I’ve spoken before about my near-all-encompassing love for the work of Kevin Smith, but for me his reality TV series leaves a lot to be desired.
Comic Book Men is an American reality TV show set in Smith’s New Jersey comic book shop, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. The shop is officially staffed by Walt Flanagan and Mike Zapcic, though the programme also stars long-time friends and colleagues Ming Chen and Bryan Johnson. Under the guise of recording one of Kevin’s many podcasts, the five cast members commentate on each week’s happenings around the shop, with a good bit of comic collectors’ heaven thrown in thanks to the Pawn Stars-like segments where hopeful sellers have their vintage merchandise appraised and negotiated for.
I found that there are two main big improvements on season one; the first of which is the halving of the running time. At only half an hour including commercials, viewers would be left wanting more from week to week, whereas they struggled to make an entertaining hour the first time round. The other big difference is the change in Walt’s character; I’m a huge fan of the weekly podcast Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave! (which he and Johnson record with fellow TV star Bryan ‘Q’ Quinn of Impractical Jokers) and I can see that the mercenary attitude which Walt takes to shop-keeping is an admirable trait when backed up with the warmly sarcastic tone he possesses in the studio; as opposed to being just the curmudgeonly sod he came across as onscreen in season one. The four friends’ onscreen relationship isn’t without its moments of one-upmanship and snark but it comes across much better when played out in shorter bursts.
But that’s what bothers me about Comic Book Men, reality TV in general, and specifically American reality TV; it really is played out. There are so many fake-looking moments in the programme; too much clumsy editing and lines which are being said for a third, fourth, fifth time to get the proper reaction and microphone pick-up. For someone who made his millions by writing real and believable characters and situations, Smith’s artificial spotlight on his friends – which I definitely read somewhere that Walt didn’t even want to be a part of – comes off as too contrived.
It definitely has its fun moments; the Zombie Run storyline was a big favourite, and I like it enough to say it’s one of my absolute favourite reality TV shows. But there’s the rub – reality TV is my absolute least favourite kind of TV. I’ll just stick with the podcast(s).