Ever since Kevin Smith’s seminal movie Clerks shined a light on what goes on behind closed shop doors, I’ve been fascinated by the daily goings on of those in the service industry. I haven’t taken that fascination so far as to apply to work at my local petrol station but I do wonder what the angry middle aged man staring at me from behind the counter is thinking, every time I fill up. It is a little known fact that Kevin Smith had to sell his own comic book collection to make Clerks. I was always astounded by the fact he managed to get $10,000 for his collection but it should have come as no surprise; niche nerd culture is big business. Trading card games are a big part of that.
Exploring this world is web-series Top Decking which recently finished its first season of 12 episodes, if you’ve yet to discover the warming charms of Craig Blanchette & Alex Kessler’s comic creation then you’re missing out on another online gem.
Becca (Whitney Merritt who also co-writes) is having a tough time finding work experience, even her own father won’t cut her a break and give her a job so she takes to the streets with her friend Natalie (Talia Derry) determined to find employment. Her quest brings her to All Star Card Store where she meets the dedicated and hardly working staff comprised of Mark (Justin Huff), Joe (Ryan Garcia), Greg and proud beard owner Eric (Brendan Weinhold).
Sympathetic to Becca’s pleas Eric gives her an interview but is more impressed with her baking skills over her work experience, in need of somebody to help shift their extensive Hello Kitty merchandise Eric gives her the job on the spot. As Becca (who could be Liz Lemon’s daughter) is inducted into the world of niche retail, there’s romance, planning for the zombie outbreak and avoiding the constant irritations of the eye patch wearing Kyle (Ryan Garcia again), the misadventures of this band of merry nerds make for addictive viewing.
There’s always the risk when making a comedy out of a niche subject that the potential audience is going to be small. Rather than alienate the masses Top Decking is a easily accessible series regardless of your knowledge of the game. The dynamic between the group is strong and well balanced, the glossy direction by Oliver Brink works nicely and right from the start the production value is broadcast standard. The Big Bang Theory and UK web series Ramblers have skated around the subject but there really is nothing quite like Top Decking on offer.
Series co-creator Alex Kessler recently launched a Mad Money style series Mad Magic which keeps fans updated with the current worth of rare cards and offers hints and tips for newcomers.