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Zombies, then comic books? A winning 1-2 punch on AMC

By Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News –

In the age of the DVR, caring about audience flow is supposed to be, well, so 2007. We record what we want, we watch when we can.

AMC must not have gotten the memo, because starting Sunday it’s following the return of “The Walking Dead” with the premiere of Kevin Smith’s “Comic Book Men.”

It might look like a match made in geek heaven, but it’s more than the pairing of a show based on a comic book series with one about the people who buy, sell and obsess about comics.

It’s also an acknowledgment that an hour of intense drama shouldn’t necessarily be followed by another.

So at 9, we have “Nebraska,” the eighth episode of the second season of “The Walking Dead,” which takes up exactly where the show left off Nov. 27, which is to say in an ugly, painful place that is not likely to get a whole lot prettier or less painful anytime soon.

That’s OK. If you’re watching a series about a zombie apocalypse, you’ve probably accepted that the feel-good moments are going to be few and far between (and that when they do come, they’re likely to be interrupted by some display of deadly force and/or rotting flesh).

I’m not supposed to tell you what happens, anyway.

But you might need a laugh when it’s over, if only to cleanse the palate before “Talking Dead” host Chris Hardwick takes over at midnight.

“Comic Book Men” should do the trick.

Smith, who describes an earlier experience in TV as “disastrous” — he made six episodes of an animated version of “Clerks” and “ABC only aired two” — told reporters last month he only agreed to talk about doing another show when he was told it was for AMC.

“I … love ‘Mad Men,’” said the writer / director. “I love ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Breaking Bad.’ My wife loved ‘Rubicon.’ I couldn’t understand it, felt like a dumbass, but she liked it a lot.”

“Comic Book Men” may not be as complicated as “Rubicon,” but it’s smarter than it looks at first.

Set in Smith’s Red Bank, N.J., comic-book store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, Sunday’s premiere intersperses footage from a podcast Smith does with the guys from the store — including manager Walter Flanagan and former employee Bryan Johnson, both of whom have appeared in Smith’s films — with their encounters with customers in a way that both quickly establishes them as characters and tells a coherent story.

Given the characters who also turn up looking to sell comics and memorabilia, Smith’s original idea — “Pawn Stars” with comics — might have been enough to win him a slot just about anywhere on cable. The podcast just makes it funnier.

So do the guys from the store, who, according to Smith, didn’t really want a TV gig.

“I called up Walter and I was like, ‘Dude, you’re never going to believe this, but we might have a reality show on AMC.’ And he goes, ‘I don’t want to do it.’

“I said, ‘Why?’ And he goes, ‘Because I don’t want to be (expletive) Snooki.’

“I said, ‘You’re out of your mind. Everyone wants to be Snooki, at least for five minutes.’

“He goes, ‘Not me.’

“And I said, ‘Well, this could work as a really cool commercial for the store.’ And Walter always likes to see people coming through the door because he knows more people coming through the door, he still has his dream job working at the store.

So he’s like, ‘All right … I’m in.’”



9 p.m. Sunday, AMC.


10 p.m. Sunday, AMC.

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