It seems like nearly every day, there’s news of another comic book or graphic novel getting the film treatment. Without a doubt, comics have never been hotter, and comic book conventions are must-attend events. The conventions don’t stop at comics – science fiction and fantasy are huge draws as well. With the ever increasing popularity of annual events like San Diego Comic Con, it was just a matter of time until con culture invaded prime time TV. And where, you may ask, did the con make its appearance on network TV? The crime procedural, particularly CSI and Bones.
I’d almost be as bold to say that this sudden interest in cons would be further proof that “geek” has become cool, but I thought I’d ask Steve Saylor of This Week in Geek what his thoughts were on the appeal for crime procedurals to set episodes at cons. Here’s what he had to say:
I think shows like CSI and Bones setting episodes at cons are just trying to cash in on the appeal of geeks to watch their show. If say, for instance, a show has a big geek icon, they’ll usually cast them in that kind of an episode. I think the only show that was able to pull this off really well was the episode of NUMB3RS where Wil Wheaton was cast as a comic book publisher and he was a complete tool. Wil obviously loved playing the part even if he isn’t a tool; and the episode was set at a comic book convention. Now maybe it was because Wil gave his geek seal of approval to the show because they did their research and did everything right, but they took what would normally be cliche, and made it something interesting and different.
Now, I’d already seen CSI’s “A Space Oddity” and Bones’ “The Princess and the Pear”, but I hadn’t seen the Numb3rs episode that Steve mentioned, so I did my homework and tracked down “Graphic”. Here are some of my thoughts on this genre’s forays into cons.
CSI’s “A Space Oddity” was timely. It aired about a month following the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, and just a few weeks before the release of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. In it, lab rat Hodges runs into co-worker Wendy at a con, and realizes they are both fans of AstroQuest, a revered sci-fi series that bears more than a striking resemblance to Star Trek. It’s only minutes until they discover the body of Jonathan Danson, the man behind a controversial re-imagining of AstroQuest. BSG’s Ronald D. Moore and Grace Park have cameos, and Kate Vernon has a guest-starring role. It was an entertaining episode, complete with Hodges’ daydream sequences of him and Wendy as AstroQuest characters, as well as references to red shirts and Trekkies … er, Questers. Interesting side note – Wallace Langham (Hodges) was on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, and Liz Vassey (Wendy) appeared in a Star Trek: TNG ep in 1992.
The Bones episode “Princess and the Pear” was definitely the weakest of this trio. The episode could have easily been set at a sports memorabilia convention with a rare baseball card as the coveted collectors’ item. It lacked the requisite passion of the fans, and the element of competition/rivalry that was represented in both CSI and Numb3rs. The crime solving team seemed too detached from the subject matter.
I have to agree with Steve that Numb3rs’ “Graphic” gave con culture the best treatment.
All three episodes shared some common threads. Most notable? Someone on the crime solving team is revealed as a “geek”. On Bones, Sweets is outed as a sci-fi fan, and Fisher admits to being a geek. On CSI, Hodges and Wendy end up at the same con, and realize they have something in common. Sinclair and Larry on Numb3rs are revealed as comic book aficionados. The Bones and Numb3rs episodes included a stolen items that ended up at auctions – a valuable prop sword, and a priceless comic book. CSI and Numb3rs also had some great casting choices for guest roles, namely BSG’s Kate Vernon and TNG’s Wil Wheaton.
So what do you think? Is the presence of con-centered episodes of crime procedural dramas just a way to capitalize on the loyalty of sci-fi/fantasy fans, or is this another prime-time win for the “geeks”? And if you’ve seen these three episodes, which did you think was best?
My next post in this series will focus on what is, in my opinion, the biggest “geek” success story on the tube at the moment – The Big Bang Theory. Come back soon for Part 3 of Has Geek Become Chic?