TV Review: COMIC BOOK MEN Is The Latest Bad Kevin Smith Thing

And actually Kevin Smith is the best part of this awful show.

Kevin Smith owns a comic book store in Red Bank, New Jersey (he used to own one in LA too, but it got closed down). It's an okay store; I went there a few years ago and found it to be a good source of Kevin Smith junk mostly. I don't know that I would imagine it could support a TV series, but AMC decided it could, and so now we have Comic Book Men, a sort of nerdier version of Pawn Stars. 

Unfortunately the show is terrible. The focus is on the employees of the store, The Secret Stash, and their friend Bryan who hangs around all the time. They're not a particularly engaging group; Bryan has a sardonic humor, but none of the rest of the guys exhibit the least amount of screen presence. Walt Flanagan, the manager of the store and the center of the show, is sort of likable but comes across as dim. The other two, Ming and Mike, are nonentities. There's nothing to latch on to with these guys.

That would be okay if what they were doing were interesting. But unfortunately Comic Book Men takes four stereotypical overgrown nerds and has them engage in lowest common denominator comic book talk. The show opens with them discussing how Batman got Robin - a discussion which of course ends in a gay joke. Hooray for fifty year old humor! Later the geeks talk about Six Million Dollar Man and an on-screen trivia prompt tells us that there was a spin-off of that show called The Bionic Woman. What a deep nugget!

The show has people coming to the store to sell their pop culture junk. All of this is staggeringly staged, phony in the extreme. And that's just judging by the poor performances of everybody on screen, never mind the fact that in a world with eBay nobody bothers bringing their Chucky dolls to a comic store to sell (onscreen trivia: Chucky was the killer in the movie Child's Play). What makes a show like Pawn Stars interesting is learning about the items being sold, as well as the excitement of discovering something valuable that seemed to be junk. The days of being shocked that your pop culture tchotchke is valuable are over and everybody thinks their Happy Meal collection is worth a cool grand. On top of that the stuff being sold to the store is boring, and isn't discussed in any interesting way.

Deciding this painful phoniness wasn't enough, the show has Flanagan send his two employees to a flea market to competitively sell junk. The winner gets two weekends off in a row, which makes the inclusion of non-employee Bryan super strange. This section verges on interesting, but never quite gets there. They don't meet many characters, and the bickering between the nerds feels forced and stupid. 

These segments are punctuated with podcast recording sessions featuring Kevin Smith. Shockingly this is the least offensive part of the show, although it's so heavily edited that there's no flow to the conversations. Because the comic guys aren't being forced to act out sham buying sessions they at least behave naturally. Of course for Mike and Ming behaving naturally means disappearing into the background.

I don't know who would want to watch this show outside of the Kevin Smith ultrafaithful. The characters are not inviting or interesting, which would seem to leave out norms. And the comic book/pop culture aspect is so watered down, so entry level, that nerds will condescended to. A discussion about Speedy doing heroin - oh my goodness, what exciting new ground this show is covering! 

It's possible that Comic Book Men will improve over time, but I'll never find out. The first episode filled me with enough loathing for my own subculture to last me a whole season.