So maybe you've seen this. And maybe, like me, when you saw it you were skeptical of the intentions of such an endeavor.
A competition elimination reality show about nerds? In what tragic new way could this exploit nerds? So I called them up. Turns out, if the creator and casting coordinator are any indication, this could be an intelligent show.
I spoke with Allison Kaz, vice president of casting, and Tod Mesirow, the co-founder of Five x Five media, the company developing the "King of the Nerds" show. They didn't dodge my questions, they had a firm grasp on nerd culture and even knew what I was talking about when I threw out the word "grok." (That, admittedly, was a softball, but I felt like it was a good start at gleaning how deep the nerd went.)
So here's the elevator pitch:
"It's going to be a competition elimination show where we collect 11 nerds and geeks, put them in a house that we're calling "Nerdvana," and in normal competition elimination fashion, each week one goes home," Mesirow said.
"There's team competition and individual competition, taking advantage of all the things under the geek/nerd sun, including science experiments and pop culture. We put them through their paces until we have one left, who we will crown 'King of the Nerds.' Hosted by Bobby Carradine and Curtis Armstrong who played Louis and Booger in "Revenge of the Nerds," who will pass the torch to the new generation of nerds," he said.
"Not to mention the prize package," Kaz chimed in.
Oh yes, there are "fabulous prizes of cash and technology," Mesirow said, "and maybe some pop culture items."
All right, it sounds like it could be a fun experience for a nerd on the show. But what about the nerds in the audience? What kind of ambassador for nerd culture could this show actually turn out to be?
"The point of the show is not to make fun of them," Mesirow promised.
"We want to celebrate this culture. Reinvent, re-establish, redefine the words nerd and geek. Because in reality, there is a massive paradigm shift in our culture to a greater understanding, admiration and envy, even, of nerds and geeks because they are successes," he said.
"It's not a freak show. It is a show where we put on display the wide variety of types of nerds and geeks and smart people and let them have some fun. Also, in doing so, celebrate and expose to a wider audience the value of being smart and being obsessive and using those skills in a way that makes you happy."
But as someone who spends a lot of time explaining nerd interests to people who aren't nerds, I was interested to know how exactly this would translate to a mainstream American audience. Nerds often experience the glazing over of a non-nerd's eyes and their nervous, get-me-outta-here fidgeting during enthusiastic (probably one-sided) conversations about niche topics.
"The disconnect between the nerds and geeks and the massive audience is intrinsically there, and it's going to be there the entire time," Kaz said. "But what actually connects everybody is the passion that these guys and girls have."
Kaz called the auditions she's seen so far "fascinating."
"You can't help, as an average person, not to be drawn in to what they're saying. You can't take your eyes away. It's not 'laughing at.' It's infectious."
Kind of like when Ogre said, "I'm a nerd, too!" at the end of "Revenge of the Nerds"? No, Mesirow said. Ogre was not a nerd, "but that's cool that (he wanted) to be one," he said.
"If you go back and look at that movie, it's a very positive message, a very sweet message," he said. "We're all nerds, and that's worth something."
"King of the Nerds'" worth will ultimately be told by television ratings, but if you think you're the heir apparent, better send your audition video in. They stop the casting process at the end of the month.