I learned about this series when I overheard two women at a restaurant raving about it. Reality TV (the genre – don’t take the term “reality” too seriously and then complain that it’s edited) has a particular kind of appeal that can catch my interest when the topic matches up, and society’s view of geekdom was a prime candidate.
The show pairs up “geeks” – awkward but intellectual young men with awful dress-sense and too much facial hair – with “beauties” – extremely attractive young women who would have been lucky to complete high school – and runs them through elimination challenges that play to their stereotypical weaknesses. It’s mildly demeaning, with the respective social ineptness and general ignorance played up by editing and intrusive sound effects, and ceaselessly referenced by the presenter’s script.
The geeks are generally self-deprecating, with extensive (yet niche) vocabularies and sophisticated turns of phrase – even if they can’t utter them without rushing or stuttering. They sling analogies about time-dilation and event horizons, and the relative difficulties of basic algebra and vector calculus, their deadpan delivery is hilarious (“I wanted to shout out: then go there please.” or “I don’t know why she likes me but… it’s good.”). Yet their roundabout language is sometimes a distancing mechanism; they’re upfront with their relational inexperience but not comfortable with the area. It’s not hard to see how that has come about: some are very feminine in mannerisms, many immediately “fall for” their partner, the wackier ones imagining marriage and kids. While some are irritatingly pompous, most have trouble standing up to the girls, who were no doubt their high school social superiors.
It’s hard to believe the lack of knowledge that many of the beauties display, with trouble understanding words, spelling words, and pronouncing words – a couple even had trouble comprehending the debate topic “Hollywood has a negative effect on society”. Yet they have some hilarious lines as well – recalling a poor showing in a courtroom exercise one moaned “Aw, you bad perm judge…”; “Julian’s style is like a grandfather… who is about to die.” A couple of the girls were looking specifically for geek boyfriends and were ready to take practically all of the initiative (one laments “But he’s too much of a gentleman.”). On the other hand there were a couple of entitled princesses (“I would rather have been cheated on than be rejected.”) and attention-addicted faux-saints; a few of the girls were wildly jealous when the geeks received romantic attention, despite having disqualified them previously. Nevertheless, the girls implicitly expected that the guys would become smoking hot after their makeovers, and this frequently turned out to be the case.
There’s considerable artifice: the eliminations and immunities are the canned laughter of reality TV, manufacturing drama on demand; heretofore abstract debate topics are eschewed for topical treatises on cheating; the odds are stacked against supposedly viable partner-swapping choices; the beauties run around in skimpy uniforms and the geeks in eye-gougingly awful ones; and the elimination questions vary so much in difficulty that they suggest having been rigged. There were apparently some fake contestants as well.
The gender-reversed couple were an interesting addition but didn’t fit so well into the format. The girls generally lusted after the guy (who quickly hooked up with one of the more egregious princesses, on her best behaviour) and the new girl was much more reluctant to participate in the challenges.
At this point I’m pretty sated with the series and don’t have any urge to see more.