If you missed the first episode of the new TBS reality show King of the Nerds, you might want to go back and check it out.
As Gabe at Penny Arcade posted yesterday, this is a show aimed at nerd viewers — not at making fun of them.
Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong (of Revenge of the Nerds fame) are hosts of the show, which pits 11 contestants against each other in tests of skill in their areas of expertise — science, scifi, gaming, superheroes, technology, all the usual topics. If any of them had kids I’d say they’d fit in perfectly with the GeekDad/GeekMom mindset. However, they all seem to be in that just out of school/living in their mother’s basement age group.
That said, the cast of King of the Nerds is a great bunch to watch. These nerds exude more self-confidence than I have ever seen portrayed on TV before. From Brandon the Ph.D. student in neuroscience, to pink-haired gamer Danielle, to tattooed Alana the cosplay queen, they are weird and they’re proud. Personally, I’m rooting for Moogega, the planetary protection engineer at NASA.
One thing I’ve got to congratulate the show on is keeping the ratio of male to female nerds 50/50. Considering how women are still fighting for respect in many areas of the geek world, it’s simply nice to see them represented as a natural part of the nerd community.
Format-wise, King of the Nerds follows the standard reality game show template. The cast lives together in a mansion called “Nerdvana,” filled with game rooms and decorated with geeky artifacts. The winner gets to sit in the “Throne of Games” and win $100,000. One player is eliminated each week in a test of nerd-related skill.
On the first episode, the group split itself into two teams. The twist was, each member had to choose the next one. And since there were 11 players, one was left out at the end. Poor Alana (who lamented having only a community college education) was sure she would be odd woman out, and she was.
But the best part, as PA’s Gabe notes, came when Carradine and Armstrong revealed that — nothing being nerdier than not being picked for a team — Alana was the winner of that contest. She also played an important role in the team competition that followed: a game of life-sized chess where captured pieces had their heads whacked off by a gladiator, spewing red tissue-paper “blood” with each blow.
Now, I have a hard time watching reality game shows. It bothers me when people’s hopes are crushed, or when their anti-social side comes out. So it will be interesting to see how well the positive self-image of this cast of nerds holds out. And whether the show perhaps improves the image of nerd in the rest of the world, as well.
You can watch excerpts, bonus clips and full episodes on the TBS King of the Nerds website.