Friday, June 03, 2005

If Only It Were The Ultimate Social Experiment

We came upon them upon their arrival, Geekus Americanus in a variety of subspecies. They seemed unfamiliar with their surroundings, blinking occasionally as though unfamiliar with the sun. The common types were present of course, the Fanboius and the Mensacus, but there was also examples of rarer types like the Scoutus Grosso, and the Doctorus Nervoso. Then we saw him, a magnificent specimen of a type thought only to exist as a myth and in bad movies, the Nerdus Maximus. For purposes of the study we named him Richard.

Soon the herd of Geekus Americanus were joined by a covey of
Beautius Regina, lured by their mating call of Bling-Bling. They were a lovely sight. Their numbers included the diminutive Fashionista, Barbius Vivius, the rare Modelus Scantius, as well as the common Leaderus Cheeribus and the Sisterus Sororitanus. It was a rare meeting as the presence of Geekus Americanus in a location is with rare exceptions enough to drive out all signs of Beautius Regina. However it soon became clear that the circumstances here were anything but ordinary.

In advertising Beauty And The Geek The WB and producers Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg described it as the "Ultimate Social Experiment". If only it were the ultimate in one of the correct meaning of the word - that is the last. Sadly I doubt that this is the case. Although superficially similar in format to the various dating shows, or something like The WB's previous show High School Reunion, the "social experiment" here is to bring brainy but socially inept "Geeks" together with the attractive but less than intelligent "Beauties" and hope that a little of the Geeks' brains and the Beauties' social skills would rub off on each other. Oh who are we kidding, they just wanted to make fun of the Geeks being socially inept and the Beauties being too dumb to know who was President of the United States during the Civil War. At its heart it's really a six episode game show.

The format is simple the seven Geeks pair up with the seven Beauties. They share a bedroom and in some cases a bed. They have to work together to prepare for challenges which confront their perceived weak points. The not particularly intellectual Beauties are tested on things like intelligence or how to change a tire by themselves, while the socially inept Geeks have to dance with their partner or how to give a woman a massage. The Geeks have to teach the Beauties what they need to know for their challenge and vice versa. Then in Apprentice like fashion the teams that win their respective challenges get to select two teams to face elimination. If one team wins both challenges they get to pick both teams. Elimination is done by quizzing members of the teams on their weak points with the team that has the fewest correct answers when their scores are combined being ejected from the game. The last team left gets $250,000.

As always personalities are key to a show like this and, particularly among the Geeks they hit a gold mine. There's the usual suspects; a computer programmer, an English major who has never been on a date and a couple of Mensa members. There are three who really stand out however. Chuck is a medical student who has an unfortunate habit of getting a nose bleed when he's stressed out. He had two nose bleeds in the first episode. Bill is a civil engineer but he's also vice president of the Dukes of Hazard fan club, and if he wins the $250,000 would like to buy the General Lee - the actual car from The Dukes of Hazard. But beyond a doubt
the star Geek was Richard. Richard, who is graduating from Brandeis University with a double major in History and Spanish, was described by his partner Mindi as "the white Urkel" and I swear that she got it exactly right. From big glasses to pants hiked halfway up to his nipples, he is a pigmentally challenged Steve Urkel. As for the women, well most of them are not particularly extreme, but of particular note is Erika who describes herself as a "lifesized Barbie model" to the point where she named her dog "Skipper". When confronted with some of the stuff they need to know for the "Beautys" first challenge (fifth grade school subjects) she says fifth graders these days must be really smart" because she doesn't know Then there's Lauren who thought that she had a really high IQ "like 500". She was the first one out of the first challenge because she thought that "tattoo" was only spelled with two "T"s not three. Krystal, a cheerleader dancer for the Philadelphia 76ers doesn't know which is further south , North Carolina or South Dakota, and doesn't care because it's not something she'll ever need to know.

In the end Richard and his partner Mindi won both challenges because self described Sorority Girl Mindi knew that the abbreviation IA stood for Iowa and the audience thought that Richard's "nerd dance" (I swear I saw Urkel do it once on Family Matters or maybe it was Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber) was better than the guys who at least tried to be serious about it. They chose Erica & Joe and Cheryl & Eric to face elimination with Cheryl & Eric being eliminated because Cheryl didn't know the answer to any of the history & politics questions she was asked. Still the fact is that the entertainment value of a show like this isn't in the anticipation of who will get eliminated, it's in watching the two groups of people being inept in the areas that the other takes for granted. Knowing that, I have to say that it's only mildly entertaining. I may watch it again if there's nothing else of real interest on, but if it was up against Dancing With The Stars or Hell's Kitchen or even certain reruns I could ignore it without any sense of loss. It makes me mourn the loss of better programs - like the original version of The Mole - all the more when I see a show like this.

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