Beauty and the Geek (the WB, Wednesdays 8 EST/7 CST) - "From the mind of Ashton Kutcher", this show appears on the surface to be a rehashing of ideas from Big Brother, Average Joe, and the like. There is more emphasis on cooperation, though, and ultimately there are some headdesking if predictable upsets. The premise is that seven "geeks" from all walks of life (from "VP of a Dukes of Hazzard Fan Club" to a med school intern studying neurology) are paired with seven "beauties" (from a "sorority girl" to a lingerie model). They are challenged, individually and as a team, to overcome their respective stereotypes, and the pair who does this best after six rounds of elimination wins $250000 USD. I've seen two episodes: in both, the incorrigible geek (Screech from Saved by the Bell meets an unrepentant Steve Urkel from Family Matters) went up for elimination with the college student. Let me tell you, when banazir is holding his head in his hands and saying "oh, man, don't do that", you're in trouble.
The stereotypes are a bit extreme, too. The highest math the women are challenged on is arithmetic, and as you realize, this has nothing to do with education; it even has little to enough to do with aptitude. The men are challenged on nothing more than fashion trivia and topics for which they are given ample review material. And that's part of what I like about this show: it's not so much about the presumption that geeks and beauties are antisocial or hypersocial, shallow or sad, but more about how our society resists change, individually or interdemographically. The resistance to change on the part of both males and females reminded me of my "rant against the know-nothings" a couple of weeks back.
Last week's episode was interesting. The women studied how to build model rockets and were scored on flight time and distance. The premise, of course, was "this is rocket science"; some of the women took the challenge semi-seriously but most came off looking a bit shallow, laughing the whole thing off. I wish they'd actually covered the challenge details more, bit even the announcers looked bored, and the cameras focused much more on the women's reactions and approaches to the problem. Meanwhile, the men studied women's fashion and prepared to go shopping for evening wear, casual wear, and swimsuits for their partners. Naturally, stress abounded on their side too. As gondhir (and the ubergeek) noted, "Size 0 should mean you don't exist!" Massages were needed and given, and your usual "hidden" camera recorded the obligatory blooming-romance vignette. I actually sympathized with the neurologist until I realized later that he's a bit of a sleazebag. Some of the women looked pitiable, some quite good, but seeing as a couple are professional models, they were able to not fall flat. Rocketry isn't as kind as a thong.
This week's episode featured women returning the favor: shopping for their men and giving them makeovers (which mostly involved restyling of their three-alarm hair). Let me tell you, when banazir is impressed with the improvement in your hair... you really needed a makeover! Oh, and apparently the challege was won by the woman who came closest to $1000 without going over, tallying up the sales total and 8.25% sales tax in her head. (Non-Americans reading this may be rolling their eyes. Hah! VAT, my patootie.) Then the men were tasked with getting women's numbers. Apparently, unrepentance in geekitude is the cardinal sin, at least on dinner dates and TV reality shows. The final counts were 13, 10, 6, and 6, after about an hour (or so it seemed; I didn't catch how long the challenge took). Sleazy med student decided that his "persona" was gay and got the most home phone numbers. I personally think they should have had to dial those numbers to see whether they were real. It's easy enough to give a fake number to some shouting dork on the street, don't you think? The incorrigible geek has been going through the whole show in exuberant style, but even I (Urkel fan that I am) thought his posturing is getting painful. I did revel in his sticking it to medical nerf herder at the end, though.
The elimination rounds were the highlight, and featured six random questions nominally pertaining to the challenges or something that the contestants studied for. Incorrigible geek Richard was saved by his deceptively intelligent college-student partner Mindy, both times: she was 6 for 6 in both elimination rounds. Richard managed to bungle the DK in DKNY ("Darren Klein?"), and this week we were treated to the spectable of 3 * 13 = 64 and 59 + 45 = 144. I pity the foo' who's ready for tenure. I pity the foo'!
The show's producers have now started a counter: "Richard - Has
In a cynical sense, Beauty and the Geek is more about our shaking our heads at subcultures than at single members thereof. OTOH, it's hard not to throw things at the screen when the tronkie wannabe is cheering "Yes!" in the waiting room because his partner successfully deduced that five dozen equals 60.
The Scholar - This one is a clear knockoff of The Apprentice, whose premise seems clever at first blush: "Ten high school seniors; one full-ride scholarship". However, the producers decided to go the Big Brother route, and put them all in what is ostensibly a fraternity or sorority house (or something more comfortable and distracting than your usual dorms or apartments, anyhow).
I watched for about five minutes, waiting for them to get down to the business of the episode, but the quiz questions were all of the variety: "who in the house would you hook up with?" and "name the hottest body part of everyone here". I decided that the show wasn't really The Scholar but was more along the lines of College-Bound Playa and Skank Training School. Ah, well.
Anyhow... back to the grindstone.