King of the Nerds: TV Review

King of the Nerds Screen Grab - H 2012

King of the Nerds Screen Grab - H 2012

An entertaining competition show that should appeal to nerds and non-nerds alike.

TBS goes after the geek demo with a new reality show.

The signs are all there: Game of Thrones is a popular TV series, Doctor Who is getting its highest ratings in the U.S. ever, the White House has had to make an official statement about Death Stars -- the geeks are inheriting the Earth. Now, that particular subculture is getting some devoted programming -- not as much as the Amish or anyone searching for gold -- in a new one-hour series: TBS’ competition show King of the Nerds.

King of the Nerds helps heighten the delineations about what makes a nerd a nerd (and uses the word “nerd” at least 40,000 times in the premiere episode) and also highlights the subgroups within nerd-dom itself. Eleven competitors, each with a certain specialty (for example, comic books, neuroscience, math, fantasy literature, computer gaming), have been brought together to “Nerdvana,” a geekily pimped house that is reminiscent of an MTV Real World pad, to compete for the chance to win $100,000 and be crowned King of the Nerds.

STORY: TBS Orders Reality Show "King of the Nerds"

As questionable as the setup sounds, it actually strikes the right tone by neither making fun of nor blindly praising the competitors for their quirks (of which they have many). The competition and nerd-offs offer plenty of interesting twists that cynical viewers will not see coming (which I won’t spoil) and make themselves more interesting by keeping the contestants in a house together, adding personal drama.

If you ever wondered what happened at Band Camp, this seems to be a good indication.

Hosts Curtis Armstrong and Bobby Carradine, known for their turns in the 1984 film Revenge of the Nerds, both are genuinely funny when allowed to (seemingly) ad lib. The series, though appearing to be nerd-sploitation, actually has chosen some very genuine contestants who prove that there still can be outcasts within a group of outcasts. But as soft-spoken competitor Hendrick -- an MIT graduate student who researches Martian polar ice caps -- says to the nervous household, “In an infinite universe, we’ve each already won the game.”