What makes a nerd a nerd? Social awkwardness? Formidable math and science skills? Supreme tech savvy? Gaming prowess? Unrivalled comic book knowledge? A zest for all things fantasy?
It's hard not to ponder such questions while watching the first episode of the entertaining new reality show "King of the Nerds." The series piles 11 diverse nerds into a tricked-out mansion called Nerdvana to compete in a series of "nerd-offs" that ultimately result in one nerd ascending the coveted Throne of Games.
The trouble is, each of the nerds brings different geeky attributes to the table. There are gamers, engineers, mathematicians, comic book enthusiasts and even a hacker. Who's to say one trait is nerdier than another?
Since nerdiness has to be assessed somehow in order to crown a winner, the show determines who leaves each week by orchestrating a "nerd-off" that sees the loser "banished." That means whichever nerdy skill is emphasized that particular week trumps all. According to the season's sneak preview, we can expect some nerdy icons to serve as judges along the way, including noted comic book enthusiast /film director Kevin Smith.
The system isn't perfect; in the first episode we see perhaps the nerdiest of contestants turfed from Nerdvana. That said, it's an incredibly entertaining show, thanks in large part to the supremely nerdy hosts: Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong of "Revenge of the Nerds" fame. They strive to foster the nerds' fragile self esteem, while at the same time promoting a competitive environment. After all, only one nerd may be crowned king.
The 11 contestants are certainly a mixed bag. There's Brandon the aspiring neuroscientist, Celeste the pretty young pro gamer, Hendrik the physicist, Genevieve the fantasy writer, Virgil the hacker, Ivan the game developer, Moogega the NASA engineer, Joshua the online "Geek Debate" host, Jon the metal-loving mathematician, Alana the comic-con enthusiast and Danielle the video game blogger.
All are undeniably nerdy, with the possible exception of the pink-haired Danielle. With her shirts emblazoned with proclamations like "Nerd" and "Talk Nerdy to Me," she seems to be trying just a touch too hard to prove her nerdy cred. The rest of the contestants, even the other pink-haired competitor, Jon, radiate an inherent nerdiness that just can't be faked.
It's fun watching the nerds balance their desire to geek-out together with their need to out-nerd each other. Virgil the hacker proves to be an early target of his fellow nerds' harsh judgment. In confessionals, a couple of the contestants scoff at the New York Times article declaring Virgil to be an "Internet Man of Mystery," arguing that if he was the master hacker he claims to be nobody would know who he was. Meow!
As the competition heats up and the nerds sharpen their claws even more, we look forward to more deliciously nerdy jabs. May the biggest nerd win!
"King of the Nerds" premieres in Canada on Slice on January 23 at 10 p.m. EST/ PST, and in the U.S. on TBS on January 17 at 10 p.m. EST.