Comic Book Men – Episode 101: Comic Book Men – AMC
After debuting to encouraging ratings, the entire first episode of Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men reality show is now streaming, so you can catch up with all the inaction you missed.
Given its monster (ha ha) spot right after ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead, Comic Book Men has it made. But a lot of people—some of them comics retailers—were cringing after watching the show set in Kevin Smith’s Red Bank, NJ comics shop, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. At the Huffington Post, retailers Steven Brown and Carmelo Chimera wrote:
AMC’s new reality show chronicles the life and times of five people working at the New Jersey comic book store “Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.” Cutting between shenanigans at the store, a roundtable podcast, and the pursuit of rare collectibles, Comic Book Men promised on the surface to provide a unique look into the often-misunderstood world of pop culture collectibles.
Unfortunately, despite some promise and a few clever elements, the show was too slowly paced to capture the viewer’s interest. While the pilot episode contains some wit, and at least a few laugh out loud moments, for the most part it leaves you wondering if there was some over-arching point that you simply missed.
Our own favorite review came from Ron Marz:
“Comic Book Men” seemed to be scenes of guys standing around talking, intercut with scenes of guys sitting around talking.
— Ron Marz (@ronmarz) February 13, 2012
Indeed, even for the world of reality TV, where any actual activity is repeated just before the break and replayed just after to stretch things out, this show was slow. It was also pretty familiar territory to most people reading this site: four guys—three of them white and two middle-aged—standing around a comic shop bullshitting. This formula would be awesome if the people were Jonathan Ross, “Hurricane” Helms, Patton Oswalt and Janeane Garafolo, to name four celebrity comics nerds who can be witty. Or even if one of them were Kevin Smith . Well, one of them IS Kevin Smith and it is still just like that time you went to the barbecue and hung out with those guys who work over in quality control. (Am I the only person who became uncomfortable that the guy everyone picked on was the Asian guy? And that he just looked bemused by the whole thing?) The cast is likable enough but not quite enough to anchor an hour of TV.
For anyone who has never been in a comics shop, the Land of the Misfit Boys portrayal will just reinforce every stereotype they ever had. Jokes about Catwomen and getting all excited up about The Six Million Dollar Man. Yep, that’s what them nerds do.
Also, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in a horrible economy so people are always coming in and trying to sell some piece of weird nerd-related crap like a Chucky doll or a horrible sketch by Bob Kane. All the sellers have ridiculous ideas of what their stash will sell for, and almost invariably walk out sadly, painting a picture of a mancave of childish fantasies with no value in the real world.
“Do people ever come in here to buy anything?” one cast member asks, and you have to wonder if ANYONE will actually pay for a comic any more.
While this was only the pilot, one can definitely see the gears of TV development screeching and clanking in every moment of Comic Book Men. I’m guessing that Smith pitched it as a comedic slice of life based on his funny, quirky employees being outrageous. (This concept is the format for a podcast that all five of them do, a filmed taping of which provides the “men sitting around talking” footage.) Somewhere along the way, AMC must have seen the ratings for Pawn Stars and Storage Wars, two hugely popular half-hour shows in which we learn the value of precious heirlooms sold by desperate people and weird junk squirreled away by deadbeats, respectively. Some of store manager Walt Flanagan’s patter was straight from Rick Harrison on Pawn Stars. “What are you looking to get for this?” and so on.
But there are many differences. On those other popular shows, the potential for valuable junk has a lot more latitude. In a comics shop, unless some ninny walks in with a DETECTIVE #27, no one is going to hit the jackpot.
Even more important…those other shows are 30 minutes long! At an hour, Comic Book Men is wayyyy too long. I know that finding a Kevin Smith production long and talky should shock no one, but still…WHYYYYYYYY.
I’m kind of disturbed that AMC thinks this is the kind of show to hold The Walking Dead audience, to be honest. Did they just hear “comic book” and think it’s all the same? Guys with a room in their home dedicated to their cold-cast Justice League statue collection will probably identify with Comic Book Men. The Walking Dead, unless I’m mistaken, appeals to women, and a broad swath of the 18-49 demo. This audience will just look at a few moments of Comic Book Men and think “Oh, those boring nerds,” and switch to that episode of Person of Interest they DVRed.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.