With the growing ascendancy and popularity of the “nerd” archetype, especially as exemplified by the hugely popular THE BIG BANG THEORY, a bunch of television programs exploring and/or exploiting this personality type are on the drawing board. Some of them might be fun, but some of them are probably going to make nerd blood boil and dominate late night discussions at SF conventions for months to come. Herewith, a field guide.
The early history:
BEAT THE GEEKS
I can’t remember the name of this show but it ran on MTV or someplace for a little while and featured very nerdy smart people in a classic quiz show. Via the comments this has been identified as Beat the Geeks which aired on Comedy Central briefly from 2001-2:
On the show, contestants face off in trivia matches against “geeks” who are well-versed in music, movies, and television, as well as a fourth guest geek with an alternate area of expertise which varies from episode to episode. The object is to outsmart the geek at their own subject; as a handicap, the geeks are given questions of considerably greater difficulty than the contestants.
as we recall, pne of the contestants had an inappropriate pony tail and another was known as “The Master” or some other kind of highly aggrandized nerd name. The nerds on this show reminded me heavily of people that I tried to spend as little time as possible with in certain convention situations. It ran VERY VERY early in the nerd-fetishing cycle, long before anything nerdy became even a tiny bit cool. Definitely a pioneer!
BEAUTY AND THE GEEK
This reality show ran on the CW for FIVE SEASONS. In it a bunch of nerdy guys were paired with beautiful women who would teach them about love and life and compete in quizzes and challenges. The idea was that the hots girls would lead the way through common sense, while the nerds would answer questions about boron and neutrinos. Of course, the entire premise was spectacularly sexist AND nerdist – in the fourth season a female nerd was paired with a male “beauty” to quell some of the criticism. The “beauties” also tended to come from the “professional reality star” end of the spectrum — a buoyant, siliconed crew of would-be fitness models, centerfolds and so on, of the type seen on other shows like ROCK OF AGES. I watched a few episodes of this and was appalled.
THE IT CROWD
Graham Linehan’s great Britcom isn’t really a nerdshow per se, but Chris Dowd’s lovable fuck-up Roy and Richard Ayoade’s unlovable Asperger’s case Moss do remind you of every uncomfortable encounter with an IT person you ever had
This is actually present/past as its a TLC pilot for a show about geek dating set at speed dating events at various comic-cons. A two part special aired on TLC on December 18th. The show is hosted by Ryan Glitch, who hosts convention speed dating shows “IRL” as we call it.
We managed to miss it, but Jessica Nagel at sciencefiction.com did not care for it.
I feel that this show, along with most reality TV shows, take the few extreme cases and exploits them. I felt bad for “Chewie” because he is that awkward nerd. He wants to find someone to love, and you know what that is great for him. I know, he has to sign the release that says that he can put himself on TV with his story and what happened during the event. But we come to the same basic issue that comes with any reality show; how much is real. How much of it was editing? How much of it made him look more awkward than what he actually is?
Untitled LARPing reality show:
Recently a casting call from the producers of PAWN STARS went out looking for what would appear to be a reality show about live action role players:
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Danielle Gervais. I’m a Casting Producer based in New York City and I’m currently casting an exciting new tv project that will be dedicated to Live Action Role Play and the groups and individuals who participate in it! We’re searching the country for the most dynamic, interesting and dedicated groups of players and we’re open to all types of live action role play, both fantasy and historic. I’m including the casting information below – if you’d like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I look forward to speaking with you!
All My Best,
NEW TV PROJECT IS SEARCHING FOR THE ULTIMATE HISTORIC and/or FANTASY LIVE ACTION ROLE PLAY GROUP!
From the Producer’s of History Channel’s Pawn Stars comes a brand new show dedicated to Historic and/or Fantasy Role Play and the people who love it (and live it!)
We’re searching the country for a passionate and talented group of Historic and/or Fantasy Live Action Role Play participants to feature on this new series, which will follow them as they battle their way from city to city. If you or someone you know would be interested in participating in a TV Project dedicated 100% to Historic and/or Fantasy Live Action Role Play, we want to hear from you!
Please email us with some photos, a brief description of yourself and your group and why you’d be perfect for this show! Don’t forget to include your contact information.
Casting Producer RolePlayTVCasting1@gmail.com 212.564.2607 x 2365
— Danielle Gervais Casting Producer
This went out in November, so no need to send your resume. LARPing features a variety of amazing personality types, and this could be an entertaining show if it is shot with some creativity — and not of the lying type.
Back in June a casting call went out for a show about comic book readers set in Kevin Smith’s comic shop in Red Bank, NJ and now AMC has picked up the show for a six-episode run early next year, and given it the highly coveted premiere slot right after THE WALKING DEAD’s February mini-season debut. We can expect lots of high-level Smith promo in the coming weeks:
Smith said some major selling points for him were meth and zombies (and Don Draper). “(If) they’d pushed just a little harder in the negotiations, I’d have done this show for no payment beyond early access to every episode of ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ and ‘Walking Dead,’?” riffed the “Red State” helmer in a release.
Smith is also said to have a “Pawn Stars for fanboys” type show in the works.
As you can see, there will be a surplus of TV shows featuring Our Chosen Lifestyle on TV very, very soon. While many of them sound like they are based on very annoying stereotypical ideas about nerds, one or two of them — SECRET STASH in particular — might have something to say about the topic that doesn’t send us into a “angry video game” style rant.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.