By Todd Allen

Looks like the reality television is getting into Geek.  “Fandom Rising” is an attempt by the creators of Jersey Shore to do a reality show on nerd topics.

Seeking: 8 strangers for a mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new lifestyles and relationships, to boldly go where no fanboy or fangirl has gone before.

Or that’s what the casting homepage says.  It’s probably not an accident they name check Big Bang Theory on that web page.  I spoke with a casting director from a different reality show company and he said it’s increasingly common to pitch reality shows as a reality version of <insert movie or TV show here>.  This reeks of a reality version of Big Bang Theory.

Thinking you might be up for this?  Keep in mind this is from the brain trust behind the classy and tasteful Jersey Shore, and let’s take a look at the questions on the application.

What’s the most important relationship in your life?

While they’re still gathering basic info like what’s your job (and full-time work _does_ mean you may need to arrange to be cut loose while this is filming) and have you ever been on TV before, you’ve got a relationship question.  We’ll come back to that.

When we get to the “NOW, LET’S GET TO KNOW YOU!” section, you can really start grouping the questions into categories:

Relationship-oriented (again)

What’s your romantic life like, and if applicable, does your partner share your interests? If single, do you meet people through your interests, or do your interests get in the way?

Describe your dream/perfect date (living or dead, fictional or real):

Self-esteem/socialization assessment

If people (or you yourself) have ever described you as “different” or “interesting” or “weird”, tell us why, especially if you’ve taken flak for just being yourself:

Describe your personality, both best and worst qualities:

How active are you in the community with which you share a passion? Do you primarily meet in person or online? Do you attend shows/cons/tourneys, and if so, which ones?

What are your hobbies and activities, recreational or competitive?

If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?

Describe a typical night out or one that you’d consider fun!

If you could live in an alternate universe, which one would you choose?

How can we set up conflict and start fights with the cast

What angers you more than ANYTHING?

What are you fanatic about, and what is it about your subject that appeals most to you?

At what would you consider yourself an expert?

What is your favorite thing in the world?

And then a bunch of questions getting a bit more into the actual hobbies and collections of the applicants.

Please be aware that casting directors are looking for conflict when they put together reality shows.  It’s hard to do a show without conflict and that anger question is key.  In a Big Bang vein, it would not surprise me if they want to have a few nerd fights over trivia and/or whether Star Trek or Star Wars is the better franchise.

Relationships are mentioned in the opening blurb (so cheesy, I have my doubts about the geek cred of the writer).  Figure they need at least one person UTTERLY hopeless with the opposite sex.  They need 2 people they’re pretty sure will attempt to hook up.  They need 2 people that will utter flame out.  This whole thing gives the impression that young nerds looking for love is going to be played as a major theme.  Figure it’s optimal if they can get one sweet plot thread, but this is more likely to be mostly played for laughs.  For some reason, I have this idea in my head they want to get the 3 nerdiest guys they can, put them in a strip club and see if they freeze up.  I don’t know it, but… Jersey Shore brain trust, y’know?  They probably also could use _one_ person who’s currently in a relationship.  If they’re particularly cruel, they’ll get a Felicia Day type and dangle her in front of, but just out of reach of the boys.

If you’re trying to get on this show… well, stop and think about what you’re doing first.  You’re not going to control the final cut and you could get put in situations designed to set you off.  If you still want to do it, I’d be making sure you gave an honest assessment on the anger/fight triggers — be clear what they need to do to make you uncomfortable.

With the socialization questions, they’ll _probably_ need to get a little bit of variation with the levels.  You’ll need at least one person who the general public would consider closer to “normal.”  You’ll need at least one mother’s basement type.  The rest will probably vary a little bit, though skew closer to the basement on the whole. Don’t worry about trying to rig this.  If you do, you’ll probably get thrown out pretty fast at the interview stage.

Play your geek cred hard.  There’s plenty of questions about that and some of the fight questions seemed geared to setting up arguments about the hobbies.  Geek pride seems to be in the questions and it wouldn’t surprise me if they want to play with geek pride vs. low social esteem.

The running joke used to be you have to have an asshole, a slut, an alcoholic and an alternative lifestyle for a reality show.  That formula may or may not be intact here, but figure you’re going to have to deal with at least one asshole if you’re going to be cast on this show.  Well… unless you’re the asshole that gets cast.


  1. I hope no nerds and geeks apply to this. I don’t want to be exploited as a Nerd. The only way this dies is if no one applies to it.

  2. Much as I hope that no one applies to this, I still know that there’s going to be lots of people desperate to be stars, or naive-but-well-intentioned enough to apply to this thinking it could be a good thing. I’ve gotta admit, even though I see all the terrible directions this could go in, I was still just a little tempted to sign up.

    [audience roars with laughter]

    Big Bang Theory as an artificial nerd sitcom is bad enough. We don’t need MTV doing a artificial ‘reality’ show based on its popularity.

    As I said to a friend over IM when he brought up how dumb it was again:

    Big Bang Theory
    The show your relatives always bring up when you see them for holidays and stuff because they know you’re an nerd and assume you love the hell out of the show.

    I am inclined to agree with his common comment that the show is an Aspergers minstrel show.

    My cousin’s wife over Thanksgiving was even going about how great Jim Parsons is as Sheldon. She said he must be Aspergers himself because he can remember all those lines and act so well. I replied politely that that’s not how Aspergers works.

    Aspergers don’t make you a brilliant scientist like Sheldon. It’s independent. Aspies could just as well spend their time in their mothers basements writing Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic. Hell, if anything Aspergers would have you definitely -not- acting in front of an audience of people.

    And given a reality show, I’m guessing you’re going to get attention whoring sociopathic nerds on this show and not quite a proper representation.

    Maybe if a respected documentary filmmaker who didn’t use buzz words and references to Big Bang Theory filmed a comic shop or con, you’d get a better picture.

    And, no, I don’t think Kevin Smith’s reality show is going to be a decent picture of nerd culture either. That will be much more about Smith’s world than comics geeks as a whole. Though I’d find that interesting too.

  4. check out “my comic shop documentARy”, a film about the folks that work at and shop at a comic shop in scarsdale, new york. it has a pretty good cross section of people that are involved in “nerd” culture. as for “big bang”, i don’t have a problem with the show (i’m a fan of the show), ’cause when all is said and done the bottom line is that it’s “make believe”. like all sitcoms, it has very little to do with reality and much to do with exploiting and stereotyping the types of folks the show is about. so what else is new , all sitcoms do this to varying degrees. that said, a reality show about nerd culture seems like a bad idea, especially if coming from the folks that create “jersey shore”(not that the folks that produce the “housewives” shows would do anything much different in producing a show about nerd culture), and (as said above) this show will attract folks that represent the worst aspects of the culture. i would like to think that the people that are involved as fans in this hobby are a little more hip to what the folks that are trying to get this show started are really trying to accomplish with this show and that in the end the producers will find that not too many people are signing up for this mess, but that might be wishful thinking on my part. i guess we’ll see.

  5. Well going by the pitch alone the perception of nerds is rather dated and still making Star Trek references which is more of a 80’s-early 90’s stereotype of nerds.