In preparation for AMC’s first foray into the realm of reality television, I had the pleasure of attending a press event hosted by the man himself, Kevin Smith. Smith and the stars of his new reality show, Comic Book Men, stood before a slew of journalists and waxed poetic on the soon-to-be televised depiction of their everyday lives working at Smith’s comic book store, Secret Stash, punctuated by a podcast led by Smith himself. The new series premieres on Sunday, Feb. 12 after the highly anticipated return of The Walking Dead and as Smith notes, “If we don’t score there, we’re never going to score anywhere.” The drama borne out of comic books should be the perfect primer for a series all about the world of comics and pop culture memorabilia, but in case you need some convincing, we’ve got a few reasons it’s worth a shot.
1. It’s not TV, it’s AMC.
My apologies to HBO, but it would seem that AMC is taking over this territory in the last few years. With series most of us never dreamed we’d see on cable – 60s advertising playboys, meth-dealing chemistry teachers, and zombie infestations, oh my! – AMC is quickly becoming the place for the fantastically offbeat. Of course, seeing AMC take on reality TV is a little disconcerting in an age when “reality” has become a bit of a dirty word, but if there’s one thing AMC knows, it’s good television, so how bad could it be? Smith said he was uncertain about reality, but knew AMC was the one place he could do it right:
These cats are telling the best stories. And it attracts you as a storyteller, as a performer I’m sure…They’ve got the ball right now. They’re the 1984 Edmonton Oilers of television. They’re a total dynasty. They can do no wrong.
Plus, we’ve seen the first episode, and even a comic neophyte like me found it entertaining and dare I say it – really funny.
2.Geek culture is like a “Tiffany diamond.”
Just hold [a mirror] up to that culture. And hold it up real—not a distorted funhouse mirror like, ‘These f***ers don’t get laid, and they live in basements!’ Three of the dudes who work in the store, they’re all married. They have kids. That part of their life is all sorted out. They just happen to want to live like Arthur for the rest of their lives…
…Most people are like, ‘Geeks! Nerds! Comics! It’s one-dimensional.’ Bulls**t. We all know that the fandom community, the geek community, those of us that like pop culture, it’s as [multi]-faceted as a Tiffany diamond. You can explore in way different directions.
3.True crazy is free.
Some reality shows need the booze flowing and sleep deprivation to get something interesting out of their subjects, but not Comic Book Men. From the stars of the show to the crazies coming into sell their pop culture wares, it’s all real. The Comic Book Men in question – Walt, Michael, Bryan, and Ming – have known each other for years, and they’ve known Smith for years, which signals one very important thing: they’ve got plenty to say and plenty of snark and sarcasm to go with it. And as for the folks filing into the store? Sure, the producers sent out word about when cameras would be rolling at the store, but the crazy is all their own. Smith says, they didn’t solicit strange people, “‘Hey man, here’s fifty bucks, can you play a psycho?’ No! It’s crazy! If you ask psychos to show up, they’ll show up for free!”
4.It’s Abed Nadir-approved – sayonara Talking Heads, hello Podcast.
We cannot say for sure that the fictional pop culture guru from Community actually endorses this show, but we’d wager he would. AMC doesn’t do anything conventionally, so it makes sense that their reality show would do away with the contrived confessional interviews that help create story out of nothing on every other “reality” show. They created a podcast that’s exclusively for the series, “They just let us roll and sit there and talk for a while. And we find little snippets where, if it makes us laugh, we know it’s going to make anybody else laugh. Because we hate ourselves,” said Smith. And you know what? It accomplishes the same thing those talking heads do without forcing our stars to answer oddly worded questions so they end up “confessing” to facts that aren’t there. Instead, we just get more riffing – and since that’s the series’ bread and butter, more riffing is always a good thing.
These guys have known each other for years – and it shows. Our four main cohorts aren’t afraid to strike up an argument over a minor detail – or even systematically knock one another’s prized memorabilia off a table like the burliest 12 year-olds in history. That’s what friends do, right? Smith spoke passionately about the core of the series:
It literally took me back fifteen, seventeen years to before I made the flicks and we were all just sitting around, hanging out. It was the same feel as that. And the one thing I know from all the podcasts we’ve done and the movies and the commentary tracks on the movies, what people like is when you’re sitting around talking to your friends, they feel like they’re in the room. They feel like they’re a part of the conversation. The highest compliment you can be paid is, “You guys talk about the same stuff me and my friends talk about.”
And when that comes together, like it does on Comic Book Men, that’s what you call chemistry. And ladies, the series may be a self-proclaimed sausage party, but good TV knows no gender…baby.
6.Jason Mewes is coming.
This is true, Kevin Smith said so. And honestly, how could he not stop by? The store is called Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash – you couldn’t have a show about it without seeing Jay at least once!
7.You’ll already be watching The Walking Dead, Nerds!
Seriously, just be lazy for once. Let the remote sit on that table two steps away from the couch. It would be so easy to just keep watching, and if there’s anything I’m a promoter of, it’s laziness.
Comic Book Men airs Sunday, Feb. 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on AMC. Will you be watching? Do you have questions about the series? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler