Last week’s King of the Nerds brought us twelve high-spirited geeks with varying passions, setting out to win $100,000 dollars and maybe learn something along the way. While I was cynical going in, the season 3 premiered charmed me in its own strange way. I was almost looking forward to this week’s episode.
What a fool I was.
The issue with King of the Nerds this week is two-fold. First, the challenges were very weak, and provided little entertainment value. Second, the editing on the show is making almost everyone seem catty and bitter.
But Rachel, you may say. Maybe they are just catty and bitter people.
That may be true, but in the world of reality TV, I’m usually willing to give contestants the benefit of the doubt. Did you know that on Cycle 6 of Rupaul’s Drag Race, contestant Darienne Lake was quoted as reading fellow queen Milk? On camera, she said, “Milk’s drag: I don’t get it.”
Except, of course, that wasn’t the actual quote. I had it confirmed to me by an anonymous source that the original quote was “Some might see Milk’s drag and say, ‘I don’t get it.’ But I like it.”
One quote makes Darienne look like a villain. The other is just a statement. This week on King of the Nerds, it felt like the editing staff over at TBS was doing nothing but cutting and pasting villainous statements together. But let’s get to it.
The episode did start at a high point: what I thought would turn into an awkward relationship roundtable actually ended up being a very open discussion of female queerness. And while I feel like King of the Nerds was only showing us the spectrum of female bisexuality to make their assumed male audience go, “Girl on Girl is so hot,” I also feel like it was a positive overall point in the episode. Especially considering that out of all the side comments male cast members probably made, the only one aired was Colby’s “The Kinsey Scale is alive and well.”
Queerness out in the open and not being demerited or mocked (that’s pretty big, too,) the nerds got schwasted. Sloppy covers some of it. Snooki getting naked in the hottub in the second episode of The Jersey Shore covers the rest.
This week’s challenge is given to our hungover nerds by Robert and Curtis in alien-themed costume. Curtis is serving Latrice Royale in the ‘Float Your Boat’ challenge realness with an Ursula twist, so of course, everyone has to make a tentacle joke. We all shudder uncomfortably and move on.
This week is a COSPLAY CHALLENGE, brought to you by Wigs by Vanity. I’m just kidding, this weeks sponsor is Buycostumes.com. I don’t even want to discuss the wigs I saw this week. They were bad. Really, truly bad.
The point of the challenge, however, is not just to make costumes, but to make a moral story and perform it for the guest judges. One of these judges, as guessed by Lily, is Yaya Han. Lily guesses this only because she desperately wants to impress Yaya.
Now, here’s where the episode gets painfully obvious. One team is going to focus too much on costumes, and the other is going to focus on putting together a decent story. In this instance, Lily lead the blue team to better costuming, but they completely skimped on the story. The green team’s costumes weren’t anything to write home about, but their story actually came across as something with a real moral, however strange and silly it was.
Side note, Kaitlin reminded us all that she builds robots for a living. JUST IN CASE YOU MERE MORTALS FORGOT. #TeamKaitlin.
This is where we hit the first major issue of the episode, by the way. We all know that reality shows actually run on a sort of ‘script.’ Usually, the lines are unscripted, but the action and the way the show needs to move are predetermined. However, on a reality TV program, the script is supposed to be as invisible as possible. We’re not supposed to be able to look at a show and go “this was decided beforehand.” That ruins the fun of reality TV.
So when I see that one team clearly went with costumes and one team clearly went with story, it just takes me out of the reality fantasy. It’s bad enough that the contestants will often make references that sound like they’ve come off of flashcards. But to add to the fact that the entire competition process is very clearly rigged; well, it just takes a lot away from the show as a whole.
And here’s the thing: neither team really wowed me in the competition. The blue team’s costumes, while marginally better, weren’t actually that good. And that’s no fault of theirs: they were given 24 hours and limited supplies. They did the best they could in a limited time frame, which wasn’t much. And the green team’s story? Not really that great, either. This was the Vivienne Pinay vs. Honey Mahogany of competitions. It was boring. And yet, I think we’re still supposed to manage to be marginally entertained by it.
Here’s another thing: it’s becoming clear to me that the guest judges need to vote in a specific way for the competition to keep going. If the first judge goes blue, the second must go green, and then they can have a commercial break before the third judge makes the tie-breaker. So, that’s boring and contrived and is probably going to be the pattern for the entire show. Moving on.
Let’s talk about the cast of the show. And again, I’m going to try and refrain from being too shady, since editing can make the best of us look shady.
There’s very clearly producer influence running throughout the show, which can make overall cast interactions hard to watch.
Right now, there’s an alliance between six of the contestants, the self-titled ‘Secret Six.’ Now, before Gail Simone sues someone (hi, Gail!) I want to remind everyone that they only picked that name because ‘contrived reality TV device’ was taken. I can tell this is a bad idea. The contestants can probably tell it’s a bad idea. Creatures on other planets are going to watch this show in 300 years and be like ‘wow, that’s a really bad idea.’ The producers are forcing a team together specifically so that there will be drama when it falls apart. And that’s just kind of an obnoxious strategy.
The funny thing is that nerds are super territorial. Don’t shake your head at me. If you gave me your interests I would be able to find something you’re super territorial about in about .05 seconds. I’m guilty of it, too! We all are. It’s a weird, inexplicable part of nerd culture that seems to resonate with all of us. So knowing this and going into a show called ‘King of the Nerds,’ it seems foolish for the producers to split contestants into factions instead of letting it happen organically. And in the rare case that they all actually get along? Then you get a show that’s actually kind of heartwarming (see: Bianca del Rio accidentally becoming Adore’s second drag mom on RPDR cycle 6.)
And forcing our contestants into alliances just creates something that I’m really, really not here for: girl hate. I’m glad Kaitlin has the self-confidence to ignore the fact that the other women on the show seem to very purposefully be ignoring her. And that’s not just the show, I fear. That can happen because Kaitlin is very clearly not a ‘girl like us’ and doesn’t feel the need to be. When Heather, fellow STEM neurologist and queer diva, read Kaitlin as ‘dull,’ I really, really felt my heart sink. Supporting ladies on the show means supporting all ladies, even if they’re put off by Kaitlin’s intelligence and confidence.
That being said, if Kaitlin had gotten eliminated so early on, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to keep watching. Her comment about going from the “honest my little pony” to the “dark evil my little pony” was brilliant and needs to be cross-stitched onto a throw pillow. She seems to be the most genre-savvy of anyone on the show (in terms of how reality TV works) and I think that’s intimidating to a lot of people.
Next week, the alliance blows up almost immediately. How could this have been avoided? Why did I agree to review this show? You’ll just have to tune in to find out.