You may not know this about me, but I’m slightly obsessed with reality TV. I love shows like American Pickers, Mythbusters, Swamp People, The Colony, and Storage Wars. I don’t gravitate toward the competition based ones, but I’ll give just about any show that revolves around an interesting job a watch (I even watched Parking Wars once, it was awful). Another thing you may not know is that I own my own comic shop (Hurley’s Heroes, Joplin, Missouri). Given these facts, you’d think that AMC’s new show “Comic Book Men” would be right up my alley. However, this show does nothing but disappoint.
The episode actually starts off on a good foot, with a neat “podcast” framing sequence. The podcast allows for reflection on the situations as they play out without using the “confessional” shots that litter most reality shows. It’s a pretty great work around, and it’s easily my favorite part of the show. That’s more influenced by my fascination with reality TV structure than by my love of the subject matter though. The subject matter is handled… like a bad reality show. Everything in this show feels forced and fake. I’m not an idiot, I realize that reality TV is written, and that the majority of “random encounters” are completely manufactured, but this show is seriously hackey. It follows almost the exact same structure as another overly forced show, Pawn Stars.
Rather than focusing on how a small business is run, what kind of astounding effort goes into maintaining a stock that rotates on a weekly basis, or the colorful cast of customers that no doubt frequent the store, we get another show about buying collectibles. People bring interesting items into the store, and guys give a little history of the item, make some sexual references, and then try to come up with a price. If you’ve never seen Pawn Stars before, it’s EXACTLY THE SAME. For one item, Walt even calls in a buddy of his for help with an appraisal (which is a fairly legit thing, it’s just usually done over the phone). This is THE classic Rick move on Pawn Stars. They did run into some neat stuff, the Bob Kane original was particularly cool, but that doesn’t make a good or original show.
In addition to the already flawed premise of basing the show around trying to buy items off of people and creating tension through price haggling, they also feature a friendly competition between employees. I’m gonna go ahead and let you guess what other show does that on a pretty consistent basis…
I still think that a great show could be made based around the everyday workings of a comic shop, but the focus needs to be on the uniqueness of the comic market, not the way that it’s just like a pawn shop.