King of the Nerds, Episode 6: Ben and Sophie talk friendship, alliances, and the relevancy of dance
King of the Nerds dropped a questionable Nerd War on the contestants this week, sending Team Blextrophy and Team Servants of the Forsaken Orb head-to-head in a battle of song and dance. The teams were challenged by host Curtis Armstrong - dressed in Lady Gaga drag, for some reason - to write, produce, and dance to a nerd anthem, performed in front of nerdcore pioneer MC Frontalot, and musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates, who would judge the winner. The anthem had to be catchy, reference nerd culture, highlight nerd strength, and be a song that other nerds would want as their ringtone.
While it’s cool that the end result of this Nerd-Off was, in theory, an audience of proud nerds who have an anthem to call their own, the Nerd War itself didn’t seem particularly suited to the contestants’ skills, knowledge, or history as nerds. Sure, plenty of us look a little dorky dancing in front of the Kinect or with motion control wands in our hands, but dancing and lyric-writing are not particularly ostracized skills or hobbies to enjoy. When was the last time you heard someone say, “Oh, Whatshername likes to dance. What a nerd!”
Genevieve said it best in her confessional when she lamented that, if she should lose, being sent home over lack of dance skills would be a pretty dumb reason to be sent home. This is King of the Nerds, not So You Think You Can Dance. Would you expect someone who sits atop… THE THRONE OF GAMES to say they earned their place by dancing? I find it hilarious and a little sad that every time deliberation comes up over who to send into the Nerd-Off, there’s always talk of “well, we haven’t seen the math and science Nerd War yet,” or “we haven’t seen the computer Nerd War yet.” After watching the show sink so much focus into Danielle’s ability to perform a body roll, and with only two episodes left, I worry that there simply won’t be competitions to show off some true nerd talent.
As you can tell, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the choice of Nerd War and Nerd-Off. I think, as with most things in my life, my feelings can be perfectly expressed via gif. Ben, what did you think of this week’s competition? Did the show lose its nerd cred?
I’m willing to forgive a whole lot of bullshit to see Garfunkel and Oates on television. They do great songs, they’re funny as hell, and either Garfunkel or Oates is cute as a button. I don’t know which is which. I’m referring to the one who was on Scrubs.
Anyone who has played in a band knows how hard it is to work on music with other people. Having your lyrics, voice, or musical skills questioned is a grating thing, especially in a group. I’m a little surprised there wasn’t more drama during that portion of the show. I had a hard time sitting through Virgil dressed up like a “sexy” schoolboy, and the use of autotune was annoying as hell. Also, is that how you say Na’vi? I thought the stress was on the first syllable, it seemed like they adjusted that just to make the already strained rhyming scheme work. These are the things that bother me.
To be fair, I thought both of the songs were kind of painful, but I doubt I could do better under those circumstances. I also don’t understand why these people were singing and dancing for me anyway. It would have been interesting if they had a band geek or two in there, but there wasn’t a clarinet or anything to make this work thematically. Hell, I would have made them sing live and at least made it tricky in that way.
Also, I know this is the sort of show that wouldn’t exist without product placement, but holy shit that Little Caesar’s call out was pretty painful. I at least appreciate the Forsaken Orb folks weren’t afraid to go blue. We need more bleeps in the King of the Nerds. Virgil noticing that they only lost during subjective competitions was also interesting. Does he have a point?
So yeah, I kind of agree with you Sophie. I don’t get what this was all about. Those trampoline parks are fun as hell though, we have a local one that’s attached to a laser tag arena and I take the kids there from time to time. As always, King of the Nerds shows its contestants a good time. The Nerd Off was close though, were you surprised that Virgil was booted?
First, I’ll have to agree with you that the Little Caesar’s bit was awkward as hell. If the camera could talk, I’m sure it would’ve been saying things like, “BREADSTICKS!!” “PEPPERONI!!” “ORDER YOURS TODAY!!” But yes, that whole “King of the Nerds is brought to you by…” moment was a little much.
I was surprised Virgil was booted, since they talk it up like he’s the Dance Central master, but I started to figure all that foreshadowing at the beginning of the episode was indicative of the end. It’s much more dramatic to watch someone fail if it’s edited to look like a sure thing in the beginning. I’m also - and I know this might sound a little conspiracy theorist - not entirely sure I believe those final scores. Virgil scored exactly 1.1 million points? And Genevieve scored exactly 1.129 million? Maybe they rounded up for sake of simplicity, but it’s still throwing me off.
What I was more surprised at however, was how hesitant Blextrophy seemed to be in voting Virgil into the Nerd-Off, and how emotional Virgil was post-competition. Ben, you made a joke in one of our earlier reviews about how people on the show are there to win money, not make friends, but things seemed genuinely hard for Blextrophy. It made me sad to think about, but I also wonder what would happen if the nerds tried to play the system. What if they refused to vote? Or, what if they could figure out who the other team would send in, and unanimously vote for them as well?
King of the Nerds can be an excellent jumping off point for talking about nerd history and nerd culture. Nerds aren’t exactly known for being social butterflies, and I doubt many of the contestants were popular growing up. Now they have a chance to connect, but they’re voting each other out and clawing their way over each other for cash. I want to see these nerds stand up to the man and use their big brains to exploit the loopholes in the name of keeping their friends around!
What do you think, Ben? Reality shows shouldn’t be used to form a moral compass, but friendship and socialization play such huge roles in a nerd’s life that I find it surprising no one’s acknowledged the irony of the nerds finally being surrounded by their own kind, only to take pride in beating them down and triumphing over them.
It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this is the first time Virgil was in this kind of intense group, working towards a common goal. I’ve known quite a few people who fit that description, and they tend to be very inward looking people who are used to relying on their own intelligence to get through most situations. It really did seem like it was hard for him to leave the show behind, and once again someone I assumed would be one of the last competitors gets the boot.
I don’t know about the Dance Central scores, but they weren’t that close. I would be more skeptical if they were only a few points off. I’m not really sure how difficult the song they played was, so I can’t really comment one way or the other. But then again, Dance Central? It’s a weird fit for the show.
It’s not like the contestants can rise up and overthrow the structure of the show. They know they’re in a competition, they signed extensive paperwork agreeing to the format of the show, and they have to follow it. I don’t think we’re going to see the producers at TBS suddenly shutting the whole thing down when Danielle and Joshua try to end the game in a suicide pact, Hunger Games-style. Although that would be somewhat epic.
The social aspects of this episode were more interesting than the competitions, and that rarely happens. I’m hoping things get back on track for the next episode.
Sophie’s final question
So which would you have as your ringtone, Ben? I liked “Talk Nerdy To Me” a bit more, just because I envision Virgil’s face at the end when I listen to it.
Ben’s final answer
I gotta be honest. It was neat that they created those songs so quickly, but if I didn’t need to hear them for the purposes of work I would have fast-forwarded through the section. I’ll keep the first ten seconds of “Cherub Rock” as my ringtone, thank you very much.