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NYCC 2016 Day Four: Timeless, Saturday Night Live

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New York Comic Con 2016 Day Four Writeup. And lo, once again, another Comic Con has passed. The fourth and last day of New York Comic Con is typically a quieter one. But on this overcast, rainy day in New York, I found there was just as much activity as ever. I saw two great panels to close out the con this year, one focused on an exciting new show and one centered around a comedy institution.

Timeless Screening and Q&A

If you haven’t been watching Timeless, fix that right away. The series centers around a trio of time travelers – a pilot, a soldier, and a historian – going to different time periods to stop a villain trying to change history. Think Legends of Tomorrow with a stronger grasp on character and plotting. The first episode aired last week and suffered a bit from having to juggle setting up the show’s unique concept along with delivering a typical episode. We were shown the second episode, which airs tomorrow, October 10th.

The episode brings the time-traveling heroes to April 14th, 1865 – the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Right away, I was taken with how sharp the show seemed. The characters are well-realized. It explores interesting facets of history. Its ongoing story is just as good as the time-travel-of-the-week stuff. This is a series to keep an eye on. I truly feel it’s only going to get better.

After the episode, creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and actors Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett, and Goran Visnjic. They discussed the future of the series, such as other time periods the show will go to. Episode three will see the group meeting the Rat Pack in Las Vegas, and subsequent episodes will involve Germany in World War II, the Alamo, the Watergate scandal, the French and Indian War, the space race, and Bonnie and Clyde. The experience of shooting the Alamo episode seemed to be a favorite among the actors; they set up the entire set in an empty Vancouver parking lot, and Barrett stressed that he “looked really good” in leathers.

Kripke mentioned that he doesn’t want a lingering mystery on this show, and that he’s a fan of economical storytelling. The mysterious organization called Rittenhouse? We’ll know who they are by episode 6. We’ll know more about them by episode 9. Kripke doesn’t believe in endless questions, and would rather use the answers to create stories. While I’m disappointed that the series will apparently not be traveling any earlier than the 1700s (for now), I’m very eager to see what they have in store. Timeless is quickly becoming one of the bright spots of the fall tv season.

Saturday Night Live Head Writers Panel

Now this was really cool. I’m a big comedy geek, and a big fan of Saturday Night Live. This show is so fascinating to me because it’s so unique; there’s no other entertainment institution that works quite like SNL. So I’m always interested to hear how the show gets made with some behind-the-scenes perspective, and that’s exactly what this panel delivered as Vulture’s Jesse David Fox moderated a panel with current head writers Bryan Tucker, Sarah Schneider, and Chris Kelly.

Much of the panel was focused on the most recent episode, hosted by Lin-Manuel Miranda with musical guest Twenty-One Pilots. Tucker, Schneider, and Kelly went into detail about how sketches are written throughout the week, and often changed and rewritten at the last minute. The opening sketch, for example, was originally going to be a spoof of the Vice Presidential Debate. But as the leaked Donald Trump audio became big news on Friday, the sketch was rewritten to be about that instead on Friday night and Saturday morning. They said that, with rise of programs like The Daily Show and Full FrontalSNL is often the last show to be able to make jokes on topical subjects, so when something happens so soon to the show, it’s “really cool to be the first one to talk about it.”

They discussed the process of writing jokes for the show, and the difficulties of writing original material in the age of Twitter. Kelly is always on Twitter trying to see if people have already written jokes too similar to the ones that they’re writing. When every single person on social media is making Trump jokes, the best they can do is write their own and hope there’s no overlap.

One aspect of the panel that was over too quickly regarded the show’s treatment of Trump in the wake of his hosting the show last year. Having Trump as host is a shadow that the show is still trying to overcome. It was the subject of a lot of criticism at the time and inspired protests outside 30 Rockefeller Plaza (and, to editorialize a bit, it was not a good episode). The series has been harder on Trump this year than last, bringing Alec Baldwin in for a spot-on impression that tends to highlight his flaws. But when asked whether Trump hosting had played a part in “normalizing” him, Tucker deflected the question, saying that “the media had already normalized Trump” and that he doesn’t think “SNL put him over the edge.” It would have been interesting to hear more about what was going on behind-the-scenes during the Trump episode, but I suppose they may not be able to talk much about it.

It was a great panel for anyone looking to get into comedy, too. The writers worked their way up to SNL by previously working on such varied platforms as Chappelle’s Show, Collegehumor videos, and the Onion News Network. When asked who their favorite hosts were, the answers included Channing Tatum, The Rock, Christoph Waltz and Larry David, and when asked what the worst sketch they ever wrote that made it to air was, Schneider and Kelly both answered the “Robert Durst at an improv show” sketch from a couple years ago. For a hardcore SNL fan, this was an incredibly valuable and entertaining panel, and a great way to end my time at New York Comic Con.

And now, finally, we are done. Thanks for following FilmBook’s coverage of New York Comic Con and reading these write-ups. Now, after four days of running around, waiting on lines, and fighting my way through crowds, it’s time to sleep.

I tweeted and live-streamed my Comic Con experience at FilmBook’s Twitter account, and you can follow me as well if you’re so inclined.

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About the author

Michael Smith

Mike Smith is an avid filmgoer from New York who loves to hear his own voice - luckily his work as a podcaster on FilmBook allows him to do just that. Mike graduated from The College of Saint Rose in Albany with a degree in communications, and is ready to dole out critical analysis of all your pop culture fixations. Mike is the host of FilmBookCast and can frequently be seen at his local movie theater, patiently explaining to his friends that Superman Returns is a misunderstood masterpiece.

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