Comic-Con is coming! And BuddyTV will be there.
This year we are sponsoring a panel at the San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, July 21. The panel, “Obsession: How TV and Movies Go from Fascination to Phenomenon,” will feature a host of television writers, actors and more. One of our esteemed panelists is Amy Berg, the co-executive producer of Eureka and a former supervising producer of Leverage.
We asked Berg about her television work, her experiences at Comic-Con and some of her own obsessions.
What are you working on right now?
Amy Berg: I’m writing and producing Eureka for Syfy channel. Best gig I’ve ever had. I’m also working on my own development projects, including several pilots. But I’m not allowed to talk about those yet.
What qualities go into making a great writer for genre television?
Amy Berg: The same qualities that go into making a great writer for any show. Lots of hard work, a pinch of natural talent, and the willingness to learn and improve. As a producer, there’s nothing more frustrating than having a writer who’s satisfied with their skill level. We can all be better.
The only true difference with genre television is the amount of research required, especially on a science show like Eureka. There’s an expectation to do homework that may not be required on other shows.
What’s your favorite genre to write for?
Amy Berg: In general? Or my favorite sub-genre within genre? The simple answer is I don’t have a favorite. Characters appeal to me more than concepts. Whether we’re on a starship, or in medieval England, or in a small town full of geniuses… for me to gravitate to a show as a writer or viewer, I have to be invested in the people who occupy the space. The space itself is just window dressing.
What do you think is necessary to create fan obsession for television shows?
Amy Berg: You need characters who resonate with viewers, whether it’s because they relate to them personally or are merely charmed by them. And you need to build interesting relationships between them. A lot of viewers root for a romance between two leads… like with Mulder and Scully or Crichton and Aeryn or Lee and Starbuck. And as writers we embrace that, we tease it. The question of “will they or won’t they” has kept lots of shows on the air, perhaps even after they’ve otherwise expired.
But for me, romances are rarely the most interesting relationships on a show. What hooked me on a show like Battlestar Galactica wasn’t the potential love matches or even the space battles — it was the father-daughter relationship between Starbuck and Adama. I remember watching the final scene in “Home” between the two of them and saying to myself, “Yep, I’m in.”
Don’t get me wrong, relationships aren’t the only things that hook viewers. There will always be fans who are sold on concepts alone. Some will watch anything that’s set on a spaceship. I’m a strong believer in simple concepts, complex characters. And I think that’s why you’ve seen shows like Eureka succeed where other more conceptually involved shows like Caprica have failed.
In what ways have you interacted with fans of your shows? Have those interactions been mostly positive or negative?
Amy Berg: Oh, absolutely positive. Occasionally you encounter an overzealous fan, but it doesn’t bother me. If you don’t embrace the fans, you’re an idiot. They’re why your show is on the air. I’ve always tried to be as interactive as possible with them. I joined Twitter when I was producing Leverage and have continued with it on Eureka. When I joined the show, there were maybe two other writers on Twitter. Now all of them are on it, and most of our cast. It’s a great way to get the fans involved without a huge time investment on your part.
And I’m becoming increasingly involved with conventions. It’s always surreal when people come up to you on a dealer’s floor and say how much they love your show. I’ll never get used to it, but it’s kind of awesome.
Is there anything you can share with us about the upcoming episodes of Eureka?
Amy Berg: What’s funny is that we’re in the middle of shooting season five right now. Season 4.5, which is airing right now, was actually filmed last year. So it takes a little time to get your head on straight as far as which season we’re talking about.
The episodes this summer involve the continuing reverberations of the timeline shift. Carter, Allison, Henry, Jo, and Fargo have been trying to keep their trip to the past a secret, but that’s becoming an impossible challenge. Also this season you’ll meet Felicia Day’s new character, Dr. Holly Marten. I had a lot of fun creating her. She’s an homage to geek girls everywhere, and her storyline is wrapped up in a season-long arc involving a big mission that our gang gets involved with. As for what that mission is, you’ll have to tune in to find out.
Do you have any shows that you’re obsessed with right now?
Amy Berg: My favorite show from the last few years has been Friday Night Lights. Obviously, I’m devastated now that it’s off the air. But I have Doctor Who to keep me company, so I’ll be okay.
Have you been to Comic Con before? What are you looking forward to the most this year?
Amy Berg: I’ve been to Comic Con for eight years running. I love it. I go even if I don’t have a show represented there. I’m that kind of nerd.
I’m excited to visit my friends’ panels this year. I think I know someone on every show that’s going to be there… it’s crazy. I’m friends with a few Mythbusters, so I’m definitely going to check them out on Saturday. And I have a lot of friends on Terra Nova, so I’m stoked to finally see some footage from that. They’ve done a great job keeping it under wraps, especially from me! The Finder, Person of Interest, Big Bang Theory, and Community are also on my list. Hopefully they aren’t all scheduled at the same time as my panels.
But the thing I’m looking forward to most is the Eureka screening on Friday night. We’re showing our third episode of the season in advance of its air date. So fans at Comic Con will get to see it before everyone else. It’s an episode that guest stars Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, and Stan Lee. So, yeah… you’re gonna want to be there.
Are you a comic fan? What’s your favorite?
Amy Berg: I’m not a huge comic fan, no. Superhero comics aren’t really my thing. Mostly I enjoy the work of indie publishers like Oni Press and Boom Studios. I follow writers more than titles. Mark Waid, Matt Fraction, Michael Alan Nelson, and Greg Rucka, among others, are can’t misses for me.
Who was your favorite super hero growing up and why?
Amy Berg: As a kid I had a huge crush on Iceman from Spiderman & Friends. And… now you all think I’m weird. Whatever. He was cool! I was also a fan of Justice League. Can’t say I love one of them more than the others, I’ve just always enjoyed it when superheroes team up. Wonder twin powers… activate!
Contest: Enter to win a Syfy Prize pack including Eureka on DVD>>
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!
(Image courtesy of Syfy)
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Laurel grew up in Mamaroneck, NY, Grosse Pointe, MI and Bellevue WA. She then went on to live in places like Boston, Tucson, Houston, Wales, Tanzania, Prince Edward Island and New York City before heading back to Seattle. Ever since early childhood, when she became addicted to The Muppet Show, Laurel has watched far too much TV. Current favorites include Chuck, Modern Family, Supernatural, Mad Men and Community. Laurel received a BA in Astrophysics (yes, that is possible) from Colgate University and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and History of Science from Columbia University before she realized that television is much better than studying.