Talking 'Chuck', 'True Blood' and Comic Con with Fansite Creator Mel Lowry
Talking 'Chuck', 'True Blood' and Comic Con with Fansite Creator Mel Lowry
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
BuddyTV is going to the San Diego Comic Con!

This year, we are sponsoring a panel at the event: "Obsession: How TV and Movies Go from Fascination to Phenomenon." The panel -- scheduled for Thursday, July 21 -- will feature a diverse group of writers, actors and obsession experts. One of these panelists is Mel Lowry, the co-owner of ChuckTV.net, True-Blood.net and NiceGirlsTV.com.

In anticipation of the "Obsession" panel, Lowry spoke to BuddyTV about the fansites, Comic Con and her favorite shows.


How and why did you get started with your fan websites?
Mel Lowry: I've been an avid TV fan for most of my life, and a website designer since 1996, but it wasn't until 2007 that it occurred to me to meld the two interests. My friend Liz and I were looking for something fun to do together, online since we live about 800 miles apart, and thought a fansite would be a neat hobby. We took a look at the pilots in early 2007, and Chuck immediately appealed to us. We were both fans of Zachary Levi on Less Than Perfect, and of course Adam Baldwin from Firefly, plus the premise of the series appealed to our geeky hearts. NBC announced that they picked up Chuck on May 15, 2007, and ChuckTV.net was launched May 16, 2007.

True-Blood.net came about because I'd been reading Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels for several years, and when I heard Alan Ball optioned them for HBO my interest was piqued. I recommended the books to Liz, who read all 7 that were published at the time in the span of about 2 weeks. Sleep deprived and totally hooked on Sookie, it didn't take much to convince her that we needed to do a fansite for that show, too. True-Blood.net launched in March 2008, several months before even HBO launched their site.

NiceGirlsTV.com grew out of the fact that we watch a lot of TV and are drawn to strong female characters and women working behind the scenes. We wanted a place to talk about all of those shows, characters, and talented women without running 19 different fansites, so we launched NGTV.


What has been your role in the various campaigns to keep Chuck on the air?
Mel Lowry: Some have been the brainchild of myself, Liz and Gray (producer and co-host of Chuck vs. the Podcast) while others have been brought to us by fans. We've vetted dozens of ideas over the years and supported those we thought were viable, that had a real shot at creating buzz.


What do you see as the role of fans when it comes to television shows?
Mel Lowry: I think the role of fans is becoming more and more complex thanks to the Internet and social media. The majority of viewers are still passive, meaning they watch the show and maybe read a story about it in Entertainment Weekly or TV Guide, but they don't go online to discuss it or travel to Comic Con to see a panel. The vocal minority, though, are active and online and attending conventions and making themselves heard in a variety of ways.

Sometimes this is a good thing, such as when a save our show campaign succeeds. Other times it isn't, such as when a small group are unhappy about something that happened or a storyline and create such a ruckus about the creative team's choices that it casts the rest of the fandom in a bad light. Somewhere is a middle ground where fans can actively support a television show, constructively criticize, and still let the creative team do their jobs.


What are your predictions for the fifth season of Chuck?
Mel Lowry: I hesitate to speculate because the writers always come up with scenarios that never crossed my mind!


Why do you think a show like Chuck has struggled to keep going while True Blood is considered a hit?
Mel Lowry: True Blood had the benefit of being based on a bestselling book series and launching right at the beginning of the vampire pop culture phenomenon. Chuck, on the other hand, is difficult to quantify and even harder to market. The biggest challenge Chuck has faced, in my opinion, has been how to market it to a mass audience. The show combines action, romance, drama, comedy, espionage, pop culture, and geekdom into one awesome package, but how do you break that down into 15-second promos or brief sound bites?


Will there be any movement from ChuckTV.net on a fan campaign to keep Chuck on past season 5?
Mel Lowry: At this time we're not planning to mount a campaign for any additional seasons, mainly because we feel that NBC has been honest with us about what their plans are for the series and we respect that. We might find other Chuck-related things to campaign for, though.


What type of person does it take to get heavily-involved in a TV show?
Mel Lowry: Someone who is passionate about and connected to a story or a character and has the desire to share that passion with like-minded people.


How do you have time to be so devoted to TV shows? Do you look at television as a hobby, vocation or job?
Mel Lowry: First, I'm fortunate to have a friend/co-admin who helps carry the load. Even 4 years after launching ChuckTV.net, and 3 years after launching True-Blood.net, we're still excited about both of those shows, and about TV in general. Second, I've always been a person who needed to have several projects going at once to be content. Sometimes I don't plan well and get overloaded, but in general I'm happiest when in engaging in several interests at a time.

I still look at television as a hobby, but sometimes running a fansite/being part of a fandom can feel like a job. When it gets to that point, you know you're taking it too seriously and it's time to spend a few hours outdoors!


Do you have any shows that you're obsessed with -- other than Chuck and True Blood? What does a program need for it to be a "can't-miss" for you?
Mel Lowry: I limit my obsessions to Chuck and True Blood so I can be productive in other parts of my life, but there are plenty of shows that I never miss: Castle, Bones, The Vampire Diaries, The Good Wife, Covert Affairs, Psych, Raising Hope, Necessary Roughness, Pretty Little Liars, White Collar, Royal Pains, Glee, Warehouse 13, Rizzoli & Isles, White Collar, etc.

To be "can't miss", I need to feel a connection to the characters, to care about whatever they're going through and want to see how they navigate obstacles in their way.


Have you been to Comic Con before? What are you looking forward to the most this year?
Mel Lowry: Yes, this is my fourth trip to Comic Con. I'm most looking forward to seeing friends who I interact with online all year but only get see at Comic Con and giving my 12-year-old niece, Genevieve, the opportunity to experience the event.


Are you a comic fan? What's your favorite?
Mel Lowry: As a kid I collected Family Circus comic strips and Archie Double Digests, but preferred text to graphic novels. Foxtrot will always have a soft spot in my heart for Bill Amend's series on The Lord of the Rings in the early 00's. I still have one of his 2003 holiday comic strips taped to my fridge and it never fails to crack me up, although no one else seems to find it quite as hilarious. I currently quite enjoy xkcd and Hijinks Ensue.


Who was your favorite super hero growing up? How about now?
Mel Lowry: I didn't have one growing up. We didn't watch superhero cartoons or read superhero comics, or at least I didn't. I think my first real exposure was watching one of the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, which I didn't like. I was more a Star Wars/Star Trek kid. Still am.


We will be publishing interviews with our "Obsessions" panelists over the next several days, leading up to San Diego. Come back to hear what they have to say, and check out our Comic Con Top Picks in the meantime!

Click here to read our interview with Amy Berg of Eureka and Leverage.

(Images courtesy of NBC and HBO)


News from our partners