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‘Con Man’ Trailer: Insights, Cameos, and Easter Eggs

conmaniconAlan Tudyk’s and Nathan Fillion’s IndieGoGo-funded webseries Con Man had a huge Hall H panel during San Diego Comic-Con this past week. During the panel, he premiered the trailer for the upcoming show.

The trailer highlights the satire of the series for Tudyk and his co-star Nathan Fillion.

  1. Spectrum, the sci-fi series Tudyk’s character Wray Nerely is known for, parodies Firefly, the show Tudyk and Fillion are best known for amongst the geeks of sci-fi conventions. Like Firefly, Spectrum was cancelled too soon and gained a cult status afterwards. In the trailer, various people ask Nerely is they’re going to make a Spectrum movie. Firefly was resurrected for the big screen in the film Serenity.alan-nathan-deck-crop-143647
  2. Like in the trailer, Fillion has gone on to bigger stardom. In Con Man his fame is in films, while in real life, Fillion has been the star of the hit t.v. series Castle.
  3. Meanwhile Con Man minimizes Tudyk’s post-Firefly fame by his character Nerely bemoaning that Spectrum was the best thing he’s ever done then showing him doing what appears to be animation voice-work. In real life, Tudyk is a rock-star voice actor, having wonderfully villainous roles in massive hit films Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph.alan-voicework
  4. As is shown in the trailer, Tudyk’s and Fillion’s characters hope to work together again. Con Man was in part an excuse for Tudyk to actually make that wish come true.

Other Easter eggs, jokes, and cameos from the trailer:

  1. Spectrum isn’t all Firefly. The soundtrack and alien/supernatural presence, plus the red and black flight suits are similar to Farscape, another cult sci-fi show that was cancelled and later resurrected due to rabid fan fervor.
  2. Nerely’s accompanied at the convention by Felicia Day, Geek Queen, best known for her webseries The Guild and her role as Penny in Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog.
  3. Sean Austin, who will forever be Samwise Gamgee aka “the fat hobbit” from The Lord of the Rings encourages Nerely to embrace being a “space pilot” because it’s “better than reality.”
  4. The bartender who scoffs at Nerely being able to “play thirty” is Casper Van Dien, known in sci-fi circles as the star of the satirical masterpiece Starship Troopers, from which Firefly borrowed costumes to outfit their Alliance troopers in the episode “The Train Job.”
  5. The fabulous Gina Torres is playing the recording engineer in the scene where Nerely is performing voice work for an animated feature. Torres played Zoe on Firefly who was married to Tudyk’s character Wash.
  6. When Nerely attempts to get a seat on an airplane, he asks a man if he happens to be a sci-fi fan, and that man tells him to “F**k off.” That bearded, sunglasses-wearing jerk is Wil Wheaton, high king of geeks and known best for his role as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  7. Fellow judge Sean Maher comments, “Oh, he’s sexy.” Maher played Simon on Firefly. He shared publicly that he was gay just a few years ago.
  8. Michael Dorn, aka Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation, reads Shakespeare while Seth Green, known best as Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and as writer and director of Robot Chicken to sci-fi con-goers, humors Nerely’s bad joke.
  9. Tricia Helfer, who is known for Cylon Number Six on Battlestar Galactica, plays a Helfer lookalike on Con Man. Nerely talks on the phone about how he met a woman who looks just like that hot, hot cylon then underlines the fact that all of the cylons were hot.
  10. Amy Acker shows up as Nerely’s wife? Acker co-starred with Tudyk in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.
  11. Speaking of Joss, he appears as a crew member shaking snow and his head.
  12. When Nerely brags that he’s doing a movie with Jack Moore (Fillion), the guy who asks if it’s a Spectrum movie is Milo Ventimiglia, who played Peter Petrelli on Heroes.
  13. Henry Rollins agrees to do Nerely’s movie, but only on the condition that there’s no crowdfunding–which is funny because Con Man itself was crowdfunded.
  14. When Nerely opens his Spectrum doll, the placement and pose of the doll’s right hand suggests masturbation, that he’s a wanker.
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I Grow Weary of the Dramatic Doppelganger

I am a fan of The Vampire Diaries, which is my kind of soap opera: high school (originally) and vampires. See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

However, recently I realized it has absolutely obliterated my interest in doppelganger plot-lines. I noticed this as we entered into the second half of Once Upon a Time Season 3, wherein the main cast returns from Neverland to Storybrooke. [Spoiler warning]. In a last ditch effort to keep himself alive, Peter Pan pulls a “Grand Theft Me” on Henry, swapping bodies and sending Henry into Pandora’s Box, and Pan into the loving arms of Henry’s extended fairy tale family. He then plots to turn Storybrooke into a New Neverland (would have been the lamest Neverland ever, seriously).

Although I had been tipped off to this plot twist via IMDB’s cast list, as soon as happened, I sighed disparagingly. And that was the moment that I realized that Vampire Diaries had nailed the lid on the coffin of this trope for me.

Elenakatherine418Over the course of 5 seasons, Vampire Diaries has used the doppelganger trope ad nauseum. Elena and Katherine has been a seasonal showdown, but during this last season, Katherine ported herself magically into Elena’s body and forced Elena’s consciousness down. During this time, Katherine attempted to act like Elena but did so quite poorly. Since everyone thought Katherine dead, they were extra idiotic about “Elena’s” odd behaviors. Katherine’s charade went on for many episodes, which is like seasons for the fast turning plot of Vampire Diaries. When they did finally get Elena back in her own body and Katherine got whisked away to the void, Elena was understandably irate that her friends had failed to notice it wasn’t her. But honestly, she wasn’t near angry enough. Their absolute failure to recognize there was something wrong bordered on the absurd. She should have left Mystic Falls and never returned after seeing how inattentive her friends were.

But this was just the most recent of their doppelganger plot-lines. Stefan also has an evil doppleganger who mucks up trouble in multiple seasons. Actually, both of them have two doppelgangers. Though I find it promising that last season made Stefan and Elena the last living doppelgangers. So maybe the show has put the trope to rest.

However, let me credit Once Upon A Time for handling it judiciously. First, Emma wasn’t an idiot and noticed pretty quickly that Henry wasn’t acting normally, and Regina’s naivety about the switch was believable due to her desire to have Henry need her. Second, it was only about one whole episode before the body switch was discovered and another half episode before it was reversed. Finally, the conclusion to the whole Pan arc had huge emotional pay offs. Although I was wary of the doppelganger trope when it showed up, I came to value where it took the characters and the show.

But let me clarify that it seems my ire only gets tripped with dramatic uses of the doppelganger. I never seem to get tired of the doppelganger trope being used in a comedic fashion. See: The X-Files “Dreamland,” Farscape “Out of Their Minds,” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Doppelgangland.”

It’s apparently the dramatic irony that I loathe. In these body swapping instances writers are ruthless about twisting the viewers’ emotions and expectations. Often it will be used as an excuse to allow a couple to get together (but then go back on it once the swap is reversed). An example of this is in the season 4 X-Files episode “Small Potatoes” when shape shifting villain Eddie Van Blundt masquerades as Mulder and puts the moves on Scully, one of the funniest episodes of that season. Alternatively, the writers will drive a wedge in a relationship by having the doppelganger say or do something unforgivable that can’t be forgiven and forgotten even after their true identity is revealed. This was done on Vampire Diaries in episode 5.12 “The Devil Inside” when Katherine, in Elena’s body, rejects Damon’s heartfelt speech to get back together with words that speak to his greatest insecurity. This scene is played for absolute heartbreak.

Perhaps the key is that comedies end with a happy restoration of the status quo and dramas end with a sad, ironic gut punch. I end up often feeling manipulated by a dramatic doppelganger and then resenting that manipulation.

Television, let the dramatic doppelganger die.