If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a nerd. Or maybe you’re a geek. Perhaps you’re a dork. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself; the point I’m trying to make is that you self-identify as a member of a decades old sub-culture that has become almost definitively main-stream. In case there was any doubt about that main stream element, TBS, a cable channel whose tagline is simple “very funny”–not “very geeky” or “all about video games” or “proud home of twenty four hour chess”–just wrapped up the first season of their original reality series King of the Nerds. There was a lot of chatter among the IHoGeek staff about this show before it started airing, and I was the only one on staff brave (or maybe bored…) enough to try and live-tweet along with the premiere episode.
If you were following along with my tweets, you may recall that even when I was two and three episodes in, I wasn’t quite sure if I liked the show or not. I kept watching dutifully, and I think now I realize the biggest problems I have with what should have been an awesome celebration of the versatility and real-life super power abilities of all kinds of nerds.
The Reality Show Blues
Reality shows turn people into monsters, and if you don’t get mean, you get eliminated. The fact that $100,000 and a title hung in the balance turned almost everyone in “nerdvana” into raging assholes in one way or another. Alliances were made and broken, lies were told, blows were even dealt, all over who was getting voted into the “nerd-off” to determine which nerd got sent home each week. I propose something entirely different for next season, a proposal that is sure to reveal why I will never work in reality television: REMOVE THE VOTING SYSTEM ALL TOGETHER.
Shouldn’t “Nerdvana” be a place where nerds all game together and read together and build awesome things together in peace and harmony? Instead, these nerds were pitted against one another, resulting in talking head after talking head of the contestants either taking part in or complaining about the drama. I would be more interested in non-stop challenges, memory games, math tests! A life-sized dungeon crawl with a celebrity dungeon master, perhaps, or speed runs of classic Mario games. I want to see games where contestants have to sink or swim as ONE, and not because of alliances or teams, but because the challenge calls for it. The first episode was off to a good start when contestants in the nerd-off (an oversized game of chess) each got to choose an adviser who would help them with strategy. Granted, Hendrick’s choice of self-professed “chess expert” Alana never paid off, but still–the idea was a nice one.
The negativity started when names were pulled out of hats to determine leaders of each team, and then the leaders picked members for their team by pouring “paint” over their heads. The whole affair stunk of getting picked last in gym class–something I can only imagine was deliberate, but when the last nerd standing was granted immunity from elimination because of being picked last, I couldn’t help cheering. Again, I’m no producer, but finding little ways to reward the underdog seems to be more in the spirit of determining who is “king” of the nerds than handing a crown over to whoever is the victor time after time after time.
Perhaps worst of all was the season finale, in which Celeste became King (Queen?) of the Nerds in what boiled down to a POPULAR vote. All the banished nerds returned and voted between Celeste and Genevieve on who they thought should be King. Why not, at that point, just call it President of the nerds? Less prestigious sounding, fine, but more accurate at least.
We’ve Gotten Too Big for a Monarchy
I think “nerds” have become too big for just one king. Danielle, one of the contestants on the show who I was determined to hate but ended up rooting for, brought this to my attention in the finale. The title of “King of the Nerds” came along with the right to sit upon the Throne of Games–a clever play on Game of Thrones, however it sort of limits the reign of the one who sits upon it. As Danielle pointed out “It’s the throne of games. Not the throne of fantasy writing…or anything else. The THRONE. Of GAMES.” By that logic, I suppose it makes sense that a pro-gamer found herself atop the throne by the end of the season, but how she got there still doesn’t make any sense.
As I was watching each episode, I was wondering when my brand of nerdy would have come in handy. There were no Doctor Who questions, no Harry Potter challenges…in fact the literary nerds were kind of shafted. Comic books knowledge came in handy on multiple occasions, but books with less pictures never surfaced. Ivan, the leader of one of the teams and fifth runner-up, kept bragging about his zombie apocalypse plan–but it was never put to the test on the show. The CDC actually has ideas for how to avoid a zombie pandemic. Why not bring some CDC representatives on to the show and set up some challenges that way? It would be another team-building experience that requires a variety of nerdy skills.
Maybe instead of one $100,000 prize at the end of the season, the show can break it down into ten $10,000 prizes over the course of a season, and each nerd gets to win per episode. Or there can be tiny to giant prizes given out over the course of the season. I don’t know. I repeat–I’m not a producer, but still I think there should be some sharing of the wealth. Somehow. All I can do for now is hope that TBS hears my pleas, and represents more of the nerd family in the future.
Want to try your hand at next season? Apply for “King of the Nerds” season two online now!