Reflections on King of the Nerds (Warning: Spoilers!)


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When I first heard that TBS was producing a reality show pitting nerds against each other in competition, I was skeptical to say the least. There are a lot of ways that this could have been extremely insulting – especially since the show seems to have sprung out of the success the network has had airing The Big Bang Theory in syndication. And even as a fan of that show, I think it often veers into laughing at rather than laughing with its nerds.

Still, I had to check it out, obviously – and after the first episode I was cautiously optimistic. The pleasant surprise was that these were actually real nerds. We had PhD students, comic book geeks, scientists, roleplayers, and hackers (contrasted to, for example, Beauty and the Geek, who had “geeks” whose only cred was, like, “went to Harvard”). I even recognized Danielle as Panser/TradeChat, a popular World of Warcraft vlogger. Granted, there’s a skew towards the more extroverted nerd for obvious reasons, but I think what was most telling for me was that I felt like I would fit in well with the group. I mean, I’m a computer science graduate student who collects comics, writes speculative fiction, and plays D&D and WoW – these are my people!

Of course, there was still the possibility that the format of the show would be to mock the contestants – and I was pleasantly surprised again. I think that Penny Arcade made a good point after the first episode – that whereas being like us (the nerds, the geeks) can often be a punchline, on this show, being like us was the only way to win. Over the course of the season, “nerd wars” included chess, physics problems, comic book trivia, cosplay, and sudoku. (I found the song-and-dance competition to be a little questionable re: nerdy skill sets, but it was definitely entertaining and they did a great job.)  Early on I found myself rooting for Ivan, who seemed like such a nice guy and wore his nerd cred proudly; Brandon, who just looked so happy to be there; and Danielle, who appeared to be underestimated by the other contestants. But honestly, there wasn’t anyone who I disliked – even those I suspected got edited into playing temporary villain roles when it probably wasn’t deserved (especially Alana, Virgil, Joshua, and Danielle, in that order).

Especially since there were more men than women starting the show (6 to 5), it was surprising to see an all-female final three – though considering the varied skill sets of all of the contestants, I could have seen almost any of them at end game. For this kind of competition it seemed a shame that much of it was based on picking off the strongest early (a legitimate strategy, of course), and especially due to the variety of the challenges, there was a lot of luck involved in when you might end up in a nerd-off (sorry if you happen to be a brilliant mathematician, but you’re going home based on fantasy novel trivia!). For that reason it felt like the overall winner might be a little arbitrary – which is the only reason why I might have liked to see Danielle (who pulled out surprising wins outside of her skill set) or Genevieve (who won more nerd-offs than anyone else) win. (By the way, if you’re wondering how Danielle used My Little Pony to solve a physics problem, she totally did.) But in the end, it was under-the-radar pro gamer Celeste who took the crown based on votes of the other contestants – and her story about personal growth really was touching. I think she’s a great role model for nerds (especially girl nerds) and as worthy of the title as anyone else who competed.

Now that it’s over, want some behind-the-scenes insight or to see where they go from here? A lot of the contestants are hanging around on social media – you can find most of the cast on Twitter, including Ivan, Moo, Joshua, Danielle, Brandon, Alana, Genevieve, and King Celeste. And Virgil, who grew on me throughout the competition until I was seriously bummed to see him go, wrote commentaries on the episodes that you can read at his Tumblr. (Between the hacker/philosophy chatter and his search for fan fiction based on the show, I kind of just want to hang out with him now.)

And what now? Well, apparently the show was successful enough to warrant a second season. So if you saw it and thought “I can do that!” then it’s time to submit an audition tape. The only requirement according to the casting call is that you’re an 18+ nerd. If you’re auditioning, let us know! There are tapes showing up on YouTube already. After all, there’s got to be someone reading this blog who would be worthy of the title King of the Nerds.





27 Responses to Reflections on King of the Nerds (Warning: Spoilers!)

  1. SO BUMMED Celeste won, that was a total let down. The fact that she didn’t get put in the nerd off was total BS. She was the first one to “throw Genevieve under the bus” to Danielle and she bitched about Genevieve doing it to her. She was also the reason team Blextrophy kept losing, she sucked in every challenge! She couldn’t actually stand her own ground in the games but had to mooch off everyone. Wow so disappointed. Of all the characters she was the least nerdy. I thought the show would be cool, guess not.

    Genevieve you totally earned the title, you are the true King of the nerds!

    • Agreed. The only person LESS deserving of the title was probably Alana, who failed utterly in the nerd-off on her specific area of expertise. Celeste was terrible in every challenge and didn’t help the team at all. She never showed any area of strength and even mooched off Genevieve during the physics challenge.

      Genevieve took a leadership role on her team, won every single nerd-off she was in, beat her fellow nerds in their own areas of expertise, was a gracious winner (and not a sore loser, except for crying after losing her debate). Of all of the contestants, Genevieve deserved to win the most. She, far and away, performed the best and exemplified what it means to be a nerd, while other contestants simply “played the game” and threw temper tantrums when they lost (I’m looking at you, Danielle).

    • I Totally agree. I was Really very upset Celeste won. I feel she did nothing to earn her title. She bragged about the fact she avoid the Nerd offs and she so played the other members for sympathy points. I never saw her so called “growth”. As a pro gamer she would naturally be very competitive and not the sweet introvert she claimed she was in the beginning. I saw a very different side of her. Genevieve would have been my choice. She was well rounded, nerdy as heck and definitely represented what a true nerd is. Also Ivan would have been way up on my list. I gotta say I was a little pissed after the show last night.

  2. 18+ AND an American. I hate it when they say ‘we scoured the globe for the top nerds..’

    No. You certainly did not. You didn’t even ‘scour’ all of North America, says this angry Canadian.

  3. Sorry, but I don’t see how Danielle could not be an obnoxious, whiny, spoil sport. I’m so happy she didn’t win.

  4. Give me a break…… I really enjoyed the show, watching them compete against each other….but I was very dissapointed when it came down to voting from those who did not make the cut…it should have been a battle of the brains not a popularity contest by those who were either jealous and did not want Genavieve to win….to let Celeste win when all she did was fly under the radar….. she really did not stand out as a true nerd….since when dud gamers bevome nerds?.. she struggled and got by with her little “I am no threat, pick someone else for the nerd off” was so not right…. a battle of the brains would have shown who the true smart nerd was…..a test of brains n brawn would have been more fitting in the end……

    • I agree.. of all things, a popularity contest for the final round. No shock the pretty girl who didn’t seem to contribute to the games (who knows what happens in the editing room) won.

      She very much did the “I’m no threat, don’t worry about me.” bit. I would have rather seen some actual competition for the end. I won’t be watching next season because of it.

  5. I am an old nerd. I am an old gamer as well.. Celeste should have never won and Genevieve was the winner in my eyes.

    Also… Danielle should really study her gaming history.. A good gammer and nerd knows their history not just ps2 and above.

  6. How tragic that a show about ‘real’ nerds ultimately came down to a popularity contest in the end. The finale could’ve been much better. Hopefully they learned from the missteps of this season and the next will be better.

  7. Genevieve won hands down. Celeste just flew under the radar the whole game. She’s not LNG of the nerds in my eyes. Genevieve busted her butt the whole time and showed true leadership. Lame popularity contest in the end.

  8. Sorry. But anybody who enjoyed this farce should be deeply ashamed of themselves. Same goes for those who watch Big Bang Theory.

  9. Celeste was the least nerdy and was bad at everything even the gaming and rubicks cube challenges. Danielle was basically just a horrible person- backstabbing, crying, whining, insecure, jealous, rude, unbalanced- what a train wreck…was glad to finally see her eliminated. Ivan was my favorite (nerd hunk!) but Geneveive proved herself and did earn it.

  10. The ending was kind of sad really. I enjoyed the show overall and the proud nerd cred it displayed. But to have in the end the nerds themselves vote for someone because they felt sorry for her (it was all about how much she developed a personality during the game?). I think the end was a step backward for nerd-dom. Celeste did not “dominate” any competition. She was harmless and weak, and that never changed. Either Ivan or Genevieve would have been much better choices for the end. Genevieve even accepted the bogus final vote with grace, unlike all but the earliest contestants.

    What this show basically did was show why nerds still have a long way to go. Like muggles, we hold on to our personal hostilities and eliminate those who threaten us so that we can feel better about ourselves. To have the weakest and most pitiful of the nerds be the king by process of eliminating those with a better claim and to have all the contestants (excepting the few who seemed to actually show a spine like Ivan and Moogege) support this “weeding out the best” process I believe was a huge step backward in a great forum to show nerd pride. Sad.

  11. The best thing about this show is that pretty much all of the contestants have been unbelievably open about their time on the show. Even Danielle, who clearly got the “villain” edit here, spoke at length about wanting to win the $100,000 prize to pay for expensive medical care for her father, which would’ve made for a far more compelling presentation than the one-dimensional Baroness of Butthurt edit the producers gave her. All in all, this is perhaps the most candid, engaged and articulate I’ve seen contestants about a reality TV show in a long time. Even if the comments from the contestants exposed some big problems with the editing and the format, I think that’s a good thing.

    Josh said it best: “ProTip for life — never pigeonhole a nerd.” Reality TV producers over the past two decades have tried so hard to focus on an airbrushed marketing campaign disguised as reality rather than reality itself. They did it here on King of the Nerds, too. But for once, thanks to the efforts of so many of the contestants, reality won out. And I hope it will again.

    And I think Curtis was underacting too much. He really needs to bring it next season!

  12. All of you saying that Genevieve won 3 nerd-offs and Celeste won none forget that she would’ve easily been sent home had Celeste decided to coach Virgil instead of Genevieve at Dance Central 3. Not to mention that the final elimination challenges were essentially nerd-offs as well.

    Also, this show was created for ENTERTAINMENT reasons. Everything has been selectively edited to make it more interesting for the television zombies of middle-class america. No one but the contestants know what actually, 100% truthfully went down in the house. And based on what truly happened, they voted for Celeste 5-3 with one unrevealed vote. There’s a reason why they did. And as viewers, we will never really know unless the contestants themselves tell us why.

    • It’s called jealousy and vindictiveness. You don’t need a camera where human nature is involved

  13. I am a dork and have been all my life. This show really connected with me. Some comments are calling this show a farce and that it is only for hipsters, in my opinion you couldn’t be more wrong. For the first time in a don’t know how long, i was able to watch people that actually had some similar interests as I do and people that I would actually see myself getting along with. The show is not for the jocks, or anyone that “fists pumps” or “beats up the beat”, or for people that go tanning and spend more on their shirt then I do to fill my ’98 ford escort with gas.

    The contestants were genuine and honestly, all actual GOOD people. Not a person exploiting children to dance, or about a chef or host being an absolute asshole to get ratings.

    I love the fact, that the last episode was a bizarro first episode. Tons of people are complaining that the winner should not have been based on a “popularity” contest but to me that give the title and the crown meaning. Here are your fallen enemies, saying that YOU above all have earned it. We only watched 8 or so hours of these peoples lives and look how emotional and passionate fans are about who won and lost. The fallen contestants got to see the possible king of the nerds first hand ( we did not because the show is edited for time and content ). They got to knew the contestants personally, and go up against them, sometimes head to head.

    It has already been stated that King of the Nerds Season 2 will be different, so stop harping over how this one ended and look ahead to who can take the crown away from Celeste and become the new King of the Nerds. Celeste may wear it for the time being, but yes I have sent in my audition tape as well as the application and hope to be the one to become the NEW King of the Nerds.

    Besides, I am a sexy Geek. it’s only fitting =)

    Thundercats HoO!!!

  14. As soon as the winner was announced I changed the channel in disgust. What a flawed system. You can’t vote the most dangerous person to a nerd off and then have a popularity contest in the end. Gen was always considered dangerous and she knocked everyone she went up against out of the game, she had no chance of winning of popularity contest. There needs to be as much reward as risk in a nerd off. Automatic one vote for winning a nerd off. This way they will not be so hated in the game.

  15. Yeah, not to bust too heavily on her nerd cred – because she’s fairly nerd worthy in her own right – but she did squeak through the whole competition while everyone else picked of the stronger opponents, or won challenges. It’s a shame that contestants that won multiple challenges lost because of a single challenge. Although, in the end, she won because the cast-offs voted for her, I think the whole show needs a little re-balancing to correct for the aforementioned issues.

    Also, I’m surprised the article didn’t mention anything about how the success of the show was also due in part to the two hosts; Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong.
    Both of whom where involved in the creation of the show, holding producer credits among other contributions.

  16. The part that still upsets me the most is their “debate”. Saying one paragraph with no rebuttal, is not a debate. It’s a persuasive argument. That was terrible. To many aspects of the show were half-assed and should have been expanded on. The maze of terror for instance, boring. Had they had actual walls you couldn’t see over, it’d have been a lot more suspenseful, especially for the contestants.

    • A lot of the events felt like there were ‘no real rules’ which I seriously enjoyed. I thought Mujige was going to huck her nerf gun at Genevives towers (rules say you can use your nerf gun!) and when I saw the walls of the maze of terror, i thought they were going to drive OVER the walls when they got into a deadend (I was gleeful at the thought that the scenario is the rules, but there aren’t “rules rules” since were all nerds and we think outside the box) but then no…. nothing so entertaining.

  17. What is odd is that (as I am sure everyone predicted) the person not chosen was the “true” nerd in ep1. By ep8 it was back to a simple popularity contest. What sucks about being a nerd? People going against you because you threaten them or they dont like that you achieve highly. So what do the producers do? Allow a vote where people vote AGAINST the nerd that threatens them and achieved more… Awesome. Even in a show for nerds, nerds get Fked in the A because they are disliked.

  18. yeah, it’s really really sad that Celeste basically laid low and ducked out of EVERY competition, which I thought would be fine since in the end, she’ll live or die in a competition she FOR ONCE cannot avoid. Then… there WAS NO FINAL COMPETITION?!?

    Of course when you destroy your opponents they are gonna be butthurt, thats why Genevive lost both Alana and Danielle’s votes. Virgil seemed more on the fence, but then again, Genevive beats him so he votes against her. How does this make any damn sense?

    Up until the final I really enjoyed the show, but man that sucked.