Reality television covers every facet of American life: dating, relationships, addition, work, and jousting (thanks History Channel). It was only a matter of time before reality television clashed with the world of comic books and comic book retail. AMC's new television show Comic Book Men is about the well known comic book shop Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash in New Jersey, which is owned by film maker Kevin Smith and run by his friends.
The formula for this show is quite simple take Pawn Stars' format, but make it a one hour episode instead of thirty minutes, add in a Kevin Smith podcast, and sprinkle a bit of comic book geekdom on top and you have Comic Book Men. The show consists of three different sections. The characters on this show, Walt (most memorable as "Fanboy" from Mallrats. "Tell em' Steve-Dave!"), who runs the store, Bryan, who doesn't work there but is always hanging out (Steve-Dave from Mallrats), Mike, an employee, and Ming, who is more or less the whipping-post of the store.
The opening of the episode features Walt, Bryan, Mike, and Ming hanging out in the store and talking about how Batman found Robin and which comic book female is one they'd like to hook up with. This jumps over to the Comic Book Men Podcast hosted by Kevin Smith where they talk about the event they were talking about in the store.
Customers also walk into the store and much like Pawn Stars try to sell items to the Secret Stash for an inflated price. And yes, on occasion, Walt has to call in an expert. The third element to this show is the extra wackiness from the store. In this first episode, Walt sends Bryan, Ming, and Mike out to sell a bunch of not-so-great comic related merchandise at a local flea market, and have a friendly competition to see who can make the most money and get rid of all their product. Spoiler: Ming wins because he's an under-appreciated workhorse, at least according to this first episode.
It's really tough to judge a show off it's pilot episode because everything is being established for the first time: characters, story, location, plot, etc, even for a reality television show. I am a HUGE Kevin Smith fan, a HUGE podcast fan (especially SIR), a HUGE comic book fan, and a HUGE crazy customer fan, so this show should have everything I like, right? Well, it's a bit trickier than that.
This show is all over the place, it's too many different formats stuffed into one show. While I liked the more Pawn Star elements of the show, and I like the podcast element, I felt like they really didn't work well together. There wasn't a good mesh.
I've met Bryan, Walt, and Kevin before, and they were all great guys, but man, I loved Bryan on this show. I mean, look at his beard. Bryan's beard is epic.
He's Alan Moore-esque, minus the hermit like tendencies. He was by far the most interesting aspect of the show for me. He is at this comic book store everyday, yet he doesn't work there. He just hangs out. Some of the most comical moments came from him, like when he smashes a plate from Ming's table at the flea market and a man comes up to him and says "You don't do that to those people!" Those people? Bryan proceeds to apologize.
As a person who works in a comic book store, I've always gotten a laugh at what people think their items are worth, and the anger they display when I explain to them it's not worth as much as they think. Key example is a woman who brings in a Chucky doll and wants to sell it for hundreds of dollars, around $400 I believe. The thing is worth $50, at best, and she can't realize that her sentimental attachment with the item has no real monetary value. However, we also get to see some really cool objects, like a 1970 Thor poster drawn by Jack Kirby.
Walt comes off as a bit of a jerk, and not in the lovable jerk way that Bryan seemed like. Walt feels a bit more malicious and a guy who doesn't like the public or his employees. Maybe it's just the way the show portrayed him, but he is not likable, which stinks since he's the lead of the show. Maybe I'm just a bit bummed to see how everyone treats Ming. Or maybe I'm just reading way too much into his facial expressions.
There's already a bit of commotion on the intrawebs about the opening of the show, with the men talking about which female super-hero they'd get with. Lots of people are mad that it makes the comic book fan community look like lonely, pathetic dorks, and conversations like that don't happen in the real world. I disagree completely. Customers have tried to engage me in conversations like that numerous times. I usually just change the subject. These are things that people in comic book shops talk about. The variety of conversations is immense. It could be Tony Moore's work on THE WALKING DEAD one minute, then Aqualad's outfit the next.
The biggest disappointment, by far, is the jumping over to the podcast format to talk about what's already going on. It seems like just a good way to incorporate Kevin Smith into each episode, which normally, I'd like, but I'm a SModcast fan, and this is like a G-rated version of that podcast, stripped down, and no where near as fun. It serves no purpose, and it hinders the show.
Overall, and this is going to sound like a lame cop-out, I kinda liked the show. I didn't hate it like so many fanboys are saying on the net because it isn't a correct portrayal of geek-culture. It's reality television. It's over-exaggerated television based on real events, and to be honest, this show comes closer to real life than many of its reality-tv counter-parts, but that's not the problem with the show.
The problem with this show is that there's too much going on. Sure, it's going to be hit or miss with most comic book fans, but I think overall the mainstream television viewers are going to be confused with everything.
This show would work so much better if it got rid of the whole podcast element to it, and it pains me to say that, but it's the number one problem with the show. All the podcast element of the show does is explains what's already happening. We get to see/hear the same event on the show twice. Why bother? Again, this is a pilot episode, so it's hard to judge, since it may not have found it's stride yet.
There's no doubt I'm going to watch next week and the week after. I enjoyed the show. A little formatting problem isn't going to keep me away, but that's how big of a Kevin Smith and company fanboy I am. To the rest of you, I'd say check it out and see what you think. It's free (if you have cable), and if you don't mind fast-forwarding through the podcast part of the show, you'll probably enjoy it. Just download Smodcast or Jay and Silent Bob Get Old instead and listen to it after each episode.
However, with the added element of the podcast, this brings the rating down.
This episode of Comic Book Men gets 2 1/2 Angry Bryan Faces out of 5.
Did you guys see the episode? What did you think?