AMC is breaking new ground, announcing an upcoming geek-centric late-night talk show hosted by Kevin Smith and…Greg Grunberg? Geeking Out will debut in July with a Comic-Con show from San Diego; eight more episodes will follow with celebrity guests and standard late night segments, but completely dedicated to geek entertainment.
Though nerds have cut a very wide swath through pop culture, with everyone from Stephen Colbert to model Karlie Kloss self-identifying as one, this new show will undoubtedly target the supergeek, starting with the diehards who have followed Smith’s career. Smith is well known for the cult of fans who have supported his uneven film career but he’s also gained a reputation as a bit of Hollywood grouch and a bad bet at the box office. Still, he’s the most passionate of fanboys and thrives on live interaction; he puts out his SModcast podcast, hosts FatMan on Batman with Mark Bernardin on You Tube, and has appeared in at least 5 Q&A documentaries and lengthy DVD commentaries. He once hosted an infamous seven-hour Q&A session with fans, then opened up the nearby comic-book store he co-owns to give fans a place to continue the conversation.
AMC has partnered with Smith for two seasons of Comic-Book Men, a reality show set in the New Jersey comic store, renewing the show even when the network canceled nearly all other reality programming. And he’s successfully hosted Spoilers, a film-review show launched on Hulu and later picked up by Canada’s The Comedy Network.
Grunberg is best known for Heroes and as a lifelong buddy of J.J. Abrams, which scored him roles in Alias, Felicity, and even a small part in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He seems like an odd match for Smith but he also kind of represents the geek everyman, the quiet guy or girl in the corner of Starbucks having a panic attack over Comic-Con tickets while nobody else knows. He also has experience as a host on Social Tron Live, a gaming show on video channel Twitch. Grunberg has been open about his high-powered friends in the past and said in a statement:
I get all my work from my friends. Now it’s time for me to take advantage of those relationships even more. I am going to get every single genre-based writer, director and actor I know to come on our show and geek out with us. And they’re going to thank me for it. I love how Kevin Smith smells and we fit together like two hibernating fan-bears.
Joel Stillerman, AMC’s President of Original Programming & Development said it’s the pair’s chemistry that the network is betting on. Deadline quotes Stillerman, “Kevin and Greg are both true fans of this content and share a deep passion for talking about it and engaging other fans about it. But it is their natural chemistry as hosts that really brings this idea together.”
Syfy and Comedy Central have also put their toes into geek-focused nonfiction programming with Geeks Who Drink (Syfy) hosted by Zachary Levi, and @midnight (Comedy Central) hosted by Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick. Both are game shows featuring celebrity guests; @midnight also encourages social media interaction.
While ratings are unavailable for Geeks Who Drink, @midnight has been successful among the second-tier late night shows, particularly in drawing the 18-49 crowd. Though viewership topped out near 800,000, that’s enough eyeballs to beat out Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, and E!s Chelsea Lately. It was nominated as Outstanding Interactive Program at the Creative Arts Emmys in 2014, and won for Outstanding Social TV Experience in 2015.
On Geeking Out Smith and Grunberg will both serve as executive producers along with Jay Peterson and Patrick Reardon. Matador Content and The Weinstein Company will join Bandwagon Media in producing.