An Evening Watching AMC’s The Walking Dead & Comic Book Men…..

I don’t watch much regular television, but the other night I managed to spend an evening watching the start of the new season of The Walking Dead and the new series Comic Book Men on AMC. That’s American Movie Classics in case you didn’t know. I don’t think anyone actually calls it that anymore though. Nowadays everyone is so acronym happy. People can’t spend the time uttering unnecessary syllables. I personally think it started with the whole email/texting thing. Besides why call it American Movie Classics, they barely show any classic films anymore. Turner Classic Movies has become the channel to go for that. Oh excuse me, TCM.

Anyway, after friends recommending me to check out The Walking Dead, that it would be a show I would most likely enjoy, I finally started watching it from the beginning. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked and watched the two seasons leading up to the premiere of the third.

I usually come late in the game with television shows, so I’m happy to say that I’m currently watching a show! When I first heard about the show I was somewhat skeptical. Zombies have become one of those ‘hip’ things for the last few years and I suspected this was simply a show that was going to cash in on it. But with Frank Darabont’s name attached (at least at the beginning, now he’s left the show) my expectations got a lift.

The Walking Dead could have easily focused on scary zombie attack scenes that this group of survivors encounter and leave it at that. But the main focus is on these individuals butting heads, relationships forming and fracturing, life and death decisions being made and the repercussions of them and how it will affect everyone.

Sure we get the fun zombie attacks, and the show does a great job of presenting this hollowed out world where life and hope have been overrun with dead “walkers” wandering around, but the show is much more than just that.

I’m not going to get into much more about it now, but only to say that my friends were right, it is a show I’m enjoying and am looking forward to see where the series will take these characters.

Along with the new season of The Walking Dead I also stuck around to watch the series premiere of Comic Book Men…..this was the less entertaining part of the evening.

I liked Kevin Smith’s first film the 1994 fan favorite Clerks and 1997’s Chasing Amy. Then after that….not much else.

I never really cared for the majority of the films he’s directed. The best thing I can think that Smith has done since becoming popular is some of his speaking engagements. At times he can be a pretty entertaining lecturer, like talking to an audience about why his Superman script never got made, but as for film work there hasn’t been much to brag about.

Since Clerks his later films – Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Cop Out, I didn’t like one of them. Dogma was kind of interesting at least.

In fact Kevin Smith seems to have maintained popularity with his fan base by simply being Kevin Smith. Along with milking his Clerks characters incessantly for any project possible. He’s become more a personality than a filmmaker. Maybe his cameo appearances in Daredevil and Fanboys give a jolt of excitement to his hardcore fans, for me it doesn’t do too much. In fact thinking about it, I’ve gotten kind of tired of seeing him.

So now his new show Comic Book Men is another reality-type show that is meant to show us the inner workings of what it’s really like to work in the Smith-owned New Jersey comic book store Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash (the name inspired naturally by his Clerks characters)

It actually sounded like it could be a fun premise. Being a comic book geek is now a pretty happening thing and getting introduced to real fans and listen in on their conversations harkens back to the old Clerks days (I’m referencing that movie a lot huh, almost as much as Smith does)

Unfortunately the show is nowhere near as entertaining as I think the makers think it is or try to make it.

To start, it’s an hour-long show and feels very heavily padded. It wouldn’t feel like such a long stretch if the folks we were hanging out with were as much fun as Smith thinks they are, but they’re not.

The store manager Walt is the most likable out of the bunch; unfortunately he’s surrounded by workers Mike and Ming, along with Bryan, who just hangs out in the store all day long. They pretty much range from forgettable to unlikable.

We get some of the clichéd comic book talk with the guys, along with Smith in a podcast segment talking about which superheroine they think is the sexiest. Back at the store the guys throw the typical insults at each other, the things that guys do. Ming seems to be the target for most of the berating. I wasn’t laughing along with them though. Smith should of scripted some lines for them.

The show offers up the look at the inner workings of the comic shop, by having a bunch of people come in and sell their collectibles ala Pawn Stars. Apparently they don’t get any paying customers in this place. This was probably the most interesting segment. I realize there is some planning involved with reality programs, but all of these looked very blatantly staged. A guy just happens to walk in with an original Bob Kane Batman drawing…..good thing the cameras were there to capture this!

We do get to learn a little about these comic items, although most of the things people bring in were either toy or movie-related memorabilia. American Pickers, the short-lived show Hollywood Treasure and the pilot for the proposed show Toy Hunters on the Travel Channel would be better shows to see and learn about collectible items.

The show presses on, plops the guys down at a flea market and a challenge to see who can make the most money from their tables of collectibles. It’s a pretty tedious segment. We don’t really get to see what exactly the guys are selling, nor do we care who wins the contest. At one point Bryan starts breaking these plates Ming is trying to sell. I guess it’s supposed to be funny, but he just comes off as a real obnoxious jerk. At that point I really didn’t want to spend anymore time with any of these guys.

Perhaps this group of comic book geeks are truly just a bunch of nice guys and were given roles to play by the makers of this (your going to be the quiet guy, your going to be the picked on guy, your going to be the mean guy). Just because Smith enjoys hanging out with them doesn’t mean we all will. Maybe Smith’s fans will enjoy this and these guys will become a welcome addition to the Smith stable of characters.

The show is apparently a six-part series, so there’s more coming. Maybe it will improve in later episodes. The idea of learning about comic book fans, the culture and a comic book store – it’s a gradually disappearing retail environment, really how often do you see them nowadays – it has some great potential for a show. Certainly more than just seeing a bunch of guys tell dick jokes. Based on this first episode it doesn’t look too good for Comic Book Men and already I’m thinking it will end up on the forgettable pile of short-lived reality shows.

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