Comic Book Men – Life After Clerks Review

AMC’s new unscripted one hour series, Comic Book Men, dives deep into fanboy culture by following the antics in and around master fanboy Kevin Smith’s New Jersey comic shop, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.

Year: 2012

Starring: Kevin Smith, Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, Ming Chen, David Zapcic & Jason Mewes

Network: AMC

After but one episode the amount of vitriol spewed forth against Messer’s Smith, Flanagan, Johnson, Chen and Zapcic rather astounded me. It seems that there is no sense of proportion when examining certain aspects of pop culture. Comic Book Men is apparently not simply bad television, it is the worst kind of insult to true comic fans everywhere; further evidence that Kevin Smith has always, in fact, been worthless; exposes his previous filmmaking efforts to be crap; and is proof that Jesus died in vain.

But I’m reviewing this online, so I have to consider that it’s possible that I have no sense of proportion either.

The fact is that Comic Book Men is harmless TV. Whether it’s harmless TV that will raise a few laughs depends on where you fall in the spectrum of fans. The show is not brilliant, and is certainly not any better than Antiques Roadshow or similar type niche programming. It’s also not terrible – it’s just…there.

This week was witness to the gang involving themselves in a friendly game of hockey just like the “good ol’ days”. After about two minutes of play, Smith is unable to stand up straight, Bryan Johnson hasn’t moved from his starting position and they’re on their way to an 8 – nil loss. What made this escapade interesting was the discussion the group has in their podcast studio about the role that hockey played in their youth, and how valuable it is now to be able to step back into that for an afternoon, because it’s almost like they never grew up.

And here is what I think is the really interesting – though undoubtedly unintended – angle of the show: We’re looking at a group of man-children. Despite the air of superiority that surrounds Johnson at all times; despite the fact that Walt is a business manager; despite the fact that Ming Chen is married – these guys cling to nostalgia as strongly as any of us. There is that ever-present suggestion that the years of adolescence or young adulthood were “the best years”, and the pursuit of hobbies, collectibles and time with the old gang is an attempt to recapture those glory days.

This is possibly exemplified in the presence of Jason Mewes – Jay, to anyone who watches Smith’s films. He pops into the store in this episode (though no-one can quite figure out why) and proceeds to create all the havoc of an unaccompanied ten-year old. With regards to the other customers featured in the episode, it has become clear that while things may be unscripted, they are far from spontaneous. The customers are obviously chosen and asked to come in at certain times to up the interest in the program. While I’m not saying this makes for terrible viewing, there is definitely something disconcerting when you can tell that the interaction is not entirely genuine.

Hopefully, for the both of you still watching, that won’t diminish your joy at seeing a customer roll up to the store in the freakin’ Batmobile! (circa. 1966) and proceed to offer test drives to the staff in exchange for a discount on his purchases.

How to Enjoy it

Try to avoid asking yourself: “Do I sound like this when I talk about my hobbies?”

Rating – 3 out of 5 (Average)

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