Tag Archives: King of the Nerds

The Reality TV Trap (or Why We Can’t Look Away From a Train Wreck)

Since The Real World first debuted on MTV back in 1992, reality TV has been a rash on the rear end of television that we can never seem to medicate enough to clear up. By this point, it’s become a full on plague that is beyond quarantine in need of some serious cleansing fire. But what is it about this viral infection of modern television that keeps so hooked on it that we never take our medicine?

I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that I’ve never watched reality TV. Many times I have found myself watching more reality TV than I should. There’s some that I’m not ashamed of (Battle for Ozzfest, King of the Nerds, Hardcore Pawn) and some I’m not proud of at all (Teen Mom 2, Honey Boo Boo, Real World). I would like to note that I’ve seen only one episode of Honey Boo Boo and that was enough for me. That show is the epitome of “train wreck television.”

For myself, as well as for many others, television is a form of escape. A way to take yourself out of your head and enter a whole new world and go on exciting new adventures but reality TV takes away the magic of it all. It takes you out of your normal, everyday life and puts you into a different person’s completely screwed up life while the show you why they’re screwed up week after week. All you can do is sit and watch in disbelief, thinking to yourself “How can one person be that messed up?” and never really leaving you with a definitive answer.

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Take for example any season of The Real World. MTV had the bright idea to put a bunch of strangers in a house together, all with different backgrounds and beliefs, add copious amounts of alcohol, and see what happened. What happened was a lot of sex, drama, and fighting, which is what sells on most, if not all, networks. Many others saw the potential of the format and followed suit. Survivor, The Bachelor, Big Brother, Jersey Shore, Rock of Love, Sister Wives, and hundreds more quickly crowded the airwaves and engrossed many unsuspecting viewers. Ratings soared, unwanted trends took hold of the population, and the quality of television sunk to a new low point.

Networks found it was easier to install cameras in a house and/or follow people around and film their “lives” than it was to hire actors, build sets, make costumes, write scripts, and do all the other things it takes to make a scripted television show. It was also cheaper, which meant if the show was a success and they could sell the hell out of it, they made a lot more money. But is it really worth it?

MTV is a perfect example of the real “cost” of reality TV. MTV was a groundbreaking network back in its day, the first to introduce music videos to the public. A new format for music artists to be seen as well as heard. Seasoned artists as well as up-and-comers used MTV to boost album sales and get their names, faces, and music out to more people than radio ever could. MTV was responsible for launching the careers of countless numbers of artists but nowadays, viewers struggle to find a music video on their channel and all because of reality TV. And by eliminating music videos from their programming and replacing them with reality TV shows, they’ve managed to alienate a large number of their viewers only to replace them with a new flock of younger viewers. Still the same name but not the same MTV.

Is this the solution we need?

Is this the solution we need?

TLC, Bravo, and many other networks have all started following MTV’s example and are quickly on their way to leaving behind the programming themes they began with in order to bring in higher ratings and rake in the bigger bucks. So what is it that draws people in and keeps them watching these shows? One reasons is the entertainment value, slight as it may be. Viewers get some form of enjoyment watching the subjects of the shows making complete fools of themselves in whatever they may do. The more of an idiot the subject appears to be, the more the viewers will watch. Another reason would be that the shows make the viewers feel better about themselves. No matter how screwed up the subject of the show is, the viewer feels that they are nowhere near as screwed up as them. It makes them feel as though their problems aren’t as bad as they thought they might be. In some cases, the viewer might even connect with the subjects of the shows. Depending on the topic of the show, the viewer may be able to form some sort of bond and that’s what keeps them hooked. So where scripted television can be an escape for viewers by taking them into a new, fantasy world that they aren’t accustom to, reality tv is more of a grounded escape that connects them to somewhat realistic people.

But is that slight sense of a connection worth the degradation of quality television? Personally, I say no. While I have found a few reality shows that are actually worth watching, I would much rather be watching scripted television. I enjoy the characters and their adventures and lives and the escape that comes with the show. I enjoy losing myself in the story of the show. I can’t do that with a reality show. Most of what I get is anger and frustration from seeing how stupid some of the subjects can be. More often than not common sense is lost on these people and that’s what frustrates me most. If networks were to cancel all reality tv tomorrow, I wouldn’t shed a tear and I think the quantity of quality scripted television would greatly improve. The world might end up being a slightly better place because of it.

What are you thoughts on reality tv?

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King of the Nerds

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Photo:TBS

When I first saw ads for TBS’s new reality show King of the Nerds, my first thought was wondering if The Big Bang Theory was giving them high enough ratings to justify having another dork-themed show. Then I started fearing that the show would be akin to Beauty and the Geek, and that it would have some ridiculous message about how we’re all okay if we’re nice and pretty ON THE INSIDE.

Luckily, my fears didn’t come to pass. King of the Nerds is a legitimate (at least as legitimate as reality television gets) competition show that is both exciting and cringe-inducing.

Last night’s premier episode began with the introduction of “Nerdvana,” King of the Nerds answer to those creepy hot-tub-filled sex islands on shows like The Bachelor. Nerdvana is full of video games, electronics, a workshop, a game room, etc. And of course, the King of the Nerds Throne of Games (ha!).  Throughout the show, as is the trope of reality television, we get cutaway interviews with the cast.

And, oh, the cast. They are basically archetypes of all the people I’ve met during my years at GenCon: gaming nerds, writing nerds, comic nerds, arrogant nerds, shy nerds, awkward nerds. The list goes on. Some of the interviews are really hard to watch since the interviewee is so shy and awkward. Some are cringe-inducing due to the alpha nerd arrogance going on. But, these are my kind of people, so I enjoy each one of them.

My favorite nerds are the ones who are constantly mocking the decisions of the others in the cutaway interviews. They try to justify it with their superior intellect and “calculations” but, really, it’s arrogance. And that’s okay. Nerds rule the world now. Welcome to the future.

I will say that I’m worried about the geeks on the show: the comic book and gaming experts. I’m worried that they will have little chance against the engineers, scientists, and hackers. We’ll see. I’m not sure exactly what the competitions are going to be like. Maybe the awkward girl who is there because “she loves Batman” will shine in a cosplay competition.

The actual competition begins by picking teams. There will be two teams of five contestants… but there are eleven contestants! The person who gets picked last will be thrown out of Nerdvana!!

Flashbacks to elementary school gym class, where I was routinely picked last for dodgeball. When one of the contestants muttered “dodgeball” after the announcement of picking teams, I really empathized with the guy. What a scary situation for dorks to be in.

The teams get picked and poor Alana, who likes Batman and corsets, is left all by herself. The loseriest loser. Her words, not mine.

Then a twist happens! The hosts, Robert Carradine (who looks like Orville Redenbacher) and Curtis Armstrong (who kind of sounds like Vincini from The Princess Bride), told the teams that there was nothing nerdier than being picked last. Alana was given total immunity from leaving Nerdvana for that episode, joined the  blue team, and looked very relieved.

But SOMEONE has to be eliminated. Because Alana joined the blue team, someone from that team had to go.

Two uber-nerds were chosen to head-to-head in the Nerd Off; Jon, the mathematician, and Hendrick, the physicist. The elimination game?

Chess.

But this wasn’t just any chess! This was amped-up-for-TV chess! Giant chess!

Jon and Hendrick were both allowed to have an advisor. Hendrick chose Alana since she was on the high school chess team. Jon chose Virgil, who is a  neuroscientist and hacker.

A hot cosplayer in a harajuku girl outfit and a massive pink wig moved the giant chess pieces around the board as the nerds called out moves. When a piece was taken, a massive man dressed in body armor would hit the chess piece and red confetti would fly out everywhere in a shower of pinata gore.

I could watch chess like this all day.

In the end, Alana failed Hendrick, and he had to leave. I find myself not liking Alana very much… even though she seems like the type of person I would be friends with.

Final verdict: King of the Nerds isn’t as pandering as I expected it to be and was actually kind of fun to watch. I’ll definitely DVR next week’s episode and talk about it right here.

For more information on King of the Nerds (and a breakdown of all the contestants) you can go TBS’s website and this vlog called “The 12th Nerd.

[All images from TBS]

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