But from the moment the episode kicked off, it was clear that the writer remembered every moment of the process just fine. Even which actors shared their sandwiches (those were his favorites) and which extra broke his confidentiality agreement by selling photos of the updated creatures to a salivating British tabloid press.

dalek van statten

Fans have Shearman’s wife to thank for his characterization of the Daleks, especially that “oh shit” moment when one levitates up a flight of stairs. He did his best in his episode to address all the reasons she found the monsters a bit lame; to thank her, the no-nonsense Goddard took her name. Even more adorably, Bywater’s namesake is a schoolmate of Shearman’s, who introduced the writer to the show when they were just 11 years old. Aw.

In the Q&A session, Shearman went on to discuss the mascot-like nature of the modern-day Dalek. Its image has been used to sell practically everything: stuffed toys, salt & pepper shakers, the “I Dalek London” shirt I wore to the bar that day. And that’s disturbing, considering the villains were developed in 1963 to represent the fascist force that held the world in its grasp not two decades before. The Daleks are Nazis. They wield plungers and talk in funny voices, but that doesn’t change their hateful insides.

Easy Laughter Press

Courtesy of Dirt [Contained]

In Easy Laughter, produced by Dirt [Contained] Theatre Company, Shearman imagines a grotesque future where these ideas have fully taken hold. We meet a wholesome nuclear family unit, who’ve stepped right out of ’50s sitcom: wife Patsy (Maria Swisher), husband Dennis (Michael Broadhurst), son Toby (Jay William Thomas) and daughter Judy (Tana Sirois). Their interactions are both irritatingly effusive and worryingly robotic as they prepare for a holiday that resembles Christmas, but only just. The audience surrounds the action on three sides, the open fourth of the stage housing what we learn is the Christtide tree. As I mentioned earlier, my friends and I were sitting directly behind the bar cart, which was a popular spot as everyone from dad down on to the kids imbibes whiskey heavily throughout the play. I could’ve used a drink myself.

Easy Laughter is an unflinching, pitch-black satire. The horrifying history that made this family what they are unfolds throughout the play, but it takes no exposition to know from the very beginning that something is deeply, deeply wrong here. Patsy is almost vibrating with fear as she waits on her husband, children, and eventually, her visiting father-in-law (Nick Dematteo). Dennis takes confusing pride in being a glorified pencil-pusher; he’s the head of the family unit anyway, as his constant jabs and chastisements remind his wife. But he’s slowly being supplanted by his own son, a Rolf-looking motherfucker whose rosy cheeks and ridiculous short-pants can’t disguise his pulsating ambition and razor-sharp meanness. Little Judy still takes joy in the magic of Christtide and the celebrated miracle whose eventual reveal sent half of my audience into tears of revulsion and shock. Underneath their hearty apologies and compliments (“Thank you very much, indeed.”), the family looks like they’ll begin tearing each other apart at any moment. When the shared values are so in-human, even your loved ones are your enemies.

Shearman wrote the play as a student, and that makes so much sense to me. Easy Laughter goes hard; the idea is executed to extremes. It feels immediate. Subtlety is for the grown-ups, but we idealists don’t have time to fuck around. It’s an audience assault. The Dirt [Contained] production (the play’s first New York staging) fully commits, as do the actors. I was exhausted for them by the end of the piece; that kind of sustained mania has to be depleting, not to mention their very inhabiting of such a monstrous universe. Tana Sirois especially stood out. Casting adults as children doesn’t always work out (though Clifford holds a special place in my heart), but I nearly forgot that Sirois wasn’t actually 8-years-old. Stephen Massaro’s direction uses the space nicely, making the audience looking in on the Simpson family holiday about as uncomfortable as we could be. (Thanks, man.)  After the well-earned but subdued bows, we filed out of the theater, barely looking at each other the whole way.

Easy Laughter ended its run, but you can still support by voting for the production in the New York Innovative Theatre Awards.