March 26, 2014 1:00pm PT by Michael O'Connell
AMC Developing Late-Night Series With Kevin Smith, 'Comic Book Men' Renewed
AMC is investing in Kevin Smith. The cable network, which has seen its greatest unscripted success in Smith's Comic Book Men, is committing to a fourth season of the series and developing two new projects with the executive producer.
Most notably, AMC is exploring a late-night project with Smith and his longtime friend and collaborator Ralph Garman. The duo's live podcast, Hollywood Babble-On, will film a pilot this spring with a weekly series in mind. The network already has had great success in the talk sphere with companion series Talking Dead and Talking Bad -- though both of those are tied to its scripted heavyweights.
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"We started talking about expanding things with Kevin well over a year ago, "AMC executive vp programming, production and digital content Joel Stillerman tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Becoming familiar with and watching the success of Hollywood Babble-On over the past couple of years, it seems like a no-brainer. They do it in a way that has a general reverence for entertainment, and I think it's a very unique perspective."
AMC's push into late night comes at a time when many cable networks are showing interest. Comedy Central recently launched AMC personality Chris Hardwick's @Midnight after Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, while TBS, E! and Bravo continue to build programming in the later hours. FX, and later FXX, both attempted to break into the arena with projects starring Russell Brand and W. Kamau Bell.
"I always describe it as Entertainment Tonight but filthy," Smith tells THR. "We sit there and make fun of our industry betters. We bring an inside perspective. We're not the biggest winners on the planet, so we can grouse as well. It has a fun dynamic of salty and sweet. It's a night club show, so we're working with the good folks to try and crack the code of how to turn that podcast we record live every week into a TV show."
Hollywood Babble-On, which generally tapes in front of live audiences at various Los Angeles-area nightclubs, will require some tinkering for a translation to TV. And Smith maintains that it will not resemble a conventional talker in format. Producers Wilshire Studios have experience in the arena, also making E! series The Soup and Fashion Police.
Smith seems like a natural choice in AMC's current unscripted roster to help expand its alternative offerings. Three seasons in, Comic Book Men averages a very competitive 1 million viewers and a 0.6 rating among adults 18-49 -- at the very late hour of midnight. In the key demo, it outperforms cable series like Top Chef, The Americans and the similarly targeted King of the Nerds.
Frequent castmember Robert Bruce will be the focus of the companion series, which is not being billed as a "spinoff." Produced by Original Media, with Charlie Corwin and Smith executive producing, the series would take Bruce outside of Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash (as highlighted on Comic Book Men), on a cross-country search for collectibles and fanboy items at estate sales, auctions and flea markets.