Our society seems to be saturated with an obsession of so-called “nerd culture.” After experiencing great success with its popular sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory,” TBS green-lighted the creation of its newest series, “King of the Nerds.”
King of the Nerds
Welcome to Nerdvana
Thursday at 10 p.m.
The show is the station’s first unscripted competition program in seven years. Beginning with 11 cast members, the contestants compete in weekly challenges that eliminate a contestant each episode. The ultimate goal is to be crowned “King of the Nerds,” sit on “the Throne of Games” and win the $100,000 grand prize. A clever pun on “Game of Thrones,” the physical throne represents the fantasy show’s Iron Throne composed of Nerf weapons and game pieces. In the first few episodes, the contestants will compete on teams before splitting into an “every man for himself” setup.
“King of the Nerds” is the work of the same people who produced “The Amazing Race,” “Survivor” and “Mythbusters,” so if this show is to become as successful as these three, it certainly has the team to accomplish it. The producers possess an ideal mix of backgrounds with competition and science shows, and their previous work has proven to be both interesting and entertaining.
The show tries to celebrate their intellect and geekiness, but it seems to fall short. While some contestants are feasibly real people, others seem to act like exaggerated stereotypes.
Danielle, for instance, not only sports a head full of neon-pink hair, but calls herself the “Queen of WoW” (“World of Warcraft,” a popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game). She also claims to have played over 6,500 games of “Halo” … which begs the question: How is she getting in her “WoW” time if all she is doing is playing “Halo”?
Then there is Jon, with his stylish ombre-red hair, who claims (somewhat unconvincingly) to love math and theoretical physics. Hendrik, meanwhile, tries to speak raven (yes, he wishes to learn to speak with birds) in one of the interviews.
The first episode has the 11 contestants split into two teams to compete in a “Nerd War.” This results in a hilarious scene of the nerds competitively nerd-offing. The contestants are constantly trying to one-up each other with their talents. Danielle is in awe of Celeste, who is a pro gamer who can also solve Rubik’s Cubes in record time. Brandon, a neuroscientist, tries to win the affection of the team captains by dancing enthusiastically (well, spastically) to the popular video game “Just Dance.”
Picking their teams, the nerds had to pour paint on their choices. Between each pick, the camera cuts to the contestants and reveals them bragging about their respective skills. In no way are the interviews endearing; the contestants actually seem less likeable than high-school seniors bragging about their ACT and AP scores. When neither team chooses Alana, she pathetically whines about being a nerd until she finds that she has been granted all of the power. The editing does not paint flattering portraits of the contestants, and it certainly doesn’t create any emotional attachments with the viewers.
To create a successful reality show, you need to either build strong connections with the contestants or showcase challenges so exciting or ridiculous that it draws viewers back each week. The characters in “King of the Nerds” are not strange enough to be entertaining and cross the line into being irritating.
With more episodes, we will see if TBS’s plunge into this particular brand of reality-based competition series was a wise decision by the studio’s executives. If they wish to last more than one season, the producers need to rethink their approach on both how they present their contestants and their challenges.