Two weeks ago, nerds, geeks, and those "just going to San Diego for the weekend to check out the beaches" poured into Comic-Con 2008 in all their "Babylon 5"-clad glory.

Comic-Con is an ever-evolving beast. It started as a few dozen collectors meeting in a basement in San Diego to trade and discuss comics. Now it is an event so massive it shuts down an entire city for the weekend.

Comic-Con also holds a tremendous amount of power nowadays. Nervous directors unveil scenes from their latest superhero big-screen opus to the attendees, well-aware that a lukewarm response could spell doom and a standing ovation will send the Internet into a tizzy.

At first, this situation only applied to comic book films. Then Sci-Fi movies entered the mix, hoping to woo a similar fan base and rev up the buzz engine in their favor. Soon TV joined the fray, further making this event for comic book collectors seem more like network upfronts.

TV's sphere of influence has become so massive that the small screen casts a shadow over the entire event. In fact, this year, around 50 television shows took part in the weekend jamboree of comic-dom. It's gotten to the point that Comic-Con is almost as questionable a title as Music Television.

Some of these shows are new programs hoping to make it big. Others are genre shows that have earned their way into the hearts of the comic book contingent. Still others ("Dexter"? "The Sarah Silverman Program"?) don't really relate to any of the convention's demographics.

The one thing these shows do have in common, however, is that they can all be classified as either overrated or underrated. In fact, that's just what you'll see here.

Here are the five most overrated and underrated TV shows exhibiting at Comic-Con 2008:


5. "Fringe"/"Dollhouse"

How overrated is this pair of programs? Neither has broadcast one frame over the airwaves, yet both are hailed as the saviors of the small screen. Why is this? "Fringe" is essentially an "X-Files" rip-off created by the executive producer of "What About Brian?" and Joss Whedon is already re-shooting parts of "Dollhouse's" pilot. Despite this, buzz and praise are rampant. There's even a website up to save "Dollhouse" from cancellation. What if it stinks? Nobody knows, and they still want to save it. The only thing we do know is that the screening of the "Fringe" pilot at Comic-Con was merely greeted with "polite applause" - a lukewarm response that did nothing to kill the show's buzz. These shows are likely to be hailed until the day the debut, and probably for a long time afterward, no matter how good or bad they are. That's what pedigree'll do for ya.

4. "Futurama"

As a whole, this show is underrated (see below) but its fans praise it like it's the best show of all time, making it overrated in a sense. "Futurama" is kind of like the Rush of television: there's no such thing as a casual fan. Those who like "Futurama" love it so much that they hail the airing of repeats on Comedy Central and its chopping of the straight-to-DVD release of the "Futurama" movie like they're major events in the course of human history. Well, they aren't. The show got cancelled even thought it premiered after "The Simpsons" back when that show was extremely popular. It's time to let go, "Futurama" fans, no show could as good as you think this is.

3. "Chuck"/"The Big Bang Theory"

Two shows, two different nerd stars, two premieres during the worst slate of new series in decades. Somehow these shows survived, and in their absence have grown into critically acclaimed masterpieces. What? Did nobody notice that "Chuck" is extremely boring and the one joke on "The Big Bang Theory" grew tired mid-way through the pilot? Apparently not because both shows continue to receive praise in a variety of magazines, and their returns hailed as two of the most anticipated of the new fall season. Frightening.

2. "Star Trek"

Calm down, kids. This is not an affront against "The Next Generation." Not an assault on the movies. This is a condemnation of the original series. That campy, poorly-acted bit of foolishness that kicked around for three seasons in the late 60s. No, it wasn't terrible. It was kind of fun, kind of interesting, but completely forgettable. Had there never been a series of great movies, had the franchise never been revived with the far superior "Next Generation", "Trek" would have become just another relic of early sci-fi TV. Instead, it's rode the coattails of its descendants to the farthest reaches of overrateddom.

1. "Family Guy"

This crass and horribly unfunny cartoon is so overrated that Fox actually un-cancelled it a few years ago, subjecting viewers to more recycled jokes than a Carlos Mencia routine. This show takes the Rob Deer Comedy Theory to a new level: Not only does it swing for the fences with every joke, but it misses almost every time. The only time the show makes contact is when a gag is so obviously stolen that those in the know can easily point out its source ("Simpsons", "Simpsons", "Far Side", "Simpsons", "Letterman") in a rapid-fire diatribe of disgust. Despite all this, "Family Guy" has vaulted past much of its source material to become the most beloved 'toon on TV. How many times have we all run past somebody who proudly announces they own all the seasons on DVD and loves staying up 'till 3 a.m. with a "Family Guy" marathon? This is invariably the tasteless comedy miscreant who follows their "Family Guy" pride by delighting that they scored tickets to Dane Cook and talking about how they can't wait for the next installment of "Laser Cats". They can have "Family Guy"; the rest of us will stick to comedies that are actually, ya know, funny.


5. "The Middleman"

This witty little gem debuted this summer on ABC Family with about as much fanfare as a rerun of "The Andy Griffith Show." Why is that? It has everything a great sci-fi show could ask for: cool comic book villains, an ingenious dry wit, and the hottest chick on television since Lara Flynn Boyle first blew smoke on "Twin Peaks" (please-oh-please e-mail me if you read this, Ms. Morales). But nobody's watching. Nobody is delighting in episodes like "The Flying Fish Zombification". This show is so underrated that ABC Family moved its timeslot after the first episode. This shouldn't be. "The Middleman" should be getting at least as much respect as ABC Family tripe like "Greek" and "The Secret Life of an American Teenager". After all, Wendy Watson and The Middleman are the fastest-talking, funniest duo since ABC Family faves Rory and Lorelai Gilmore, plus they battle crazy beasties each week. People need to return the favor and start talking about them! By the way, Starpulse interviewed Matt Keeslar of Middleman a while back.

4. "Futurama"

Except for a few intensely loyal fans (see above) this turn-of-the-century gem was widely ignored at its release and forgotten soon thereafter. This despite its extremely smart comedy (born from "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening) and stunning visual representation of the future. The characters are great, and it effectively used its futuristic society as a satirical comment on our present world. Sadly, it only got four seasons, while "Family Guy" appears as though it will go on forever and has even spawned the "Cleveland" spin-off.

3. "Heroes"

This show pulled the classic "so overrated, it became underrated" trick. "Heroes" first season was an over-hyped but very good live action comic book. It never lived up to the insane buzz surrounding it and when it floundered at the start of its second season, the boo-birds came out in full-flock. Suddenly, this acclaimed series was, "Never that good", "I never liked it," "It's not as good as 'Lost'". Okay, the third claim is certainly true, but the former two certainly aren't. Especially considering that the show rebounded nicely to end its second season before being sabotaged by the writer's strike. Apparently nobody noticed, because since that time the bashing has continued on blogs and message boards, a fiery backlash against the effusive praise it received during its maiden season. You'd think the show was a direct affront to many viewers' personal lives with the vitriol it's evoked, instead of the very good series it actually is. The future looks bright for "Heroes" as an early screening of its premiere was met with rapturous praise at Comic-Con. Maybe it'll go back to being overrated soon.

2. "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"

This may seem out of place on this list of cartoons and sci-fi live action, but one of the funniest sitcoms on TV did present at this year's Comic-Con, though if it truly took after the series, it's very likely that nobody noticed. "Sunny" has wallowed away on FX for three years. Nobody watches it, nobody talks about it, but anyone who's ever accidentally tuned in has undoubtedly laughed uproariously and then felt bad about it afterwards. With episodes like "The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby" and "Charlie Gets Molested", "Sunny" makes "South Park" look like "Full House." This is the most outlandishly offensive sitcom on TV and also one of the funniest. Its fourth season premieres on September 18. Hopefully, somebody will watch this time.

1. "The Simpsons"

How could the show Empire Magazine called the greatest of all time be underrated? How could the series hailed by Entertainment Weekly as the best of the last 25 years not be getting enough credit? How could a cartoon whose movie raked in over $500 million around the world feel underappreciated? It's simple. When's the last time you heard anybody talk about the TV show? When did you last hear somebody say, "Hey, did you see "The Simpsons" last night?" College? High School? Middle School? Whatever the case, it's been awhile. And it isn't like the show has dipped in quality. It's not as good as the Golden Age, but recently it's been better than many previous seasons. Still, nobody watches it, or at least admits to it. They're all too busy watching jokes from older episodes during their "Family Guy" marathons. Now that's underrated.

Check back next week for a rundown of the most overrated and underrated albums certified diamond by the RIAA.

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Story by Andrew Payne
Starpulse contributing writer