There’s nothing wrong with someone rising up and making money doing what they love so it’s hard to bash Chris Hardwick for turning himself into a successful multi-hyphenate. Were it not his face attached to the growing spate of AMC post-show discussion shows it’d most likely be someone else’s. With that said, the gimmick has worn off despite more and more of this kind of programming materializing and Hardwick’s approach has created a rather bland format that shows the problems in shows of this kind. They’re just enhanced EPK-style fluff that exists only to shamelessly promote the series they’re attached to and it never digs beneath the surface to provide any real value to fans. Talking Dead has the good luck of being centered around a show that exists completely on the surface so the typical “can you believe _______ died, how gross was that?” approach is fine. It’s not rewarding, but it fits The Walking Dead fine. These are DVD special features given a half hour of airtime and little else, aside from when FX legend and producer Greg Nicotero dishes out the magic behind the gore on the show.
It’s fluff, but fans have eaten it up. As a result, AMC and Hardwick tried the same approach with Talking Bad and Talking Saul, which fared much worse. Those shows are deep and require discussion that feeds that depth, but instead, the shows just lingered on the superficial visceral events that happened in each episode they covered. While Hardwick knows his pop culture, the whole routine was too wide-eyed and limp. When given access to masterminds like Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould there are opportunities to teach, infect, inspire and entertain but at every interesting crossroads the easy road was always taken.
Listeners to the phenomenal and dense podcasts for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul know how enriching the post-show discussion can be if handled by the creators themselves rather than third-parties who are just cogs in the machine. The podcasts ran longer than the shows and allowed the creators not only to give credit to members of the crew that never get any attention but also dig deep into their craft and share that experience with their audience. While it’s not realistic to expect that kind of access and depth on the expensive medium that is television it does beg the question of whether the whole endeavor is worth it. These aren’t polished enough to be actual talk shows and they aren’t gratuitous enough to be infomercials. They’re just bland. The prospect of syndicating these kind of shows through a streaming service is an interesting one, but if the Game of Thrones post-show series After the Thrones is any indicator, it’s better to not even try. After the Thrones somehow makes a fantastic series seem lame just by association.
Now they’ve announced Talking Preacher. With Chris Hardwick. If The Walking Dead is a greasy hamburger (and I’m inclined to say it’s more like a washed up microwave-packaged meat of unknown origin) then Preacher is a gourmet delicacy whose creation is the work of a divine chef. The “Talking _____” approach is an insult to it.
If the purpose of these shows is solely to promote the series they are devoted to, fine. That’s the networks’ prerogative. But if the real goal is to enhance the viewing experience and bridge the gap between the fans and the material, these shows need to rip the veneer off and dig deeper. And they need to empower people who really know and live and die with the characters of these shows rather than trot out the already successful Chris Hardwick for them. Otherwise this idea has lost all of its steam.
The fans deserve better.