Why you should be watching 'King of the Nerds'
The competition between nerds is now in its third season, and you should be tuning in every Friday. Why?
Super-nerdy and fun challenges
A giant game of Angry Birds. A giant game of Battleship. A giant Rubik's Cube. Quidditch, complete with flying. Robots playing dodge ball. A real-life version of Tron. Nerf guns shooting down drones. Lots of quizzes on nerd-ish trivia. The show's challenges--two each episode, one team challenge and one individual challenge--play on nostalgia and pop culture. They always have a sense of humor, and they're also visually interesting, fair competitions that rival those on bigger shows.
Great hosts having fun
"King of the Nerds" offers a big portion of wackiness and ridiculousness with a side of self-deprecation, and it's all served on a bed of a serious competition. Hosts and executive producers Curtis Armstrong and Robert Carradine, who starred in "Revenge of the Nerds," set that tone. Curtis and Bobby introduce and host the challenges usually while wearing ridiculous costumes that are connected to the challenge's theme, and they always seem to be having fun. That's especially true at the end of each episode, when they truly eliminate the contestant; it just has to be seen to be appreciated.
A diverse cast of nerds
The casting really makes "King of the Nerds" work. Nerds are rarely represented on reality TV, and when they are, it's usually one lone person, like Cochran on "Survivor." Here, there are 12 nerds of different ages and backgrounds, and have a range of strengths. They're smart in different ways, and have wildly different personalities. Some of them lash out angrily, others cry, some do both. The show's cast broadens the definition of "nerd," and that is just awesome.
Awesome guest stars
The show often features nerd-tastic guest judges: George Takei. Mayim Bialik. Kevin Smith. Jason Mewes. Lisa Loeb. Bill Nye. George Takei again. Last week's guest judge, Moby, was perhaps the biggest surprise, because he was a jerk to the contestants while judging their singing and dancing. But mostly, the guests have fun alongside the hosts and cast. If anything, "Kind of the Nerds" could use its guest stars more; their appearances are generally brief and limited to judging.
There's interesting strategy
Few cable reality shows involve any kind of "Survivor" or "Big Brother"-like strategy, and "King of the Nerds" isn't exactly a strategic game like those shows. But its format does demand interesting game play: Two teams compete in a challenge, and the losing team has to lose a player. Eliminations are determined not by a vote, but by another challenge. The twist is that the losing team votes one of their own members into that Nerd-Off challenge, and the winning team also votes, choosing another person on the losing team to compete.
In other words, the winning team has the ability to affect the elimination challenge and thus the game. The strategy over those eliminations has gotten particularly interesting this season, with a secret cross-team alliance getting rid of everyone else. I can't wait to see what happens when that alliance is the only group left.
The title may be sexist but women rule
Season one's winner was determined by a vote of the other contestants, but season two shifted away from a popularity contest and was determined by a series of challenges. Both times, women won. That makes the title "King of the Nerds" a little irrelevant or at least highlights its title's casual sexism, but mostly just proves that the competition is an even playing field for everyone.
A celebration of nerd culture
The contestants live in a space christened "Nerdvana," and that's a pretty accurate description of the show, too. In all aspects, it embraces nerd-ness. The editing, especially of the cast members' sit-down interviews, is completely goofy and fun. Besides $100,000, the winner gets to sit on the "Throne of Games," which looks like the one from "Game of Thrones" except with nerd things instead of swords. When it's introduced each week, giant fans blow the hair of the contestants, who stare at it with looks of ridiculous delight. That's kind of what it feels like to watch "King of the Nerds."